Two

“Hey sleepy head, finished your essay already?” A familiar voice disturbed Taeyeon’s peace with her sleep. The inquiry was left unanswered as Taeyeon resumed her nap, resting her head on her desk, unnerved by the person who sought her attention.

Taeyeon felt someone ruffle her hair, prompting her to lift her head only to see Sunny sitting down next to her.

“Ya, managed to complete it somehow. Just hope it would be satisfactory for Mr. Jin.” Taeyeon replied, her voice a bit rasped as she gave her body a good stretch before straightening her posture on her seat.

“You stayed up late? This is my first time seeing you in such a zombie-fied state,” Sunny asked in a concerned tone, eyes checking up on Taeyeon, who yawned every now and then, her posture now a bit slumped from the fatigue brought about by a sleepless night.

“I can’t seem to sleep well last night. Was tossing and turning quite a bit,” Taeyeon retorted, rubbing her eyes and trying her best to stay awake since Mr. Jin had just entered the lecture hall.

Truthfully, it was the image of the crying girl that kept her awake last night. Taeyeon kept thinking that she ought to have pulled the poor girl away from her idiotic boyfriend. The girl was crying so pitifully last night that Taeyeon’s heart ached for her every time she remembered the woeful face – a face that haunted her throughout the night and into the first rays of dawn.

“How was it last night?” Taeyeon asked in a hushed tone since Mr. Jin was about to start talking.

“It was fun. I chatted with her till the party ended. We exchanged phone numbers and we’ll be meeting each other for lunch tomorrow. Would you like to join us?” Sunny said excitedly, keeping her voice down in case Mr. Jin spotted them chatting during his lecture.

“It isn’t easy to find someone whom you can feel comfortable with. I won’t be joining you girls, don’t want to be a light bulb.” Taeyeon replied, her eyes sneaking a glance on Sunny’s finger where the red thread had extended.

The red thread on Sunny’s finger had lengthened and trailed across the floor and out of the room. Taeyeon assumed that it had been linked to the senior from last night. The knot wasn’t formed yet, but Taeyeon was sure it would be when they get to know each other better.

“Nonsense! There is no harm in making a new friend. Maybe she can introduce some friends to you, too,” Sunny said, patting Taeyeon’s thigh before she faced forward to listen to Mr. Jin. Sunny was always caring and thoughtful. Too bad, she and Taeyeon were only friends – no more, no less.

She would’ve made for a wonderful girlfriend had we been romantically involved… Taeyeon thought as she tried to pay attention to the ongoing class.

Suddenly, the image of the crying girl appeared in her head again. The familiar angelic face filled with sadness began to cloud Taeyeon’s mind once more. Those teary eyes, the smudged makeup that darkened expressive eyes, the salty fluid leaving a wet trail down the milky white skin. It reminded Taeyeon of her failure to intervene, to bring the girl some reprieve for a crime she didn’t commit, but had been vehemently accused by her pathetic excuse of a boyfriend.

“Aish!” Taeyeon realized too late that she had exclaimed aloud, loud enough to catch the whole room’s attention, and everyone was now staring at her, including Mr. Jin.

“Yes, Taeyeon? You have a question for me?” Mr. Jin’s stern voice echoed through the hall, ringing into Taeyeon’s head, shaking the girl back into reality, as he narrowed his eyes at the student who had just disrupted an important part of his lecture.

“No, I don’t. I just sneezed. It must be pretty dusty around here,” Taeyeon lied, pretending to sweep invisible dust in the air with her lecture notes. She scrunched her face in annoyance to make herself believable.

“If you’re unwell, don’t come to class. I wouldn’t want you to start spreading germs to the rest of the students here,” Mr. Jin said sternly, his glare still plastered on his face.

“Yes, Mr. Jin.” Taeyeon replied as she settled down, noticing Sunny’s concerned look for her through the periphery. Furtively pulling out her phone, Taeyeon typed a message saying that she was fine, reassuring Sunny that she had nothing to worry about, and showed it to her seatmate. Sunny casted a swift look at the message flashed on the screen and nodded in understanding before turning her attention to the lecturer. The rest of the lesson was uneventful.

~*~*~*~

These days, Taeyeon hardly saw Yuri at home. Taeyeon would be asleep by the time Yuri would arrive. On certain days, Yuri didn’t even come home to sleep. Taeyeon knew because Yuri would be up early in the morning to grind her ma juice in the kitchen and would share some with her housemate. Recently, the blender remained in the cupboard. There were two possibilities: it was either Yuri was busy with her school projects or she had a girlfriend. Taeyeon couldn’t verify the latter since she didn’t get a chance to see Yuri for almost a week.

Lately, Taeyeon hadn’t been sleeping well. She kept tossing and turning in bed and sometimes she would feel someone pulling her left hand while she was sleeping. When Taeyeon opened her eyes to look for the culprit, she wouldn’t see anyone.

At times, she saw the red thread unwinding itself and curling back on her finger in her half-dazed state. Taeyeon attributed it to the massive amount of assignments she had to complete, though she suspected that it wasn’t the true reason for her sleepless nights.

On Sunday, Taeyeon woke up to a familiar whirling sound in the kitchen. The blender had been roused back to life. This meant only one thing – Yuri was home.

Ecstatic to see Yuri, Taeyeon bolted from her bed, a wide smile plastered on her face as she skipped through the bedroom door and headed for the kitchen, too eager to see her long-missed housemate to bother washing up.

And there was Yuri, her back turned to Taeyeon, too busy grinding her ma juice to notice her shorter housemate’s presence in the room. Taeyeon spied two empty glasses already sitting on the table.

“Good morning, Yul!” Taeyeon greeted merrily, the pleasant smile she donned upon waking up, never leaving her face.

“Hey! Morning, Taeng! Sorry for disappearing on you, I was kinda busy lately.” Yuri flashed a smile across her face. She turned off the blender, poured the ma juice into two glasses, and handed one to Taeyeon before she continued, “Track and field, school assignments, and… I…”

“Have a girlfriend?” Taeyeon interjected before Yuri could finish her sentence.

“How did you know? You saw me with her?!” Yuri asked in amazement.

Taeyeon let out a laugh. “Just my instincts.” Taeyeon could see that the red thread on Yuri’s finger was extended and it was linked to someone.

“Yes, I do have someone. She’s pretty and has a kind heart. Actually, I wanted to ask you if you would mind her coming over at times,” Yuri requested shyly, the pink tint on her cheeks was too evident to miss. It amused Taeyeon to see her housemate in this state. She was sincerely happy for her friend.

“Of course not! This isn’t solely my apartment. I’m fine with you bringing her home. In fact, I would like to meet her and see which girl has captured the heart of the captain of our track-and-field team.”

“Really? Thanks Taeng. I’ll invite her over for dinner tomorrow night. I’ll whip up something simple for the three of us. Let’s go shopping for groceries!” Yuri went about looking at the food inventory in the cupboards and fridge, hastily scribbling a shopping list on a piece of paper before she pushed Taeyeon towards the bathroom to get ready for their task.

They were done with their shopping at the nearby supermarket two hours later. Yuri was extremely enthusiastic about cooking a meal for her girlfriend and it showed. There was a spring in the track-and-field captain’s steps as she went about the aisles, searching for the things on her list. Yuri jovially checked off her items after having placed them in the cart. To Taeyeon’s amusement, Yuri bought a lot of food, most of which wasn’t listed in her shopping list at all.

While packing their groceries into Yuri’s car at the parking lot, Taeyeon saw a girl coming out of the supermarket with several huge bags of groceries. There was a guy walking a few paces before her and he was busy messaging someone on his phone. He suddenly stopped and the poor girl bumped into him, dropping two bags of groceries onto the concrete.

The next instant, the guy turned around and started yelling at the girl for being clumsy. “You little wench! Watch where you’re going! Now, look at what you’ve done. Pick those things up and hurry! I’ve got more important things to do!” That loud gruff voice was very familiar and it reminded Taeyeon of the night after the freshman’s party. It reminded Taeyeon of the couple – and the poor girl.

Instead of helping, the guy stomped off, shaking his head before he took to his mobile phone, easily forgetting about the girl who was left to pick up the fallen groceries that were scattered all over the ground.

“Yul, someone needs help. I’ll be right back,” Taeyeon said in haste, dashing off towards the girl before Yuri could even reply.

Taeyeon hurriedly picked up the oranges that were rolling away from the girl and gathered them in her arms. As Taeyeon approached the girl, she could hear the young lady sobbing softly, head lowered to hide the tears.

“Uhm, here are your oranges,” Taeyeon said gently, putting them into a plastic bag that sat on the concrete pavement.

The girl looked up at Taeyeon, her light brown hair was disheveled, thick strands of her silken tresses were all over her face and tears streamed down her cheeks. The image of the pitiful girl that haunted Taeyeon day and night was in front of her again, closer this time. Taeyeon felt like she was seeing an angel in tears. It was such a sorry sight that it made Taeyeon feel like crying, too.

Taeyeon wished she could give her a hug and comfort her. Taeyeon wished she had the power to cut off the thread that linked the girl from her boyfriend, but it was a wish beyond Taeyeon’s control.

“Thank you,” the girl said softly amidst her muffled sobs and sniffles.

Yuri joined them shortly and within minutes, they were done packing all the girl’s groceries into her bags. The girl kept thanking them for their help and refused to let them help carry her bags for her to the car. She said her boyfriend would yell at her again if she asked someone to help her. It was meant to be her punishment.

Punishment?! For what? She didn’t do anything wrong. For one, it was her boyfriend who was to blame for being such a jerk! Taeyeon wondered, yet she kept her pondering to herself, reminding herself that it wasn’t her right to meddle with other people’s business.

Nonetheless, Yuri and Taeyeon grabbed some of the girl’s bags and followed behind her as she led the way to her car. Loud rock music was blasting from the speakers of the car. Taeyeon and Yuri could only look at each other in question before shrugging off the nagging thoughts from their minds.

The girl stood by the driver’s door and asked, “Donghae, could you open the boot for me?”

“Why did you take so long?! Only a few bags of groceries and you’re taking forever to carry them here!” the guy barked. He was sitting at the driver’s seat and didn’t even bother to look up from his phone.

“Sorry, I was clumsy. Please open the boot for me,” she repeated, pleading with him. The girl bit her lower lip, a lame attempt at preventing the tears from running down her face. Taeyeon noticed the stray tears and felt her blood boil at the rude treatment that the girl was receiving from someone who was supposed to take care of her.

Taeyeon swore she could have punched the guy in the face if she had the guts and strength to do it. Yuri held Taeyeon’s arm and shot her a knowing look. Taeyeon had guessed her housemate thought she was really going to pull the guy out of the car and beat him into a pulp.

Oh yes, I really wished I could do that. A guy like him doesn’t deserve her! Taeyeon exhaled, a peeved expression now forming on her face.

Once the boot was opened, the three girls loaded the bags of groceries into the car. The girl tucked her hair behind her ears and bowed to Taeyeon and Yuri, thanking them profusely and gently telling them to leave before her boyfriend realized that the two girls were helping her.

As the girl straightened, Taeyeon saw the face of an angel staring back at them. The girl’s innocence shone through her tear-stained face. Her light brown eyes sparkled with kindness though they were a bit watery and her smile – her smile was sweet, gentle, and sincere. There was a hint of blush on her cheeks as she was thanking them. She reached into a bag and gave the two friends, an apple.

“Thank you for helping me. I’m really sorry that I can’t think of a way to repay you, but please accept these apples instead,” she said in gratitude.

“Your boyfriend’s an idiot. You should consider breaking up with him,” Yuri advised in a hushed tone as she graciously received the apple.

“Yul, let’s go before he finds out that we’re here and she’s going to get into a lot of trouble,” Taeyeon urged, fearing for the girl’s safety. Taeyeon had a feeling that the girl would be scolded if she took a long time to put the items into the boot.

“Thank you, I really appreciate it,” the girl repeated before she headed to the passenger door.

Taeyeon smiled and waved goodbye, a tinge of contentment raced through her heart for helping the poor girl this time around.

“That guy’s a nutcase!” Yuri commented as they drove home, her grip on the steering wheel tightened as she expressed her displeasure. “I really pity the girl. I wonder how she can put up with such an idiotic person like him.”

“I wonder too…” Taeyeon muttered aloud, her thoughts still stuck with the girl as she watched the darkening scenery outside the car window.

That night, the girl appeared in her dreams again. The girl’s brows were creased slightly. Her lips were thin as she stared at Taeyeon, her gaze piercing Taeyeon’s soul. The girl’s eyes were brimming with tears, pleading for comfort.

As Taeyeon approached her, the girl collapsed into Taeyeon’s arms, exhausted from crying, burrowing herself into Taeyeon’s embrace, allowing Taeyeon to take on the responsibility of comforting her. But the moment Taeyeon circled her arms around the girl’s back to ensure her hold, Taeyeon felt someone or something pull the girl away from her with force. It was as if, the girl was being yanked away from her, tearing them from each other. Taeyeon fought to pull her back. She fought hard, pulled the girl back into her arms…

Thud!

Taeyeon landed on the floor next to her bed. The dream felt so real!

Taeyeon groaned in frustration, in pain from having her head and back land on the cold, unforgiving floor. Yet, there was another thing that bothered her. She couldn’t understand why she felt so deeply for the girl. The girl was just a stranger she had bumped into and Taeyeon didn’t even know her name!

Argh! I didn’t even get to know her name! Taeyeon groaned, her hands clutching at her now aching head, scratching her messy hair in frustration as she tried to sit up. Why am I getting so worked up on her? What has she done to me?!

Realizing that it was too early in the morning to fuss about her strange obsession for the girl, Taeyeon released a sigh. She crawled back to bed, hugged her Gingerbread man soft toy, and tried to sleep.

~*~*~*~*~

The following afternoon

“Taeng, why are you staring at the apple?” Yuri asked.

“I wonder how she is now…” Taeyeon said dreamily, her eyes still locked onto the red fruit in her hand. It reminded her of the girl and her angelic features, especially her sweet smile.

“How is who? Oh, that apple girl?” Yuri was busy preparing the food for tonight’s dinner.

Taeyeon nodded absentmindedly with a pout.

“She’s quite pitiful. I pray they would break up soon and let her escape from the agony she’s in.” Yuri remarked.

Taeyeon nodded again, this time more vigorously, totally agreeing with every single word that Yuri had said as she basked herself in her own thoughts – thoughts about the girl.

“You seem to like her, do you?”

“Huh?” That question caught Taeyeon off guard. It slapped her out of her reverie.

The girl was just a random stranger that Taeyeon had bumped into, twice. Moreover, she was in a relationship, though it was a rocky one. Taeyeon did not even know her name. Only her face – her angelic face…

“No?”

Amused at Taeyeon’s reaction, Yuri took the head of lettuce from her housemate and started to separate the leaves, leaving Taeyeon to her thoughts.

Oops, I was supposed to help her prepare the salad but I ended up day dreaming! Taeyeon thought, shaking off her reverie after noticing the disappearance of the lettuce from her hands, seeing the vegetable now being prepared by Yuri.

“No, she’s just a random stranger whom I bumped into, twice. Sorry, let me help you with that,” Taeyeon said, retrieving the bowl of lettuce from Yuri.

Evening came and Yuri went downstairs to pick up her girlfriend from the train station. A few minutes later, Taeyeon heard the door unlock and the sound of two people stepping inside the foyer. Curious, Taeyeon walked out of her room to meet and greet the guest.

There, just past the threshold, stood a slim and fair girl with long, silky, carmine hair and high cheekbones, but what was most attractive of this visitor were her alluring eyes whose dark orbs glinted with a unique charm. She was not as tall as Yuri, but she was taller than Taeyeon. Yuri was beaming proudly next to her girlfriend, arm draped across her girl’s shoulder.

“Hey Taeng, let me introduce you to my girlfriend,” Yuri said shyly. It was the first time Taeyeon saw her housemate blush despite her tanned skin.

Yuri ah, you’ve indeed fallen in love. Taeyeon thought as she came closer to greet her housemate’s girlfriend.

The girlfriend surveyed her surroundings before turning to fully face Taeyeon. The smile on the girl’s face disappeared instantly and was immediately replaced with knitted brows and a puzzled look once she caught sight of her girlfriend’s housemate.

“This is Tiffany. Fany, this is Taeyeon or Taeng as how I would usually call her. Taeng is my housemate and we share this apartment.” Yuri gestured towards Taeyeon.

Taeyeon noticed that Tiffany’s eyes were fixed on Taeyeon’s left hand. She was staring intensely at it, almost not blinking at all, as if in a trance. Taeyeon noted it and became conscious about it so she hid her left hand behind her back and stuck her right hand out for a handshake.

Could she see the red thread on my finger?

The reaction of her new acquaintance puzzled Taeyeon as she shook the girl’s hand.

“Hi Tiffany, I’m Taeyeon, Yuri’s housemate,” Taeyeon greeted.

“Hi Taeyeon, I’m Tiffany, pleased to meet you,” Tiffany said. Her voice was similar to Yuri’s, only slightly deeper and huskier.

The moment their hands touched, there was an electrifying sensation that shot through Taeyeon’s veins. It tingled from where their skins brushed together and spread like wild fire throughout Taeyeon’s body, yet she managed to maintain her composure and Taeyeon could tell that Tiffany was equally stunned by the contact.

Is she someone gifted like me too?

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