On Cloud 9 – Chapter Eight

One warm afternoon, Taeyeon walked into the kitchen, intending to pour herself a cup of orange juice from the fridge. She saw Mrs Hwang poring over several recipe books at the dining table.

“Hello Mrs Hwang! Are you intending to cook up a big feast this weekend?” Taeyeon asked, curious about the books that were on the table.

“Hi Taeyeon. There’s a spring fair coming up this Sunday at the gardens. I’m thinking of what food to prepare for the fair. Where’s Sooyeon? I thought you two are Siamese twins?” Mrs Hwang asked.

“She said she has some school meetings and it would be long so she didn’t want me to wait for her. Spring fair sounds interesting. What do you normally do there?” Taeyeon asked.

“Some of the locals here would put up music and dance performances. This year, there’s horse riding and even a fruit liquor making session. Mrs Jung, a few other neighbours and I intend to make some pastries for the event. There’s also a popular street near the gardens where it’s lined with cheery blossoms. They bloom during spring and it’s really beautiful.”

“Wow, that sounds fun. Is there anything I can help you with? I’m not good with baking but I could learn,” Taeyeon offered.

“Hmm…I’ve kinda decided on making apple tarts and pies. You can help me get the ingredients from the supermarket, together with Seungri. Oh, I’ve forgotten to mention that Sunny called the guesthouse yesterday asking if you’re adapting well to the countryside,” Mrs Hwang informed.

“Oh? That silly girl. What did you tell her?”

“I said you’re doing fine, better than expected…and that you may be reluctant to go back home,” Mrs Hwang teased.

“Awww, I bet she’s missing me loads now. I’ll give her a call right now.”

*********

Telephone conversation between Taeyeon and Sunny

“How’s it going my friend? Missed me?” (chuckles)

“Ya! Why didn’t you call me at all? I thought you disappeared into the vast jungle or something!” (worried)

“Hey, who’s the one who sent me to this far flung place with no 3G?! I can’t even log onto the internet!” (mock anger)

“It’s for your own good, you ungrateful person.” (mock reprimanding tone of voice)

“Haha! I really miss arguing with you, Kyu. How’s things back home? Did you remember to warm up my bike every four days?”

“Yea, she’s your baby. I won’t wanna risk getting killed by you if anything happens to her. Heard from Mrs Hwang you’re enjoying yourself over there. What’s the big attraction over there that got you hooked?” (joking)

“Initially it sucked big time but hey, I’m doing fine now. Actually I have something to tell you…”

“Shoot.”

“I think I’m developing feelings for someone…someone I met over here…” (nervous)

“Feelings or fling?”

“Feelings, Kyu. F-E-E-L-I-N-G-S. She makes me happy. Her smile brightens up my day.”

“Now that’s something interesting. So have you gotten her in bed yet?” (serious)

“Well, technically yes but we didn’t do anything! She…she was afraid of the thunderstorm so I…I had to protect her! Honestly I dunno why I’m behaving in this way…she…makes me wanna protect her.” (stuttering)

“Taeng, the feeling of wanting to protect her is natural when you like someone. You sound pretty serious this time. Go for it. You don’t have much time left and I can’t afford to extend your leave.” (serious, then chuckles)

“Thanks Kyu. You’re indeed the best friend no money can ever buy. Love ya!” (mock kissing sound)

“Save those cheesy lines for that girl. Good luck.”

*********

Knock knock

 

 

Mrs Hwang opened the main door and saw Sooyeon standing there with her tote bag.

“Hello Sooyeon. Looking for Taeyeon? She’s in the kitchen,” Mrs Hwang smiled.

Sooyeon blushed and greeted Mrs Hwang before heading for the kitchen. She saw the back view of a girl dressed in a white short-sleeve fitted tee and khaki capris, busy rolling dough on the kitchen table.

Silently Sooyeon tip toed and crept up behind Taeyeon and whispered into her left ear, “What are you busy with?”

A wide grin appeared on Taeyeon’s face when she heard the familiar voice. She turned round to face Sooyeon, circling her arms around Sooyeon’s waist.

“I’m busy missing you,” Taeyeon said cheekily. She gave Sooyeon a quick peck on her cheek before dabbing a spot of flour on Sooyeon’s nose.

“Me too.” A mischievious grin appeared on Sooyeon’s face. She stuck her finger into the bowl of flour and wiped it across Taeyeon’s cheek.

“So you wanna play huh?” Taeyeon scooped a small handful of flour and attempted to brush it on Sooyeon’s face but she missed and the flour landed on the floor. Sooyeon stuck out her tongue at Taeyeon as she ran to the opposite end of the table.

“Okay okay, let’s stop it else Mrs Hwang will get angry if we mess up the whole kitchen. What are you making? I never know you’re interested in baking,” Sooyeon said, staring suspiciously at Taeyeon. She walked towards Taeyeon and leaned against her, with one arm around Taeyeon’s waist.

“I’ve a lot of hidden talents and I shall slowly reveal them to you, one by one.” Taeyeon winked and planted a quick kiss on Sooyeon’s cheek. “I’m helping Mrs Hwang roll the dough for the apple tarts she’s baking for the spring fair. Wanna help?”

Sooyeon nodded merrily and said, “Let’s have a competition to see who makes the best dough!”

As the two girls were busy rolling the dough in the kitchen, Mrs Hwang was observing them from the living room.

They make such a sweet couple. Taeyeon seems like a perfect fit for Sooyeon. Alas Taeyeon is a city girl and she has to return home soon. This is going to be challenging for the both of them.

*********

Later that night at On Cloud Nine

“Mrs Hwang, Seungri told me you are looking for me?” Taeyeon asked as she went to the living room.

“Yes Taeyeon. Please take a seat here,” Mrs Hwang said, patting the empty space next to her.

Taeyeon sat down next to Mrs Hwang. Throughout her stay at the guesthouse, Mrs Hwang was like a mother figure to her. She felt very close to her and often sought her advice on some personal and work related issues.

“Taeyeon, I know you’ve been spending a lot of time with Sooyeon and I can tell that both of you like each other. I’m very close to Sooyeon, having seen her growing up since birth. Sooyeon has become brighter and chattier ever since she went out with you. This is definitely a good sign,” Mrs Hwang paused and patted Taeyeon’s hands.

“As much as I would like the both of you to be together, the reality is you’re only here for a short vacation and that you would be going back to your life in less than a week’s time. I can tell Sooyeon is very attached to you and I don’t want to see her in pain after your departure. Remember I told you previously that Sooyeon is not the type of person who enjoys the hustle and bustle of city life? She prefers to lead a simple life,” Mrs Hwang added.

Taeyeon had been bracing herself for such a day to come. She had been trying to figure out what she wanted in life and how she wanted to bring the relationship to the next level, especially after the thunderstorm incident. Sooyeon came into her life and gave her a direction in her life.

“Yes I remembered, Mrs Hwang. I sincerely like Sooyeon a lot and I’m serious about this relationship. Though the time I’ve spent here is short, I feel like I’ve known her for a long time. Time shouldn’t be the measure of the quality of a relationship. Honestly, I never knew how to live my life until I met her. She showed me there’s more to life than just success at work. My personal life was in the dumps, that is, if I ever had one besides burying myself at work,” Taeyeon said calmly, looking straight into Mrs Hwang’s eyes.

“I’m not just a guest in the countryside. I’m not a just a passenger who happens to hop on a train, met her and leave when I reach my destination. I wanna bring Sooyeon along with me on my train ride and experience life together with her,” Taeyeon said in a serious tone.

Taeyeon held Mrs Hwang’s hands firmly and continued, “I’ve thought about the future of us together and I’m trying to find a way to make things work out. There’re several pre-schools in the city where she could teach art. This place isn’t too far away from the city, we could come back anytime over a weekend to visit her mum and friends.”

Mrs Hwang smiled, the lines around her eyes wrinkled up as she patted Taeyeon’s back.

“As a mother, I want my daughter to be happy and I’ll definitely be overjoyed if she could spend the rest of her life with someone who treasures her. Taeyeon, you’re a matured young woman. If you’re serious about this relationship, you’ve gotta fight for it and convince both Mrs Jung and Sooyeon about moving to the city with you.”

“Thank you for your advice Mrs Hwang. I really appreciate it. I’ve learnt to see life from another angle, from a slower pace and to appreciate the little things around me.” Taeyeon leaned forward and gave Mrs Hwang a hug. Mrs Hwang rubbed Taeyeon’s back gently, feeling more certain that both Mrs Jung and she had entrusted Sooyeon to the right person.

*********

Taeyeon felt someone tickling her neck. She brushed the hand away and turned to her side, trying to sleep. Suddenly, she heard someone draw the curtains and the morning sunshine filled the room.

“Get up now sleepyhead. We’re going to miss the spring fair.”

Sensing no movement from Taeyeon, Sooyeon decided to jump onto her and started tickling the sleepy girl all over. Taeyeon wriggled and squirmed, trying to escape from Sooyeon but the younger girl was much stronger than her. At long last, she managed to pull Sooyeon onto the bed and pinned her onto the mattress while she climbed on top of her.

“You naughty girl! What a way to wake me up in the morning? Shouldn’t you just give me a kiss like how the prince wakes sleeping beauty up in the fairytale?” Taeyeon’s face was dangerously close to Sooyeon’s, their noses almost touching.

“I’m supposed to be the pretty one here, not you! Bleh!” Sooyeon stuck out her tongue and managed to free herself from Taeyeon’s grasp and roll out of bed before Taeyeon could bend down to kiss her.

“Hurry up! We’re late!” Sooyeon yelled as she skipped out of the bedroom.

Taeyeon threw a pillow towards Sooyeon but missed as the girl managed to slide out of the room in time.

*********

It was a perfect day for the spring fair. The sun was partially hidden by the clouds and there was a light breeze blowing. By the time Taeyeon and Sooyeon arrived at the fair, it was already packed with people. Country music was gushing out through giant speakers around the gardens. The first thing Taeyeon saw was a huge tower in the centre of the fair. There were people strapped in the seats as they slowly ascended the tower. Then suddenly, the seats dropped a few metres and loud screams were heard.

“Oh boy, I love that ride! We gotta go on that one later!” Taeyeon tugged at Sooyeon’s arm excitedly.  The two girls made their way through the sea of people.

The glorious smell of hot dogs, burgers, popcorn and candy floss filled the air. Taeyeon dragged Sooyeon to each food stall and soon the girls had their hands filled with various snacks.

“What a loving couple.”

“Oh they look so sweet feeding each other popcorn.”

Taeyeon was smiling widely and waved their intertwined hands proudly, as if to announce to the world that Sooyeon was hers. On the other hand, Sooyeon was rather embarrassed by those comments made by her neighbours and was turning redder by the minute. She hurriedly dragged Taeyeon away from the main crowd.

“I spy bumper car rides over there. We need to go on those too!” Taeyeon squealed, pointing to the tent nearby.

“Taeyeon ah, you’re such a big kid. You’ve a whole day here, it’s more than enough time to try out all the rides. Here, have more candy floss,” Sooyeon giggled as she pinched the top of a pink candy floss and stuffed it into Taeyeon’s mouth.

“Hmm…this candy floss is sweet, though you’re sweeter my dear,” Taeyeon winked and pinched Sooyeon’s cheek playfully.

After playing on some rides at the fair, Taeyeon and Sooyeon decided to take a stroll along the street that was lined with cherry blossoms. They saw many other couples stopping to admire the pink flowers that decorated the path.  The couple paused at one of the many arches along the pathway. The cherry blossom trees hung over the arch like pink curtains. Taeyeon reached her hand out to catch a falling pink petal. It felt as soft as velvet in the palm of her hand.

“Did you know that cherry blossoms or sakura as they’re known in Japan signal the coming of spring, the beauty of nature, innocence and…first love?” Taeyeon said gently as she played with the lone petal. She looked lovingly into Sooyeon’s eyes while holding her hands.

“It also a symbol of a fragile love unfortunately, due to the short blossoming time of the flower,” Sooyeon added with a sigh.

“Yup. We need to cherish every moment in life,” Taeyeon said, softly gazing at Sooyeon. She held Sooyeon’s hands, rubbing her palms gently.

A light breeze blew causing more petals to cascade down on them. Taeyeon placed her hand behind Sooyeon’s head and pulled her closer. They shared several kisses under the cherry blossoms arch while enjoying this magical moment.

After their walk along the cherry blossom path, the couple stopped by Mrs Hwang and Mrs Jung’s booth. Both ladies were selling freshly made apple tarts and other pastries and seemed to be having a booming business. Sooyeon gave Seungri a pat on his back and thanked him and his friends for helping out at the booth, therefore giving her the chance to spend the day with Taeyeon. She knew that Taeyeon’s time at the countryside was coming to an end in less than a week and she wanted to spend as much time as she could with her. Mrs Jung gave her daughter a hug and handed her some tarts for both girls to share as they explored the rest of the fairgrounds.

“Taeyeon ah, have you tried horseback riding?” Sooyeon asked as both girls stood around the fenced area where people were queuing up for the horse rides.

Taeyeon shook her head. “I’ve only seen real life horses in the zoo when I was little. This is probably my second time see horses so close up. I’m not an animal fan.”

“You ought to try it. It’s fun! Imagine feeling the wind in your hair as you ride along,” Sooyeon persuaded.

“Nah, horses are huge and they look scary.” Taeyeon scrunched up her nose and shook her head again.

“Aww…you’ve gotta try it while you’re here. Come on, Taeyeon ah. Awww…we can ride together. Taeyeon ah…” Sooyeon unleashed her aegyo and tugged at Taeyeon’s arms, pouting.

A few minutes later, Taeyeon and Sooyeon were standing between a white and a brown horse. Sooyeon climbed up the brown horse with ease as she had done horseback riding previously. Poor Taeyeon looked terrified by the horse as it wagged its tail. When Taeyeon finally mounted the horse, she was gripping the reins so tightly her knuckles turned white.

“Taeyeon ah, relax. The guy in front will lead the horse so don’t worry. You’re not expected to control the horse yourself,” Sooyeon said, trying to calm Taeyeon down.

Taeyeon gave a weak smile when she felt the horse trotting off. She looked ahead and saw Sooyeon guiding her horse and riding past her.

Wow, that girl’s pretty good at riding a horse. Sheessh…I just hope I don’t fall off mine! Would I be able to make it back alive?

Sooyeon slowed the horse down to a trot and turned around to take a look at Taeyeon, who was still far behind.

Now she really looks like my prince charming. Riding on a white horse, wind in her hair…but her face is all scrunched up like a bittergourd. (giggles)

Sooyeon let out a giggle as she watched Taeyeon slowly approached and stopped beside her.

“Are you okay? Do you want to go back now?” Sooyeon asked, suppressing the urge to giggle in front of the pale face Taeyeon.

Taeyeon nodded vigorously. She couldn’t wait to get off the horse.

*********

 

 

At Reflection Lake later that evening

Taeyeon tucked Sooyeon’s left hand in her jacket pocket and held it tight as both of them walked in silence with the sound of crickets accompany their footsteps. The water was calm and there was no wind. The moonlight reflected off the water, creating a mirror image of the moon in the sky.

The two girls strolled to the middle of the jetty and sat down, dangling their legs from it.

“Tired?” Sooyeon asked, brushing a loose strand of hair from Taeyeon’s face.

“My thighs feel a little sore from riding the horse.” Taeyeon pounded her thighs softly, trying to ease the ache.

“You poor thing. You need more exercise.” Sooyeon started massaging one of Taeyeon’s thighs.

“Hey, that tickles!” Taeyeon laughed uncontrollably.

Sooyeon smirked and took the opportunity to start tickling Taeyeon all over, triggering non-stop laughter from the older girl.

“You naughty girl,” Taeyeon whispered, poking Sooyeon’s forehead.

Sooyeon stuck her tongue out at Taeyeon and grinned mischievously.

“There’s an old folk’s saying that if your other half is afraid of being tickled, then that person is henpecked,” Sooyeon said in a fake serious tone.

“Oh? Hmm…are you saying I’m henpecked then?” Taeyeon arched her brow.

“Who ever said you’re my other half?” Sooyeon teased.

Taeyeon looked at the blushing girl, brushed aside her bangs and gave her a light peck on her forehead.

“You won’t be able to escape from my clutches!” Taeyeon gave a devilish smirk.

“Oh, look at the stars tonight, twinkling away,” Sooyeon said, swiftly changing the topic.

“There’re so many of them tonight,” she added. A bright smile appeared on her face as she admired the night sky that looked like it was filled with hundreds of shimmering diamonds.

Her smile is truly gorgeous. There’s a beautiful glow that radiates from her.

“Sooyeon ah…”

“Yes?” Sooyeon turned around to look at Taeyeon. Taeyeon was softly gazing into her brown eyes while holding her hands. She was drawing random star shapes on Sooyeon’s palm with her fingers.

“Last night, I was counting the stars by my window as I couldn’t sleep. I matched each star with a reason of why I like you,” Taeyeon paused.

“Soon I ran out of stars.”

Sooyeon giggled. “Taeyeon ah, you’re so cheesy.”

“Remember which industry I’m working in? It’s all about marketing and packaging. But the next few things I’m gonna tell you…I mean it from the bottom of my heart. It’s not a marketing gimmick, it’s not just fluff…it’s just my honest feelings ever since the day I literally bumped into you.”

Taeyeon brushed aside a strand of loose hair from Sooyeon’s face. She took a deep breath, trying to calm her nerves before continuing what she had to say.

“Sooyeon ah, what I’m going to say next might sound cheesy but I meant it from the bottom of my heart. I really like you. I think you’re beautiful, you’re fun to be around, you’re nice to be with, you made me appreciate the little things in life. I can’t promise you the stars and the moon but I sure can promise you that I’ll always be by your side, holding an umbrella for you when it rains, hugging you close to me when there’s a storm,” Taeyeon said sincerely, looking into Sooyeon’s eyes.

Taeyeon dug out a small ring made of a small single yellow flower from her jacket pocket and placed it in Sooyeon’s palm. Tears were brimming in Sooyeon’s eyes as she listened to the heartfelt confession. She held the handmade flower ring between her fingers and admired it.

“Mrs Hwang taught me how to do it. I mean…since you like flowers. I didn’t know it’s such an easy thing to make and it looks quite pretty too,” Taeyeon smiled, proud of her own handicraft.

“Taeyeon ah…I’m very happy. It’s a pretty ring, especially when it’s made with your hands. Thank you for being the sunshine in my life. You’ve taught me a lot about the world. You’re smart and kind. You’re always looking out for me, protecting me…” Sooyeon paused and looked into Taeyeon’s eyes.

“Taeyeon ah…I realised…and confirmed my feelings for you the moment you were there for me when no one else was,” Sooyeon’s voice trailed off as she looked across the vast moonlit lake, her face turning pink.

A light breeze blew, causing small ripples in the lake. The water was shimmering like jewels as moonlight reflected off its surface. Crickets seemed to be chirping in harmonization, as if they were in an orchestra.

My mother once told me that if I’m found someone I’m truly in love with, we’re at one with nature. How true that is. Nature seems to be cooperating with me tonight. The scene is perfect and I’m with the one I like. Taeyeon ah…I really really like you…I…may have…fallen for you.

Taeyeon was intoxicated with happiness. She hugged the younger girl tightly, stroking her hair. Once they pulled away from the hug, Taeyeon slipped the ring onto Sooyeon’s index finger. She moved closer to Sooyeon, her nose almost touching hers, her heart beating faster with every second. She placed one of her hands behind Sooyeon’s head and pulled her closer. Sooyeon closed her eyes as she felt the warm breath of Taeyeon’s. Taeyeon leaned forward and gently kissed Sooyeon on the forehead, nose and finally lips.

Taeyeon gently parted Sooyeon’s lips with her tongue, deepening the kiss. As she pulled away for a quick breath, a gentle breeze blew, fuelling the waves of passion. Taeyeon covered her mouth on Sooyeon’s, her hands were running down Sooyeon’s back. Sooyeon felt her whole body stiffen at Taeyeon’s touch. Her cheeks started to burn and her heart was racing.

Finally, the couple pulled away from each other, their breathing still heavy after that long passionate kiss. They looked at each other shyly, with wide grins on their faces as they enjoyed the warmth in each other’s embrace.

“I promise to get you a better one when I get home. One with a diamond,” Taeyeon said, stroking Sooyeon’s arm.

“I don’t need a diamond ring, all I need is you. I want you to accompany me to count the stars in the sky every night before I go to sleep,” Sooyeon said, using her finger to draw a heart on Taeyeon’s chest.

“This I promise you.” Taeyeon clasped Sooyeon’s fingers in her hand and kiss them gently.

Taeyeon wrapped an arm around Sooyeon’s waist as the latter snuggled up to her, sharing the body heat. She took off her jacket and draped it loosely over their legs.

The couple spent the rest of the silent night chatting and admiring the scenery at the lake before heading for home on the pink scooter.

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