Chapter 16

Taeyeon watched anxiously as Jessica untied the pink ribbon that was wrapped around the white box.

 

Jessica gasped when she saw the contents of the box.

 

It was a whole cake, a chocolate fudge cake to be exact. Taeyeon had never given a whole cake to Jessica before. It was usually slices of cakes, brownies or cupcakes.

 

Many tiny pink and red hearts were scattered over the top of the cake. In the centre of the cake was a pink heart which stood out from the rest as it was bigger. On top of the pink heart were the words: “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt. ~Charles M. Schulz”

 

“This,” Jessica cleared her throat, “what does this mean?” She was a surprised by the contents of the box as she carefully placed onto the table.

 

Taeyeon took a deep breath, puffed out her cheeks and cleared her throat. She held Jessica’s hands and gazed into Jessica’s eyes.

 

“While you were away for the past three weeks, I realised how much I missed you. I admit it was lust at first sight when I saw you in Tokyo. You caught my attention once u stepped into the restaurant. It may sound cliché but I’ve started to develop feelings for you.”

 

Jessica merely looked back at Taeyeon, her brows crease as she remained quiet. She was trying to process what Taeyeon had just told her.

 

“Jessica, do you know that you’re the only one who makes my heart beat just a little bit faster? I know I’m breaking the rules…but would you give me a chance to love you?” Taeyeon confessed. Her heart was beating wildly and it felt like it was bursting through her chest any moment.

 

Jessica did not know how to react to the sudden confession. The air felt heavy and her stomach felt like it was on a rollercoaster ride. A moment ago she was just thinking about Taeyeon and questioning where their relationship was heading to. Right now, the person in question was sitting in her living room, asking her permission to take their relationship a step further? This was a bit too much for her to absorb in such a short period of time.

 

After what seemed like eternity, Jessica spoke in a firm voice. “I’m flying off tomorrow. This time, I’m going to Los Angeles for my new project so I’ll be out of town for almost a year.”

 

“Oh, you didn’t mention anything earlier,” Taeyeon said, surprised by the sudden announcement.

 

“Yes, I…I meant to tell you tomorrow morning, before I leave. It’s just that I’ve been busy with a lot of stuff recently.” Jessica looked down at the floor briefly, avoiding Taeyeon. Tiffany had advised her to tell Taeyeon about the upcoming long trip several times but she just couldn’t find the right words and time to tell Taeyeon. She felt guilty for telling Taeyeon at such a short notice.

 

“Don’t stress yourself out. You’re so driven at work and it makes me worried about your health. Remember to take regular meals.”

 

Jessica looked at both their hands as she slowly removed hers from Taeyeon’s. It was then Taeyeon felt her heart sinking to the bottom of the pit as the pair of cold hands slipping from hers.

 

“I will,” came a brief reply.

 

There was an awkward silence as both of them sat on the couch uneasily.

 

“Technology is so advanced, we can still keep in touch in many ways such as Facetime or Skype,” Taeyeon said abruptly.

 

Jessica looked at Taeyeon and let out a short sigh. “The time difference, the lack of communication and physical contact…I seriously don’t know what would happen during this period of time. I don’t think I can commit to a proper relationship at this point in time. It’s…just…”

 

“I understand,” Taeyeon interrupted. The truth was she didn’t want to hear Jessica reject her directly. It was painful enough to know that Jessica still couldn’t accept being in an official relationship.

 

Taeyeon patted Jessica’s hands. “Nonetheless, please accept the cake. Don’t let it go to waste since I’ve already baked it.”

 

Jessica felt tears filling her eyes as she fought to hold them back. She put on a strong front as she rose from the couch.

 

“I need to pack my stuff for my trip.” As Jessica uttered those words, her lips quivered. She felt her stomach doing flips and her heartbeat going haywire.

 

Taeyeon smiled weakly. She took a step forward, tiptoed and gave Jessica a light kiss on her forehead. “Have a safe flight to LA. Take care.”

 

“Thanks.”

 

Jessica’s feet felt like they were made of lead and she stood rooted to the spot in the living room as she watched Taeyeon leave her apartment.

 

Inside the lift, Taeyeon’s legs suddenly turned as soft as jelly. She grabbed the handrails and leaned against the cold metal walls of the lift to support herself.

 

I should have expected it anyway. I’m too naïve. It’s my fault for crossing the boundaries. I just hope we can still be friends.

 

Taeyeon sat in her car, wound down the window and drove around the city aimlessly. After an hour, she ended up at the café as she didn’t feel like going home. There was light coming from the kitchen though it was past closing time.

 

Heading into the kitchen from the back door, Taeyeon spotted Yuri doing a stocktake of the ingredients in the storeroom.

 

“Hey Taeng, how did it go?” Yuri was busy counting the packets of sugar on the shelf and didn’t bother to look at Taeyeon. She knew it had to be Taeyeon since Yoona went straight home after work and only the three of them had the key to the café.

 

There was no reply. Yuri got a little worried. She hung the clipboard from the shelf and headed out into dining area.

 

The dining area was dark with the only light coming from the street lamp that was outside the glass window. Yuri spotted a figure slumped onto one of the tables and there was soft sobbing sounds coming from that person.

 

“Taeng, are you alright?” Yuri asked, nudging her friend’s shoulders. Taeyeon’s face was buried in her arms as she lay on the table.

 

Taeyeon slowly looked up. Her face was stained with tears and her hair was in a mess.

 

“She didn’t? ” It was obvious what Jessica’s reply was judging from Taeyeon’s facial expression.

 

Taeyeon nodded. She wiped the tears from her face using her sleeve.

 

“Don’t worry, I’ll be fine tomorrow. I would like to stay here tonight, alone.”

 

Yuri rubbed Taeyeon’s back, trying to console her friend. “Okay. If you need anything, just give me a ring anytime. I really mean anytime.”

 

Taeyeon gave a weak smile before lying face down on the table again.

 

Moments later, Taeyeon heard Yuri leaving the café via the backdoor. She got up from the seat and went into the kitchen. She stood at the work table which was in the centre of the kitchen. Taking in a deep breath, she did something unimaginable.

 

Bowls and trays went sliding across the long table and crashing onto the floor. Spoons and whisks went flying next, followed closely by the high pitched scatter of the glass container where the vanilla pods were kept. A bowl of fresh strawberries slid to the edge of the table and fell into the floor, like cymbals clashing in an orchestra. The medley of noises made the kitchen sound like a concert hall where Taeyeon was the conductor, except that there wasn’t any audience.

 

Taeyeon slid down onto the cold tiled floor and buried her head in her knees. Warm tears started trickling down her cheeks.

 

“I thought I was strong enough to stop myself from developing any feelings for her. I thought I could move her with my actions…I thought I could…but I couldn’t…Rules…what stupid rules are those?!” Taeyeon sobbed.

 

Taeyeon grabbed two small metal bowls nearby and sent them flying across the kitchen floor, crashing into the cupboards.

 

“Why? Why do I feel so much pain in my heart?!”

 

She picked up the strawberries and crushed them in her hand. Red pulp oozed out from her fist, like blood on her hand. With her fist still clenched, she pounded it against her heart.

 

“My heart is bleeding. Jessica, you’re everything I want but everything I can’t have…”

 

Back at the apartment, Jessica stood at the balcony with a glass of whiskey in her hand as she stared at the night sky. Earlier on, she wanted to open her mouth and ask Taeyeon to give her some time but her mouth wouldn’t corporate with her mind. Everything that happened a few minutes ago felt surreal to her.

 

She confessed. I think I ruined the whole thing. I did, I’m sure I did. What did I tell her? What did I say?

Jessica felt something warm on her cheek. She touched her face and realised it was a drop of tear. A few more drops followed and soon Jessica’s face was covered in tears.

 

Taeyeon’s sudden confession reminded her of her past painful relationship. Jessica had just been promoted and her new job scope required her to travel frequently. She was worried about her relationship with her ex-girlfriend but her ex-girlfriend reassured her that all would be fine and encouraged her to focus on her job. Jessica worked hard and saved as much as she could so that she would be able to enjoy a comfortable life with her ex-girlfriend in the future.

 

As time went on, they saw lesser and lesser of each other. It took a lot of effort to maintain the relationship, especially when Jessica was overseas most of the time. She was hardly in Seoul during the first year in her new post, hence rarely spent time with her ex-girlfriend. However, her ex-girlfriend would send her a lovey dovey text message or surprise her with a small gift from home. Little did Jessica realised that it was a replacement for the guilt her ex-girlfriend had.

 

One day, Jessica managed to catch an earlier flight home. She couldn’t wait to see her beloved after spending the past three months away from home. It was late at night by the time she arrived home. She unlocked the main door excitedly and tiptoed to her bedroom with the intention of surprising her loved one with a huge gift she bought.

 

As she approached the bedroom, she heard some strange noises. The bedroom door was slightly ajar and the sight that greeted her when she opened the door caused her to scream and drop the gift before collapsing onto the floor. She had completely blacked out that night. When she woke up the next morning, Tiffany was the only person by her side and told her what had happened.

 

That night, Jessica’s ex-girlfriend cleared out all her belongings from the apartment and left her a note.

 

“When I’m upset, I needed someone to comfort me but you’re not around. When I’m happy, I want to share my joy but you’re not around. I have my physical needs too and you aren’t around most of the time! I’m sick and tired of being alone all the time! Let’s end it here.”

 

The young and naive Jessica’s heart had been ripped apart into tiny pieces that very night. Fortunately her year-end bonuses and her constant monthly savings enabled her to afford the downpayment of her current apartment. She moved out in order to erase the painful memories of her ex-girlfriend and that horrific scene she witnessed in her bedroom.

Although several years had passed, those words echoed in Jessica’s mind. Till now, she still had that note kept in one of her old schedule books that was tucked in a box in the storeroom.

 

It had been a long time since Jessica shed tears. Crying was an exhausting affair as it sapped her of her energy. She headed upstairs to her bed, picked up the phone and pushed the quick dial button.

 

Within thirty minutes, Tiffany rushed over to Jessica’s apartment.

 

Tiffany enveloped Jessica in a hug when the door was opened. They remained in a hug for a while before Tiffany spoke.

 

“Jess, are you okay?”

 

“Yea, I guess.”

 

Both of them sat at the lounge chairs at the balcony and had drinks while Jessica related Taeyeon’s confession to Tiffany and showed her what Taeyeon made.

 

Tiffany slapped her own forehead. “I thought I was doing the right thing by encouraging Taeyeon to tell you how she feels but… … I probably caused more harm than good.”

 

Tiffany released Jessica from the hug and grabbed the blonde by her shoulders.

 

“I know it isn’t the right time to say this and I should be comforting you instead but…Jess, a good person comes along and you threw away the opportunity. No matter how strong you are, there’s someone who can make you weak, and Kim Taeyeon is your weak point. By the way, that’s not a bad thing,” Tiffany sighed.

 

“Tiff, I ended up liking her alot more than I thought,” Jessica said sadly.

 

“I know. That’s why I asked her to confess because I know you’re never going to make the first move. I thought this would be a good chance for you two to get together. Looks like it backfired.”

 

“I’ve always tried to keep my distance. I thought I could walk away easily but I can’t. She’s like the best and worst thing that happened to me. It’s too late now…” Jessica’s voice trailed off.

 

Tiffany went over to hug her friend and rubbed her back gently. “Your heart knows the truth. Follow your heart. It’s never too late, Jess. Never too late.”

 

“I don’t want to be like her. Making all sorts of promises about spending time together forever but none of them came true. I’m not like that, I’m definitely not like that. That’s why I’m afraid to commit to Taeyeon. I don’t want to be unfair to her. What if…what if something happened within the time I’m away in LA?” Jessica weeped. Tiffany felt Jessica’s tears soaking her cotton top as the latter was resting her head on her shoulders.

 

“Why do you bring up the past? You’re not like her and we promised not to talk about her anymore,” Tiffany paused. “Did you tell her what you really feel? That you need more time and explain you feel that it might be unfair for her?”

 

Jessica shook her head.

 

Tiffany sighed and held Jessica by the shoulders. Her heart was filled with pain as she looked at the red-eyed blonde. To see her good friend crying like that made her upset. “That’s how misunderstandings occur. If you don’t tell her your feelings, how would you expect her to know what’s in your heart?”

 

Tiffany decided to stay over to accompany Jessica. Moments later, Tiffany drifted off into dreamland.

 

On the other hand, Jessica couldn’t sleep at all. She wondered what Taeyeon was doing now. Feeling frustrated, she decided to get some fresh air at the balcony instead. She turned on the radio softly as she sat at one of the lounge chairs at the balcony. Sipping a glass of red wine, she looked up at the sky and it reminded her of the time Taeyeon and her were at the SkyDeck in Tokyo. Flicking through the photo album in her phone, she stopped at the only photo of both of them together.

 

Just then, the mellow tune of Tania’s Almost was being played on the radio. The words tugged at her heart and reached into her soul.

 

I cannot believe I let you go
Or what I should say I should’ve grabbed you up and never let you go
I should’ve went out with you
I should’ve made you my boo boy
Yes that’s one time I should’ve broke the rules
I should’ve went on a date
Should’ve found a way to escape
Should’ve turned almost into
If it happened now it’s too late
How could I celebrate a love that wasn’t real
And if it didn’t happen why does my heart feel

 

“Kim Taeyeon! You’re an idiot! A big fat idiot! Why do you make me feel so miserable?! Why does my heart call out to you?!” Jessica wailed.

 

Jessica got up from the chair and went to her bedroom. Throwing the phone on her bedside table, she hid underneath the blanket. She buried her face in the pillow and squeezed her eyes shut. She tried to sleep as she had an early morning flight the next day. With her eyes closed, all she could picture was Taeyeon and her bright smile.

 

 

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