No Strings Attached – Chapter Nine

Almost every night, Taeyeon would drop by Jessica’s hotel room to spend the night with her. She would usually come straight from the bakery where she spent her time helping her mentor to set up a new branch in downtown Tokyo. Each time, Taeyeon would bring a new cake or dessert along. She would make Jessica guess before she revealed the answer. Sometimes, there was a lingering scent on Taeyeon and it hinted at the contents of the white box Taeyeon brought.

 

They enjoyed spending time with each other in the night, chatting about random stuff. They connected with each other on an intellectual level and even shared similar views on issues. Sometimes, Jessica gave her opinions on the new recipes which Taeyeon was experimenting. Other times, Taeyeon lent a listening ear to Jessica when she was ranting about work.

Taeyeon always woke up before the sun rose as she needed to get to work much earlier than Jessica. Since she was coming over so often, she left a few sets of clothes at Jessica’s hotel room so that she didn’t have to go back to her hotel to change. Each time before she left the room, Taeyeon would always plant a goodbye kiss on Jessica’s eyelid. There were instances when Jessica was awake when Taeyeon kissed her but she chose not to open her eyes and continued to pretend to be asleep.

 

Jessica enjoyed the little gestures that Taeyeon did for her. Taeyeon was unlike the other women whom she met or slept with. Taeyeon made her feel wanted and her constant appearance also meant that she was not left alone at night, which was something that always bugged her when she travelled overseas for work.

 

Every morning, Taeyeon would leave a handwritten note on Jessica’s work desk in the hotel room. She knew Jessica was very stressed at work and wanted to do a little something for her to brighten up her day. It was something Jessica looked forward to after she got dressed for work.

 

“Life is uncertain.  Eat dessert first.  – Ernestine Ulmer”

 

Jessica picked up the small piece of paper and kept it in her schedule book, along with the other notes which Taeyeon had written.

 

“That girl is always thinking about desserts,” Jessica said to herself. She caught herself smiling in the mirror as she took out her cosmetic bag to apply her makeup.

 

~*~*~*~*~

 

“Rise and shine!” a chirpy voice echoed throughout the room.

 

The curtains were drawn apart, allowing the morning sun’s rays to flood the room completely.

 

Jessica curled up into a ball and pulled the blanket over her head. A few seconds later, the empty space next to her dipped with the weight of someone jumping onto the bed.

 

“It’s a Saturday!” Taeyeon proclaimed. She shook the figure who was hiding under the blanket.

 

Jessica pulled down the blanket to reveal her head and gave a death glare at the smiley figure sitting cross-legged next to her.

 

“Precisely it’s a bloody Saturday and one of the rare ones I don’t have to report back to the office. Why the hell do I have to wake up early for?!” Jessica roared.

 

“Because we’re going to a special place that’s only open early in the morning! It’s a must for all tourists to visit this place when they come to Tokyo,” Taeyeon explained excitedly. She proceeded to pull the blanket off the sleepy blonde and started tickling her.

 

“Yaaaa!” Jessica delivered a flying kick to the smaller sized Taeyeon that sent Taeyeon falling off the edge of the bed and onto the hard floor.

 

Thud!

 

 

Getting up from the ground, Taeyeon scrunched up her face and used all her might to pull Jessica’s legs so that the latter would slide off the bed. All those years of whisking the batter had built up her arm muscles. After battling for fifteen minutes, Jessica conceded defeat. She was sitting on the floor, her hair was in a big mess and had only the blanket to cover her modesty.

 

Left with no choice, Jessica reluctantly got up from the floor and headed for the bathroom to wash up.

 

~*~*~*~*~

 

“It had better be good, else your head will roll,” Jessica hissed as both of them stepped out into the bright morning sun and headed for the train station. Sleep was precious to her since she often worked long hours.

 

About an hour later, the women arrived at a bustling fish market.

 

“This is the famous Tsukiji fish market! This is the place that should be experienced by all who visit Japan. A lot of top-notch Japanese restaurants buy their fresh seafood from here. There’s an auction that happens every morning before the sun rises but I didn’t managed to get a ticket for it. We can always shop along the market and stores.” Taeyeon pointed to a large sign that stated the name of the market.

 

“Do you want me to take a photo of you as a souvenir since it’s your first time here?” Taeyeon offered.

 

Jessica glared at Taeyeon and the latter merely had a wide smile plastered across her face and was busy looking around. Jessica couldn’t understand why someone could be to hyperactive early in the morning.

 

“Do I look like I’m in the best of moods to take a photo now?” Jessica growled, her face as black as charcoal.

 

Taeyeon gulped and decided to keep her mouth shut for the time being. Getting Jessica to go out with her was a challenge and she didn’t want to spoil the opportunity.

 

The wholesale area consisted of hundreds of small stands in a large, crowded hall, where buyers and sellers hurried along narrow lanes with their carts and trucks.

 

“Ack, this place stinks!” Jessica pinched her nose as they stood at the entrance of the fish market.

 

“Darling, this is a fish market, obviously it would reek of seafood. You won’t regret when you get to taste the freshest seafood later on,” Taeyeon said calmly, patting Jessica’s arm. Knowing that it was Jessica’ s first visit to the market, she slid her hand into Jessica’s and held it tightly. She didn’t want to lose her in the vast and crowded market. Jessica had no choice but to relent and follow Taeyeon closely since she was already there.  Using her other free hand, she covered her nose with a piece of tissue paper as she followed Taeyeon.

 

They weaved through the masses of people, stopping by at random stores. There were octopus, fish, lobster, squid, shrimp, shellfish and many more varieties of seafood on display.  The workers were working intently at the stores at lightning speed; sorting fish, selling fish, cutting slabs of fish and deftly filleting fish. Taeyeon pointed out the names of several variety of seafood and even went on to explain the different cuts of a Salmon, a fish which was commonly used for sushi and sashimi.

 

“Did you know that Tsukiji means ‘built land’? It’s a reference to the fact that it was placed in a district built on reclaimed land. The current site is now two kilometres away from its initial site,” Taeyeon explained.

 

Jessica shook her head in reply to Taeyeon’s question. She was secretly impressed by Taeyeon’s wide general knowledge.

 

Soon, they headed out to the outer market where rows of small retail shops and restaurants packed the crowded small lanes. They had a difficult time trying to decide what to eat as the choices were so varied. Almost every restaurant had a long queue as many people wanted to try the fresh sashimi. They finally settled on a Japanese don store where there were at least ten types of sashimi dons to choose from.

 

As with all the other stores, this tiny don store was also quite crowded and it was a standing-only eating place. There were two rows of long tables where patrons could stand around to eat after buying from the store. Being rather nimble and of a small built, Taeyeon managed to wriggle her way to a tiny spot at the corner of one of the tables. She placed the two bowls of rice on the table and smiled triumphantly to Jessica who was close behind.

 

Taeyeon broke the wooden chopsticks apart and handed Jessica one pair. Both of them were squashed by the other patrons who were busy eating at the restaurant and had no choice but to rub shoulders with each other.

 

“You can never get such cheap uni anywhere else but here. Try it, it’s an acquired taste but I’m sure you’ll like it,” Taeyeon said, pointing to the golden paste that was on top of the sashimi don.

 

Jessica used her chopstick to pick up a tiny portion of the sea urchin’s flesh to try. It tasted as sweet as lobster but was creamier.

 

“Wow, it tastes much better here! I’ve only tried it once in Seoul but it is definitely not as good as this one. This is so sweet!” Jessica gave a thumbs-up after trying a small portion.

 

Taeyeon smiled and said, “See, I told you it was worth waking up early to try the delicious seafood here. No regrets right?”

 

Jessica shook her head in reply as her mouth was full of rice and sashimi. Her eyes were bright and there was a radiant glow on her face.  Taeyeon laughed at Jessica’s satisfied look. She spotted a grain of rice on the corner of Jessica’s lips. Using her finger, she wiped it off her lips.

 

Their eyes met and they looked away almost instantly. It felt like there was a strong electrical current passing through their bodies the moment their eyes met.

 

It’s a natural reflex for me to do that…I think she wouldn’t mind. – Taeyeon

 

Why did she do that? I mean…we’re not a couple or anything…maybe she’s just being nice. – Jessica

 

Taeyeon started to talk about Japanese food culture in order to lighten the somewhat awkward atmosphere.  Jessica merely nodded while she listened to Taeyeon.

 

After eating, Taeyeon suggested going to Ginza for a walk before heading back to the hotel since it was nearby. Jessica nodded in agreement. She heard a lot about shopping in Ginza district and couldn’t wait to go there.  The inner shopaholic in her was waiting to burst out of her skin.

 

Jessica behaved like a kid in a candy store upon arriving at Ginza. She went from shop to shop, flitting like a butterfly in a garden. After two hours, both women had their hands filled with shopping bags, mostly Jessica’s. They decided to rest at a café before heading back to the hotel.

 

“You’re the biggest shopaholic I’ve ever met!” Taeyeon said, wiping the sweat off her forehead.

 

“Well, most stores are having sales and some of their latest collection are not found in Seoul yet. Anyway, a girl needs various clothes to match her bags and accessories,” Jessica smiled, somewhat embarrassed. There were bags piled up on the seat next to her, with some of the bigger bags left on the floor.

 

Taeyeon laughed. “It’s ok, I’ve got a friend who’s a shopaholic too but you’ve beaten her hands down. I think what you’ve spent today is probably what I spend in a year!”

 

“I don’t get the chance to shop so freely that often. When I do, I’ll make sure I go all out to get all the stuff I want.”

 

“Yes yes I can tell you’re dying to shop. In fact, if your luggage space wasn’t a concern, I’m sure you would have bought much more. By the way, there’s FedEx you know,” Taeyeon grinned.

 

“Stop stop! Don’t tell me that else I’ll really end up going into the shops again to buy more stuff,” Jessica exclaimed.

 

Taeyeon let out a hearty laugh. “Be my guest.”

 

Jessica pouted as she leaned back into her seat.

 

Aish! Why must she pout? It’s killing me! I wanna throw my arms around her now…

 

They continued bickering with each other in a friendly manner. Jessica did head back into some of the shops to buy more stuff as she was unable to resist the temptation of shopping. Soon, it was already late afternoon when both of them headed back to Jessica’s hotel. Jessica was visibly worn out by then. Taeyeon helped her carry her shopping bags to her hotel. She didn’t stay behind as Jessica wanted to take a nap. They bid farewell and Taeyeon left the hotel.

 

Four hours later, Jessica was woken up by the buzzing of her doorbell. She thought she had been dreaming and pulled the blanket over her head. The buzzing of her doorbell intensified.

 

Jessica reluctantly crawled out of bed and opened the door.

 

The next instant, she felt a pair of lips on her own as she staggered backwards, crashing against the wardrobe.

 

“I missed you.”

 

 

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