It’s a cold Monday morning in autumn when Eunbi stumbles into the classroom. She’s hardly ever late, but today she’d seen a cat that was about to get run over; she simply had to do something to stop the car speeding towards it. It was only when she caught a glance of her watch in her peripheral vision that she started to panic. Muttering an unnecessary apology to the feline, she took off running down the street, folders held in one hand and the other occupied by a half-hearted attempt to keep her beret on her head. When she arrives, she mutters a quiet apology to the teacher, face flushed, shuffling towards her usual seat near the back of the classroom.
“Jung Eunbi, you’re late,” the teacher says sternly but with undertones of surprise, seeing as the student was consistently punctual with the exception of today. “We’ve already chosen pairs for the upcoming project, and it seems as though Jung Yerin is the only one without a partner.”
Eunbi’s face flashes with fear, then – it was bad enough having to work with someone she didn’t know (which wasn’t hard seeing as she could count the number of friends she had on one hand), but Yerin? Jung Yerin, who does nothing in class except goof off and attempt to exchange playful banter with every single one of her teachers? Eunbi thinks she’d rather fail the assignment, if she’s honest. It’s not that she dislikes her, though – she actually thinks the older girl is pretty cute but she’d buried those feelings, accepting that their worlds would never collide and they were just way too different.
Continuing on with his instructions for the class, the teacher continues. “Your assignment is to produce a ten minute presentation together,” he narrows his eyes to emphasise the fact that they had to actually cooperate, “about what you like to do outside of school. Of course, since this is English class, you have to do the whole thing in English.”
This final sentence was met with a few groans and “please, Mr Lee”s but he is unrelenting. “You have a week to do this, so get cracking.”
As their teacher’s speech comes to an end, the pairs shuffle to sit closer together. Eunbi honestly feels very uncomfortable sitting so close to the front, exposed even, but she sucks it up and takes a seat. Being this close to her ponytailed senior, she can really see Yerin’s beauty. She’s not beautiful in the traditional way, but her bright eyes and toothy smile bear warmth to them.
Yerin is the first to speak. “Hi! So I guess we have a week to work on this so we’ll probably see a lot of each other, yeah? It’s probably best to get acquainted with each other first. So I’m Yerin, blood type O, I like listening to music and dancing!”
Eunbi is taken aback at her friendly, sudden words, considering this is the first time they had ever exchanged conversation. “I-I’m Eunbi, I’m blood type O as well.” She flushes at the conversation due to not having much experience talking to people in general, and takes a sudden interest in the lint on her skirt. “I l-like w-watching movies and reading.”
Damn, Yerin knew she was shy but not this shy. Seeing her face turn bright red was honestly kind of endearing and seeing her hair fall slightly in front of her face was frustrating – she wanted to see the younger girl more clearly. “Nice to meet ya Eunbi!” she replies, grinning widely to try to make the other girl try to at least feel minimally more comfortable in the new situation. “We’ll be seeing a lot of each other, so don’t hold back okay? You don’t have to be nervous!” This statement elicits a shy smile from Eunbi and they subsequently exchange contact details to arrange meeting places to work on the presentation.
That evening, both girls meet inside the public library, and sit together at one of the ancient computers. Eunbi, as usual, works diligently and barely ever turns to look at her senior, honest. She didn’t even notice the way the sun shone out of her eyes and the way her nose scrunches up ever-so-cutely whenever she couldn’t think of the English translation for a word, not at all. Really.
Working in tandem worked for approximately twenty-three minutes. At that point, Yerin had started to yawn and swing back on her chair, electing to inspect her dongsaeng more clearly rather than focus on her part of the presentation. The younger has her head down, dark hair falling in front of her face again. Damn it, Yerin could barely see her face from this angle.
After a further two hours or so, Eunbi had finished the project’s main body – the colour scheme subtle yet feminine, full of dusty pinks and muted greens. She turns to the older girl, but Yerin had long since fallen asleep with her face smushed against the keyboard neighbouring Eunbi’s. The latter’s breath hitches in her throat, Yerin’s face the picture of innocent beauty. Okay, maybe that was exaggerating but Eunbi never did things by halves, or so she reasons with herself. She could just lean over and ki-
No. She suddenly comes to the realisation that Yerin is asleep, for Christ’s sake, and Eunbi what are you thinking?!
Anyways, moving on. Eunbi’s done the presentation, brief notes on the PowerPoint expanded upon on the Word document she’d carefully put together. Sure, English isn’t her strongest subject but she really does try hard, and Korean-to-English online dictionaries are a blessing from God Himself. She can’t even bring herself to be mad at Yerin and her cute sleeping face and that’s when she knows she can’t suppress her feelings anymore. God damn it.
She doesn’t want to wake the sleeping girl up, but she knows she has to – it’s getting dark outside and she’s worried about the two of them getting home. “Y-Yerin-unnie? Um, it’s getting pretty dark out…” she manages to stutter out.
Yerin jolts up. “Oh, Eunbi! Sorry about that, I guess I must’ve drifted off, huh,” she replies, bashfully scratching at the back of her neck.
“Oh, i-it’s okay, don’t worry… I managed to finish the written side of the assignment, so we just need to present it to the class…” Eunbi’s lip trembles at the thought. How is she meant to present to the class when she can’t even form a sentence in front of one (admittedly cute) girl without looking like a total idiot? Ah, she’s so screwed.
Yerin’s face contorts slightly, as if she can read the younger girl’s mind. “Are… are you alright with that, Eunbi?” Her face softens as she voices her concern.
“Umm, I-I’m sure I’ll be fine, unnie…” is the other girl’s hesitant response.
“Well, best to make sure, right? You can come to my house on the weekend and I’ll try and help okay? I know I look like I never take anything seriously but I really do care about things when I want to.”
Eunbi tries to conceal her reddening cheeks at the words “my house”, her mind wandering to all the other things she’d like to do-
No! she mentally scolds herself. We’re focusing on the project, you pervert. She’s just being nice.
“A-ah, if you don’t mind, that’d help a lot…” Eunbi replies out loud, smothering her not-so-clean thoughts.
They leave that night with each other’s phone number and a small smile on both of their faces.
The following weekend, Eunbi finds herself in front of Yerin’s house, eyes wide and knees shaking. She decided to put on her cutest clothes – a baby pink oversized jumper with a tennis skirt and Timberlands. She decided to forgo wearing her usual hair clips – she is a Mature Adult and has to impress her senior, she reasons.
As soon as she rings the doorbell, she hears shuffling on the other side of the door and Yerin opens the door with a bright smile. Eunbi takes a moment to look at the other girl’s outfit and notices she’s wearing mom jeans, a white crop-top and a pair of Spongebob slippers. What a nerd. Despite her goofy slippers, the younger’s breath hitches in her throat.
“Hey! Eunbi! Come in!” says Yerin, looking like the sun shines out of her ass (as usual).
“Hi, unnie,” comes a quiet reply. Eunbi likes to think she’s improving on the whole not-looking-like-a-complete-dork thing. She hesitantly steps into the modestly-sized house, toeing off her shoes to reveal a cute pair of white frilly socks.
“Okay! Let’s head up to my room – you’re lucky I’m home alone, or else my mother would have forced various sweet foods down your throat by now.” A short chuckle accompanies Yerin’s observation.
Eunbi gives a similar chuckle in response, following up the stairs. Her perverted mind races once again with the possibilities of being in her crush’s room while they’re home alone.
The coaching goes pretty well, despite the younger girl momentarily turning into a ripe tomato every time Yerin compliments her. Eunbi thinks that despite being well and truly whipped for Jung Yerin, she’s gonna ace this presentation if it kills her in the process.
Fast forward to the following week, and it’s their turn to present. Eunbi is shaking and she feels like she might pass out, but Yerin squeezes her hand in reassurance under the desk and suddenly she feels like she might be okay after all.
“Jung Eunbi and Jung Yerin, you’re up next,” calls Mr Lee from the back of the classroom where he sits marking all of the class’ presentations.
“I am Jung Eunbi,” starts the aforementioned girl, and she sees Yerin give her a double thumbs-up in response to her uneasy start. She can totally do this, thanks to the support of her senior. She continues the rest of the presentation without a hitch, although she can feel sweat collecting on her palms.
Yerin speaks with confidence and everyone listens, captivated – they’re shocked she’s actually being serious for once. If she’s honest with herself she’s only doing it because she knows this grade means a lot to the younger girl (plus she’s really cute, so she wants to make her happy).
At the end of the presentation, everyone claps politely and Mr. Lee adjusts his glasses, showing a perfect poker face as he grades their assignment.
“We totally did it! Up top!” Yerin says enthusiastically, holding her hand between the two girls.
“It was all thanks to you, so thank you Yerin-unnie,” comes the younger’s reply, returning the high-five.
“Ah, it’s nothing, no worries! Hey, do you want to grab a celebratory coffee after class?”
Eunbi freezes – they hadn’t yet done anything that didn’t involve the assignment, however much she had wanted to. She nods in response, grinning widely.
As promised, they grab their coats and head out to the coffee shop around the corner together. It seems they have a discount on or something, because every table is occupied by the time they get their matching caramel macchiatos and look for somewhere to sit.
“Ah, man, they’re all taken…” sighs Yerin. Suddenly she has an idea. “Hey, do you wanna go and sit on the swings in the park down the road? It’s a pretty nice day today!”
Eunbi looks up from the floor, beaming at the older. “Sure, should be fun!”
They head to the park, finding two swings next to each other and kicking their legs into the soil-covered ground.
All of a sudden Yerin can’t stop looking at Eunbi’s lips. She doesn't know how it happens, but they’re so plump and her little bunny teeth are so cute and she’s biting at a piece of skin on her bottom lip and fuck, she’s gay. She wonders if they taste like the strawberry lip balm she always uses.
Eunbi turns to talk to her and notices her staring, which prompts the her to start staring at Yerin’s lips and her bunny teeth and shit, she’s so whipped. She lowkey hopes Yerin notices her blatant staring in return.
The stars must have aligned today, because she does. Yerin inches closer, not breaking eye contact and their swings are so close now and Eunbi can feel Yerin’s breath on her skin. Finally, finally, Yerin kisses Eunbi, and it’s all she's ever wanted. Her lips feel soft to the touch and she never wants Yerin to let go of her shoulders, which feel the only thing keeping her grounded. As their lips start to move together, Eunbi’s hand instinctively reaches out to her senior’s hair and strokes it gently, the other hand settling on Yerin’s waist.
When they break apart, both girls are flushed and wide-eyed. Yerin suddenly breaks into a grin, alleviating the tension, and Eunbi smiles back.
“I wouldn’t mind if we were partners more often.”