The following few days passed quite peacefully. Tiffany didn’t appear before Taeyeon. And Taeyeon was able to hand up most of her assignments and so she decided to spend her free day at the park near her apartment.
Cycling to the park, Taeyeon allowed the cool breeze to flutter through her hair. She felt like she was flying through the clouds and strangely, that was a rather comforting feeling. Walking along a well-worn out path after a while, Taeyeon headed for the benches located along the perimeter of a small lake. There were huge trees nearby and they provided the much needed shade on a cool, breezy, late afternoon. Taeyeon parked her bicycle on a nearby tree before heading for the benches.
When Taeyeon arrived at the benches, she noticed most of them were taken up by couples. Yes, all the happy couples. They reminded Taeyeon of what Tiffany had told her. It seemed like it wasn’t going to be easy to find the eighty-eight couples within three months to complete her mission.
Pushing that depressing thought out of her mind, Taeyeon settled down on one of the benches. She chucked her backpack beside her and dug into her bag for her novel and iPod. As she looked up from her backpack, she noticed a girl sitting alone at the next bench, absorbed in a thick book. She couldn’t see the girl’s face clearly as it was covered by her long dark brown hair.
A moment later, the girl tucked her hair behind her ear, exposing her fair complexion. Taeyeon recognized her immediately. She was the girl whom she had met at the supermarket.
The apple girl.
It was such a coincidence to see her here and Taeyeon’s heart warmed up immediately. Taeyeon wanted to approach her to say ‘hi’ but decided to monitor her surroundings, in case the girl’s pesky boyfriend appeared from nowhere.
After fifteen minutes of observation, Taeyeon safely concluded that the girl’s boyfriend wasn’t anywhere nearby. Anyway, he didn’t look like the type who would come to the park to read a book. Taeyeon chucked her stuff into her backpack, slung it on her shoulder and dragging her bike along, walked towards the unsuspecting girl.
“Hey,” Taeyeon said gently, afraid to startle girl who was absorbed in reading the book.
The girl looked up to acknowledge Taeyeon. Her brown eyes were warm and alluring. There was a soft gleam in them as she tilted her head in question. It was a sight which sent Taeyeon’s heart fluttering in a faster pace.
“Oh, hi,” the girl said when she realized who the newcomer was.
“You like reading in the park?” Taeyeon asked, attempting to start a conversation and trying to get a hold on her nerves.
The girl smiled – a sweet, innocent smile which blinded Taeyeon in its pureness.
Taeyeon wished the apple girl would say more instead of giving her such short replies because it was making her feel rather awkward. She racked her head to think of another question to ask.
“Mind if I join you?” Taeyeon was hoping for a nod.
“Okay,” was all she said, but it was good enough for Taeyeon and so, laying her bike on the ground next to the bench and dropping her bag on the ground, she sat down next to the apple girl.
“I’m Kim Taeyeon, what’s your name?”
Jessica…the name has a nice ring to it and it fitted her image.
“Hi Jessica, that’s a really lovely name.” To be honest, Taeyeon had wanted to slap herself for being so lame, but the words just came out of her mouth without going through her brain.
“Thank you.” Yet another short answer.
Jessica looked into her bag and produced two red apples in her hand.
“Would you like an apple?” she asked, offering one of the apples to Taeyeon.
“That would be nice. Thank you, Jessica.” Taeyeon took the apple from her hand. Their fingers brushed against one another during the gesture. It sent a warm sensation through Taeyeon’s nerves which spread throughout her body and ended in her heart and brain. Memories of the incident at the supermarket came flooding through Taeyeon’s mind. She couldn’t help but feel a twinge of pain when she recalled how Jessica’s boyfriend had treated her.
“You like to eat apples?”
There was something about Jessica that made Taeyeon want to know more about her.
Jessica simply nodded.
“Me, too. Actually, I like to drink apple juice. I’ll make sure there’s always a bottle of apple juice in my fridge at home.”
Jessica smiled. Oh, that smile could make Taeyeon melt into a puddle!
Taeyeon went on to tell Jessica about the course she was taking at the university and about her housemate Yuri. Taeyeon found out that they were the same age and Jessica was just a month younger than her.
Taeyeon did most of the talking while Jessica listened intently. Sometimes, Jessica’s brows would crease and other times, she would let out a soft giggle at Taeyeon’s lame jokes. In fact, Jessica’s giggles sounded like music to Taeyeon’s ears and the Kim couldn’t get enough of it. Taeyeon was delighted to see Jessica’s happy face and she looked absolutely beautiful when she giggled. It was such a contrast to her downcast face whenever she was with her boyfriend.
They shared the bottle of apple juice which Taeyeon had packed in her backpack. Jessica drank from the bottle first before Taeyeon finished the rest of the juice in the bottle when Jessica had her share. Taeyeon smiled to herself thinking about this indirect kiss.
Oh wait, had I just thought about kissing her?
Looking at Jessica’s left hand served as a painful reminder to Taeyeon that the girl was attached. Moreover, Taeyeon was a girl and possibly not Jessica’s type. Taeyeon was satisfied that Jessica talked to her and she didn’t aspire for more.
After a brief chat, Taeyeon decided to end the conversation. She figured it was one of the rare moments Jessica had some personal time to herself and she shouldn’t deprive her of it. Both of them sat on the bench, side by side, reading their novels in a comfortable silence. Occasionally, Taeyeon stole glances at Jessica and wondered if the latter noticed.
Soon, the sky was starting to set and Jessica started packing her novel into her bag. She told Taeyeon that she had to go home. Taeyeon was a little upset that the other girl had to go so soon. She suspected that Jessica’s boyfriend had something to do with it.
“Thank you for spending the afternoon with me,” Jessica said as both of them got up from the bench, her smile sent Taeyeon’s heart rate soaring once more.
“My pleasure,” Taeyeon grinned. “I hope you enjoyed my company.”
“I did,” Jessica replied bashfully.
Was that a hint of pink I saw on her face briefly? I can feel a surge of warmth in my heart.
“I could give you a lift on my bicycle to the main road. Don’t worry, I’m a safe rider,” Taeyeon offered as she picked up her bicycle.
“It is okay, I’ll walk to the main road myself,” Jessica replied.
Picking up her tote bag, Jessica turned around and said, “Goodbye Taeyeon.”
“Jessica, wait. I’ll walk together with you,” Taeyeon called out. She dragged her bicycle and walked beside Jessica.
Is this love? Is this why I want to spend every minute with her? Taeyeon ah, she is still attached even though the other fellow is a creep…
Once they got to the main road, they said goodbye again and parted ways. Jessica headed for the bus stop while Taeyeon rode her bicycle in the opposite direction. On her way home, all Taeyeon could think of was Jessica’s sweet smile. That night was the first time Taeyeon slept so well.
Since that evening, apples had taken on a completely new meaning to Taeyeon.
Jessica is the apple of my eye. She is someone who makes me smile whenever I picture her face in my head. Call me silly, but I guess that is what you call love.
About two weeks after Tiffany appeared in Taeyeon’s life, she reappeared again, at Taeyeon’s house. There was a persistent knocking on the door and Taeyeon assumed that Yuri had forgotten to bring her keys this morning. When she opened the door, she saw someone with red hair smiling brightly at her.
“What are you doing here?” Taeyeon asked, narrowing her eyes.
“Have you forgotten about our mission? I’ve given you two weeks to sort out your thoughts,” Tiffany said, somewhat arrogantly. She stepped past Taeyeon and entered the foyer.
“Yuri’s not in today, she’s at track and field practice,” Taeyeon said, giving a very obvious hint that Yuri’s girlfriend shouldn’t be hanging around the house.
“I know,” Tiffany said as she sat cross-legged on the couch.
“Come here,” Tiffany commanded. Taeyeon refused to move but somehow her legs seemed to have a life of their own and they brought her to an empty spot next to Tiffany.
“Look, you’ve got to accept the fact that we’re bound together, by this,” Tiffany said, lifting Taeyeon’s left hand where the red thread hung loosely on Taeyeon’s finger.
“There’s no way we can be separated from each other at the moment. I would suggest we try to complete the mission as soon as we can, then perhaps we can be freed from each other. What do you think?”
“You’re leaving me with not much of a choice,” Taeyeon said sadly, looking at their intertwined threads.
“Good. Now I would suggest hanging out at the school cafeteria to see if we have any potential couples. That’s a place with a high possibility of people checking each other out.” Tiffany placed her hand on Taeyeon’s thigh and rubbed it casually.
Taeyeon knew it wasn’t right for Tiffany to behave in this way but she felt good when Tiffany touched her that way. She tried to widen the gap between them, but each time she made an attempt, Taeyeon felt the thread pulling her towards Tiffany.
“Cafeteria it shall be. How about tomorrow, during lunch time? I’m sure we would be able to snag some couples,” Taeyeon suggested. She was trying to end the conversation and shorten the time spent with Tiffany.
“Lunch time sounds good,” Tiffany whispered into Taeyeon’s ear. Taeyeon felt Tiffany’s warm breath on her neck which sent tingles down her spine. Taeyeon subconsciously shivered at the sensation.
Taeyeon’s left hand involuntarily slid to Tiffany’s back and pulled her in for a hug. They ended up hugging each other in a rather awkward position since Tiffany was sitting cross-legged on the couch.
Tiffany ran her fingers through Taeyeon’s hair and Taeyeon felt her body relax into her touch.
Oh man, this feels so wrong yet so good. What’s going on with me?! Get a grip, Taeyeon!
Taeyeon broke away from their hug, quickly putting a wide gap between Tiffany and herself.
Tiffany laughed. “You’re cute and you’re blushing like a shy bunny.”
“This isn’t funny. It must be the work of the red thread. Now I feel so guilty towards Yuri!” Taeyeon said angrily as she ruffled her hair in frustration.
Tiffany merely shrugged her shoulders. “Well, we’ve got to build up our chemistry since we need to work closely with each other. It’s not like we’re sleeping with each other.”
“There’re many other ways to build chemistry. It would be good if you kept your distance away from me. Yuri’s my housemate and my good friend. I won’t want to do anything that would hurt her.” Taeyeon stood up and headed towards the door.
“Aww, such a fierce little bunny. Alright, I shall leave since I’m meeting Yuri for dinner after her practice. Would you like to join us?” Tiffany batted her eyelids at Taeyeon as she stood next to her at the door.
“No. Thank. You.” Taeyeon said very firmly, emphasizing each word that came out of her mouth.
“Okay, remember our date tomorrow. 12pm at the school cafeteria.” Tiffany suddenly leaned over and Taeyeon felt Tiffany’s lips briefly grazing past her cheek before Tiffany turned around to leave.
Taeyeon stood at the door, stunned by her sudden near-kiss. Her heartbeat was going crazy and her legs almost turned into jelly.
That does it. I’m officially screwed. I better make a checklist of crowded places where I can find would-be couples easily and get this mission over and done with.
Taeyeon chose a seat that gave her a rather good view of the cafeteria. Crowds of students were streaming in since it was lunch time.
Munching on her sandwich, Taeyeon studied the students around her and tried to search for suitable couples. Engrossed in her search, she didn’t notice the slight tug of the thread on her left hand until she felt an arm wrapped around her waist and a chin on her shoulder.
“That girl with the orange backpack looks like our target,” a sultry voice whispered into Taeyeon’s ear.
Taeyeon almost jumped out of her seat and choked on her sandwich. She coughed until her face turned red as Tiffany patted her back.
“Don’t…*cough* surprise me like… *cough* that!” Taeyeon warned as she tried to reach for a bottle of juice.
Tiffany merely smiled as she handed Taeyeon the bottle of apple juice on her tray.
“I didn’t know you’re easily startled.”
“Who wouldn’t?!” Taeyeon growled, widening the gap between the both of them after she took a swig of the apple juice.
Tiffany flashed her signature smile at Taeyeon.
Trust me, no one would be able to remain angry when faced with such a beautiful smile.
Taeyeon sighed inwardly. “So what are we supposed to do now?”
“Let’s try to locate the end of her red thread,” Tiffany suggested.
They followed the red thread and it ended with a young girl who was waiting at a table.
“Ooh, sweet. She’s buying lunch for her. I think they’re still in the initial dating phase,” Tiffany said as she clasped her hands together, her eyes disappearing into inverted crescents as she smiled. Taeyeon detected a sense of envy in Tiffany’s tone of voice. A curious thought entered Taeyeon’s mind.
“Yul doesn’t do that for you?” Taeyeon asked inquisitively. Yuri, being a kind-hearted person, would definitely offer to buy lunch for friends. Moreover, Tiffany was her girlfriend so it was rather odd when Taeyeon heard the words laced with jealousy.
“She does,” came a short reply.
This time Tiffany sounded a little sad, sparking more of Taeyeon’s interest.
Taeyeon didn’t have time to worry about their relationship since she wanted to get this so-called mission completed as soon as possible. “We have our couple. What now?”
“You pull their threads together and try to link them up,” Tiffany commanded, sitting upright.
Focusing on the ends of their respective threads, Taeyeon managed to ensure the threads meet and intertwined after some effort. The next moment, she saw Tiffany lean forward, reach her right hand out and rub her thumb and forefinger together.
Puzzled, Taeyeon asked, “What are you doing?”
“Making a knot, silly. This would ensure that they would stay together,” Tiffany replied in a serious tone as she did her task.
A few seconds later, they saw the threads slowly forming a knot. They were holding their breaths, hoping the knot would be secured but were disappointed when it fell apart.
Taeyeon let out a sigh. “Any idea what went wrong?”
“Our chemistry. We need to work on it.”
“The connection between our threads aren’t strong enough, that’s why it didn’t work. We need to be more involved with each other.”
“Ah huh…by that you mean?” Taeyeon was scratching her head. Tiffany sounded rather cryptic and Taeyeon wasn’t sure what she was referring to.
Tiffany suddenly got up from her seat and disappeared into the crowd, leaving Taeyeon without an answer.