“Seonsaeng-nim, do you have a few minutes to spare? I would have questions regarding the frosting techniques,” Jiyeon asked after class had ended for that evening. She wanted to take the opportunity to talk to her teacher a little more.
Taeyeon glanced at her watch and thought about the appointment she had later on. “Yes, I do.”
Midway through their discussion, Taeyeon’s phone vibrated. She excused herself and looked at the text message on her phone. Jiyeon noticed a wide smile on her teacher’s face as the latter typed a quick reply before turning her attention back to their designs.
“You’ve got to go?” Jiyeon asked.
“Someone’s here to pick me up. You’ve made good progress and I hope you’ve picked up some useful skills during this short course,” Taeyeon said with a gentle smile on her face.
“Yes, I learnt a lot from you. You’re a good and patient teacher. It’s a pity you wouldn’t be starting a new class soon, else I’ll surely sign up for it,” Jiyeon said enthusiastically.
“Thank you, Jiyeon. It’s time for you to go home too. Take care and I’ll see you two days later at the café.”
Taeyeon got off the high stool and waited for Jiyeon to leave before she switched off all the lights and locked the door. She returned the key to the office, grabbed her bag and headed for the car park.
From a distance, Jiyeon saw Taeyeon walking briskly to the car park. Her teacher appeared to be in a very good mood. She saw Taeyeon stopping at the driver’s side of a white sedan and bending down to talk to the driver. She couldn’t see the driver’s face clearly. A moment later, Taeyeon skipped to the passenger side, hopped into the car and left the school car park shortly. She wondered who that person was. It had to be someone special in order for her teacher to be in such a good mood. She didn’t know why that thought made her heart hurt a little.
It was the last lesson of Taeyeon’s cupcake making class. Everyone was adding finishing touches to their cupcakes while chatting merrily with each other. Some of them became friends over this short course and were talking about joining other baking courses at the Seoul Culinary Academy.
Jiyeon was unusually quiet that evening. Her heart was filled with mixed emotions. It was probably one of the last times she would see her favourite teacher. The only other time would be during the collection of the cupcakes made by Taeyeon. She let out a sigh as she watched her teacher walking around the class.
When Taeyeon stopped at Jiyeon’s work station, she praised the teenager for showing marked improvement in her baking skills. Jiyeon was ecstatic and thanked her teacher profusely. Then Jiyeon insisted that Taeyeon tried one of her cupcakes in order to give her some feedback. Taeyeon smiled and took a small bite of a chocolate cupcake. The baker gave a thumbs up which made Jiyeon squeal with delight.
Time flew and it was almost the end of the class. Taeyeon was washing her baking tools at her work station while the rest of the class was packing their own stuff at their respective work stations.
“Seonsaeng-nim, when is your next class?” a student asked.
Taeyeon dried her hands using a towel. “I’m not too sure yet. You may leave your name with the staff at the counter and they will contact you when a new class is starting. Meanwhile, there are other interesting classes which would be starting soon, such as the Japanese swiss rolls baking class and the brownie making class.”
“Seonsaeng-nim, your class is still the best!” another person called out from the back of the class. Taeyeon blushed at that remark.
“No, I’m not the best. I’m on a constant learning journey and all of you should do the same too. I’m glad to be able to impart my knowledge to you and I hope you’ll continue to pursue your passion for baking,” Taeyeon said with a smile.
“Seonsaeng-nim, can we take a photo with you?” another student requested.
Taeyeon readily agreed to the request. “Sure, why not?”
Taeyeon went around each work station and took a photo with each of her students. The younger students made Taeyeon pose candidly with baking tools while others posed with their handmade cupcakes. A few of them brought notepads for Taeyeon to sign on. The baker was embarrassed by the attention she was receiving.
When it was Jiyeon’s turn, she insisted on taking a selca instead of getting someone else to take a photo of them. She asked Taeyeon to stand next to her while she held out her phone.
“Seonsaeng-nim, please stand closer else you wouldn’t fit into the picture,” Jiyeon said excitedly.
Taeyeon moved closer and picked up a whisk to pose with it. However, just before Jiyeon pressed the button on her phone, she grabbed Taeyeon by her arm and pulled her teacher to her side. Taeyeon was startled by the sudden action and almost lost her balance. She leaned heavily onto Jiyeon’s body as she tried to steady herself. Meanwhile, Jiyeon was squealing inwardly as she felt her teacher leaning onto her body. The close skinship was causing Jiyeon’s heartbeat to go into overdrive.
“Ah, Seonsaeng-nim, you closed your eyes. Let’s take another one,” Jiyeon said, examining the picture she had taken.
“Okay,” Taeyeon replied plainly.
This time, Jiyeon linked her arm around Taeyeon’s arm and leaned her face close to Taeyeon’s. Taeyeon felt a little uncomfortable but she said nothing. She smiled until the snapshot was taken.
While Jiyeon was looking at the second photo, Taeyeon took a step away, causing Jiyeon’s arm to slip out of hers.
“The photo’s okay?” Taeyeon asked, trying to peek at Jiyeon’s phone.
“Yes, it is. Thank you, Seonsaeng-nim!” Jiyeon said happily.
Someone suggested taking a group photo. Taeyeon agreed and approached her colleague for help to take the group photo. As the students were gathering around her, Taeyeon felt someone bump into her lightly. She turned around and came face to face with Jiyeon. Jiyeon was beaming from ear to ear as she stood rooted next to her teacher, preventing anyone else from claiming that spot. Taeyeon was puzzled by her student’s behaviour. It seemed like Jiyeon want to stick to her for some unknown reason. However, she didn’t let it bother her too much as she waited for everyone to gather around.
The numerous phones and cameras lined up in a row in front of her colleague meant that it was going to be a long photo taking session. Everyone wanted to use their own camera to capture the moment. They changed their poses with each take, from serious to candid ones. No matter what the pose was, Jiyeon always had her arm around Taeyeon’s.
Taeyeon was relieved when the photo taking session finally ended. It wasn’t because she minded taking photos with her students but it was a particular student that made her feel awkward. Nonetheless, she shook hands with each of her student and thanked them for coming to her class.
Jiyeon was the last person in line. Taeyeon extended her hand for a handshake, just like what she did for the rest of the students. Jiyeon shook Taeyeon’s hand and handed her teacher a card and a small gift. Taeyeon thanked Jiyeon for the gift and told her that she would contact her regarding the delivery of the cupcakes.
It was less than two weeks till the charity event. Jiyeon wanted to brush up her baking skills, hoping to contribute to the event besides relying on Taeyeon. In order to do that, she had invited Taeyeon to her apartment to coach her on baking cupcakes since the course had ended. Of course, Jiyeon’s main motive was to seize the opportunity to get closer to Taeyeon. She missed the interaction she shared with her teacher and the cupcakes were the best excuse she could think of.
Taeyeon offered her kitchen at the café where it was more equipped and much bigger. However, Jiyeon managed to convince Taeyeon otherwise, citing the reason that she wanted to use the baking tools and ingredients she bought. Taeyeon agreed after much persuasion from her student, seeing how enthusiastic she was.
It was past 8.30pm when Taeyeon left Jiyeon’s house. As she exited the lift to get to her car, she heard someone calling her name. She turned around and was surprised to see Tiffany.
“Hi Taeng, what are you doing here?” Tiffany asked. She was staring at Taeyeon curiously, noticing some white specks on the baker’s black leather jacket.
“Hello Tiffany. Fancy bumping into you here. One of my students from the academy stays here and I was teaching her how to bake cupcakes,” Taeyeon answered.
“Wow, private lessons?” Tiffany asked, raising an eyebrow.
“She wanted to practise baking for a charity event,” Taeyeon explained.
“Oh? Shouldn’t she practise in the academy instead?” Tiffany asked, raising her brows. Something didn’t feel right.
“She bought her tools and wanted to put them to use. Moreover, the academy’s quite packed with classes so it’s difficult to book any rooms. Anyway, what are you doing here?”
“One of my friends is staying in this block and invited me over for dinner. It’s such a small world eh?” Tiffany commented. She wasn’t fully convinced by Taeyeon’s answer.
“I see. Swing by our place when you’re free. I’ll whip up a nice cake for you,” Taeyeon offered sincerely.
“I will. Drive safe, catch up with you two lovebirds again soon! Send my regards to Jess!” Tiffany waved goodbye and headed for her car.
It wasn’t the first time Tiffany had seen Taeyeon’s car in the carpark. In fact, it was her second time within a week. Initially, she thought Taeyeon’s friend stayed in the block of apartments here and the latter was only visiting. She wondered if it was merely a private lesson or if there was something else going on.
“Hey busy woman, I finally have time to sit down and have dinner with my best friend,” Tiffany said sarcastically as her best friend sat in front of her at the table in a Western restaurant.
“Please tell Mr. Sung that I’m overworked and underpaid. I would rather spend more time resting at home than slogging in the office,” Jessica complained. She scanned through the menu and decided on a ribeye steak.
“You meant to say spend more time in bed, cuddling your little baker and whispering sweet nothings to her right?”
Jessica’s cheeks turned pink, embarrassed at Tiffany’s accuracy in mind reading.
“Miss Hwang, for the record, we do connect both horizontally and intellectually,” Jessica rebutted, with a strong emphasis on the last two words.
Tiffany’s face turned as red as tomatoes at Jessica’s defence of connecting horizontally. She quickly changed a topic in case Jessica went on about that topic. “So where is she now? Busy with work?”
“She is helping out with a charity event for Chung Ang University. One of her students at the Academy asked her for help to bake cupcakes for sale at the event.”
“Oh I see. When is the event?” Tiffany asked casually, trying to steer the conversation in a certain direction.
“I think it’s in a week or so? She told me about it but I can’t recall the date.”
“Shouldn’t one start baking cupcakes closer to the date instead of preparing the ingredients too early?”
“I have no idea. I don’t bake.” Jessica tore a packet of sugar and emptied it into her coffee.
“Do you know where they are baking?”
Jessica placed the cup onto the saucer and looked at Tiffany with a frown. “Tiff, you’ve been saying strange things for the whole night. What are you trying to get at?”
“Has Taeyeon been behaving differently? Has she been extra nice to you?”
Jessica thought about three nights ago when an exhausted Taeyeon came home from work and they ended up making out at the couch even before Taeyeon showered.
Was that considered something different? Lately we’ve not been able to spend much time with each other, so it wasn’t surprising that she wanted me that much though she was tired.
“Jess, as your best friend, I ought to tell you this. I’ve seen Taeyeon’s car at my friend’s apartment twice in the same week. The last time I bumped into her, she claimed she was baking at her student’s apartment. I don’t see why she should bake at her student’s house when she has two well-equipped kitchens to work with.”
Jessica was paying attention to every single word that Tiffany was saying. She was someone who enjoyed freedom and didn’t like to be an overbearing spouse who was a control freak. As long as Taeyeon was faithful and loved her, she didn’t expect Taeyeon to report every single thing she did.
Tiffany continued, “I’m not trying to sow discord between the both of you. You know me, I like to be frank about matters I see and feel.”
“Jiyeon’s such a young kid,” Jessica replied casually.
“Young or old, it doesn’t matter. What matters most is whether your darling is captivated by her or not,” Tiffany said bluntly.
“I have faith in her,” Jessica replied firmly. She was certain Taeyeon wouldn’t be swayed by a mere tertiary student, no matter how good looking she was. If the person in question was a more matured person, she would have the reason to worry.
Tiffany smiled, seeing her friend’s determined look. “I’ll kick Taeyeon’s sorry ass if she does something unfaithful to you.”
“Thank you for looking out for me,” Jessica winked. She reached her hand out and patted Tiffany’s hand.
“This is Kwon Yuri, the co-owner of A Spoonful of Sugar. This is Park Jiyeon, my student from the Academy. Her school is having a charity event and she has asked us to help bake cupcakes to raise funds,” Taeyeon introduced, pointing at Jiyeon.
Taeyeon had enlisted Yuri’s help for this event and her old friend agreed readily. Jiyeon had insisted on coming along to help since this idea was brought up by her. It was one day before the charity event and they were gathered at the original store of the cafe.
Yuri and Jiyeon exchanged formalities while Taeyeon put on her apron. Yuri helped Taeyeon take the ingredients out from the fridge and lay them on the table. Both bakers went to work very quickly. Jiyeon tried to make herself useful by cutting the packets of flour open and unwrapping the blocks of butter. Being overly eager, Jiyeon placed the bags of flour on the table in haste, resulting in a layer of white dust flying up and landing all over the table. She apologised and tried to clean the table, only to bump into Taeyeon by accident.
“It’s alright, I’ll clean it,” Taeyeon said softly. She took the cloth from her and wiped the table swiftly before throwing the cloth into the sink.
Unwilling to give up, Jiyeon offered to unwrap the blocks of butter so that the bakers could mix it into their bowls. While unwrapping a block of butter, Jiyeon accidentally let it slip out of her hand and it landed on the floor. She apologised profusely for wasting the butter.
“It’s alright. We’ll get a new block of butter later. Maybe you would like to grab a soft drink from the fridge and sit by the side of the kitchen?” Taeyeon said patiently.
Jiyeon nodded and did what she was told.
The kitchen was a hive of activity as Taeyeon and Yuri worked quietly to prepare the cupcakes. For the first fifteen minutes, Jiyeon watched Taeyeon intently as the baker went about mixing the ingredients for the cupcake. It was an enjoyable sight and she was pleased to be one of the few who could watch the famous baker in action up close. As time went on, Jiyeon began to feel bad just sitting around so she offered to help Taeyeon in any way she required.
Yuri was concerned about Jiyeon being more of a hindrance instead of help but she kept her thoughts to herself since Jiyeon was Taeyeon’s guest. Taeyeon was a little reluctant to get Jiyeon to help since she was a guest. Jiyeon kept hovering around Taeyeon, causing inconvenience to the baker but the baker didn’t have the heart to tell Jiyeon to stand aside and watch. In the end, Taeyeon gave her the task of beating the eggs.
Jiyeon tried to beat the eggs but she wasn’t doing it well. Taeyeon wiped her hands on the towel nearby and went over to Jiyeon to guide her. Taeyeon took over the bowl and spoon and showed her how it was done. Jiyeon nodded and imitated what Taeyeon did earlier but ended up creating a bigger mess and spilling some of the eggs onto her dress due to her nervousness. She wanted to impress her teacher but it turned out the wrong way. Taeyeon hurriedly grabbed a clean cloth from the rack and wiped the yellowish liquid off Jiyeon’s dress.
Meanwhile, Yuri stopped what she was doing and looked at the scene in front of her. She knew that Taeyeon was a kind hearted person and there was nothing unusual about Taeyeon’s reaction. However, Yuri was more concerned about Jiyeon, who was looking down at Taeyeon with longing eyes.
“Taeng, it would be best if you could pass Jiyeon an apron so that she wouldn’t spill anything into her dress. Jiyeon, perhaps you would like to dab the stain with some water to get it off. There’s also a hand dryer which you could use to dry the spot. The washroom is over there,” Yuri said, pointing to the area behind the cafe.
Jiyeon nodded with gratefulness and left the kitchen.
“Taeng, aren’t you behaving a little too close for a teacher-student relationship?” Yuri leaned against the table and looked at Taeyeon.
“What do you mean? I’m afraid her dress will be stained,” Taeyeon said innocently. She honestly didn’t see what was wrong with helping her student.
“You could have told her to go to the washroom,” Yuri replied in a firm voice.
Taeyeon tilted her head slightly to meet Yuri’s eyes. They looked at each other intensely for a moment before the gaze in Yuri’s eyes softened.
“I know you did it out of good heart. Imagine if Sica sees this, she may misunderstand and that wouldn’t be nice.”
“Yul, I am just…”
“Ahem…” came a voice at the entrance of the kitchen.