Chapter 6

“Sorry to trouble you to look babysit my guesthouse for me. I shouldn’t have allowed Seungri to go for his camping trip during this period but I’ve already promised him a few months ago,” Mrs Hwang said apologetically.

 

 

“Don’t worry about it. I treat this place like my own home and I’ll keep it safe. Enjoy yourself at the wedding! I’m sure it would be fun!” Taeyeon assured Mrs Hwang.

 

 

“If there’s anything urgent, you can get me on my mobile phone. Mrs Jung is also invited and she would be coming along with me. However, Sooyeon’s staying behind as she has to teach at school. She’ll usually come by in the morning to help tend to the plants at the garden, so you don’t have to fret,” Mrs Hwang said, scribbling her number onto the phone directory at the living room.

 

 

“Yes Madam!  See you in three days’ time!” Taeyeon beamed as she sent Mrs Hwang to the gate where there was a car waiting for her. Mrs Jung wound down the window and waved to Taeyeon.

 

 

“You can meet Sooyeon for meals if you’re lonely. Be safe while we’re away,” Mrs Jung called out from the car.

 

 

“Sure! Drive safe!” Taeyeon nodded and waved to the two ladies as they left the guesthouse.

 

 

*********

 

Feeling bored, Taeyeon decided to go for a ride around the lake area on the scooter. She had adapted herself to the slower pace of life, learning how to admire the nature around her, stopping to smell the roses as they always said.

 

 

Stopping at the jetty, Taeyeon met some of the familiar faces who were there earlier to fish. She sat next to the fishermen and chatted the afternoon away, while learning the art of fishing. One of the fishermen volunteered to show her how to fish. Being a fast learner, Taeyeon managed to pick up the basics of fishing quite fast after a few attempts.

 

 

In the evening, dark clouds were creeping up at the lake. The wind around the lake picked up speed and it felt cold. Taeyeon and the fishermen bade farewell to each other as they headed for home before the weather turned bad.

 

 

Along the way home, rumbles of thunder could be heard. Taeyeon made a quick stop at a burger joint to grab her dinner before hurrying home.

 

 

Soon, flashes of light zigzagging across the night sky. It seemed like a thunderstorm was imminent. Drops of rain started falling and strong winds whipped Taeyeon’s face as she approached the driveway of the guesthouse.

 

 

She swiftly parked the pink scooter into the garage and ducked into the house before it started to pour. The heavy rain was like an impenetrable curtain of water as it flowed down the exterior of the guesthouse. Each gust of wind seemed to be getting stronger as it beat onto the walls and doors.

 

 

Thank goodness I got home in the nick of time.

 

After taking a quick shower, Taeyeon sat in the living room to eat her dinner while watching the news on television. It seemed like such a freak weather condition was unexpected at this time of the year. The thunderstorm was expected to last for the next hour or so. Some of the areas had their electricity cut off due to strong winds that disrupted the electric cables.

 

 

I wonder if Sooyeon is alright being alone at home. Nah…I bet she’s used to all these since she has been staying here all her life. It’s probably a common occurrence in the countryside.

 

 

Just then, the house phone rang. She stuffed the remaining bit of burger into her mouth, wiped her hand with a napkin before picking up the phone.

 

 

“Hello, On Cloud Nine guesthouse, this is Taeyeon speaking,” Taeyeon said, answering the call in a professional sounding voice.

 

 

“Tae…Tae…Taeyeon…”

 

 

“Sooyeon? What happened? Are you alright? I can’t hear you clearly, could you speak up a little?” Taeyeon pressed the phone against her ear. The roar of the thunder and howling wind were deafening.

 

 

“I’m…I’m scared…” Sooyeon stuttered.

 

 

“You are what? Sorry, I really can’t hear you. Can you speak a bit louder?” Taeyeon used her other free hand to cover her ear, hoping to block out the noises outside.

“Ahhhh!!!!”

 

 

A high pitch scream, coupled with the crash of the thunder was heard. Then the line went dead. The next instant, the lights and the television in her house went off.

 

 

“Aish! The stormy weather must have caused the power to trip. Now, where’s the torchlight? I remembered Seungri mentioning about some emergency kit near the main door of the house,” Taeyeon grumbled as she groped around the dark room.

 

 

Worried about Sooyeon, Taeyeon decided to head over to her house and check to see if she was alright. Taeyeon put on a full length raincoat and water-proof boots, grabbed her torchlight and hurried over in the pouring rain.

 

 

The neighbourhood was shrouded in darkness due to the power trip. The heavy downpour was pelting down hard as Taeyeon battled against the strong winds on her way to Sooyeon’s house. Lightning continued to flash across the sky as Taeyeon trudged through ankle deep waters that was flowing down the hill.

 

 

“Sooyeon! Sooyeon! I’m Taeyeon! Open the door!” Taeyeon yelled, pounding on the main door.

 

 

There was no answer. She heard Angel barking from the garden.

 

 

Following the dog’s barks, she headed for Angel’s dog house at the back of the garden. Seeing a familiar face, Angel leapt towards her, knocking Taeyeon onto the ground.

“Hey Angel. Where’s your owner? Where’s Sooyeon?” Taeyeon patted the dog on her head as she staggered to get up from the wet ground. She was thankful she was dressed in full length raincoat so she didn’t get too wet when she fell onto the ground.

 

 

Angel nudged Taeyeon towards the sliding door at the back of the kitchen. She kept rubbing her nose against the door, as if trying to tell Taeyeon to go in.

 

 

“Here?” Taeyeon asked, pointing to the door. She tried to open the door but it seemed to be stuck. Thankfully after some effort, she managed to open the door and hurried in.

 

 

“Sooyeon, where are you? I’m Taeyeon!” Taeyeon yelled amid the eerie howl of the wind, flashing her torchlight around the kitchen to look for the younger girl.

 

 

There was no response.

 

 

Woof woof!

 

 

Taeyeon swung her torchlight in the direction of Angel and spotted a figure huddled on the floor beside the kitchen sink.

 

 

 

 

 

It was Sooyeon. Her hands were covering her ears, her head was buried in her knees and she was sobbing uncontrollably. There was a cracked mug on the floor, with pieces of ceramic scattered nearby. Taeyeon ran towards the figure, knelt on the floor and enveloped her in a hug, her wet raincoat soaking Sooyeon’s hoodie. Sooyeon buried her face into Taeyeon’s neck, crying. Taeyeon wrapped her arms around Sooyeon’s back and rubbed it, hoping to soothe the crying girl. Angel was pacing around the two girls and she seemed restless.

 

 

“Sooyeon, it’s me, Taeyeon. Don’t be afraid. I’m here,” Taeyeon whispered into Sooyeon’s ear, trying to calm the frightened girl down.

 

 

Moments later, the thunder and lightning seemed to have died down. Taeyeon held Sooyeon at an arm’s length, softly gazing at the poor girl who was traumatized by the loud claps of thunder. Taeyeon parted the dark brown hair that was plastered onto Sooyeon’s face. Sooyeon’s face glistened with freshly shed tears and her eyes were red and puffy. Taeyeon felt like a part of her heart had been wrenched out of her. She used her finger to gently wipe the tears that were still rolling down Sooyeon’s face.

 

 

“Don’t cry anymore. There’s nothing to be scared because…because… Angel’s here! And I’m here too!” joked Taeyeon, trying to lighten the atmosphere. The dog nuzzled itself against Sooyeon. Sooyeon hugged Angel tightly as the dog licked her face.

 

 

“Let’s get out of here, it’s cold and wet. How about going to your room, shall we?” Taeyeon asked.

 

 

Sooyeon nodded slowly.

 

 

 

 

Gently grabbing Sooyeon’s arm, Taeyeon pulled her up from the cold kitchen floor. She draped her arm over Sooyeon’s shoulder and pulled her close to her body. Using her other free hand to hold the torchlight, Taeyeon led the way out of the dark kitchen, carefully avoiding the pieces of broken mug and puddles of water on the floor. Angel shook herself dry and followed the two girls up to Sooyeon’s room.

 

 

While climbing up the stairs, Sooyeon missed a step and fell forwards. Fortunately Taeyeon was quick enough to pull her back and Sooyeon landed in Taeyeon’s embrace instead. Embarrassed, Sooyeon hurriedly grabbed onto the hand rail and managed to support herself.

 

 

“Are you okay? Be careful. We’re almost at the top, another few more steps to go,” Taeyeon said in a concerned tone. She placed her arm across Sooyeon’s shoulder in case she needed some support.

 

 

The two girls stopped outside a white door that was decorated with pictures of lilies. Angel lay on the floor outside Sooyeon’s room.

 

 

“Go change out of your clothes, I’m sorry I made you wet,” Taeyeon apologized.

 

 

Sooyeon raised her eyebrows and gave Taeyeon a perplexed look.

 

 

Realizing what she said sounded wrong, Taeyeon quickly corrected herself, “Oh, I meant my raincoat made your hoodie wet…so…so you need to get changed before you fall sick. I…I don’t mean anything else!” Taeyeon felt her face heating up and smacked her head in jest.

 

 

Sooyeon’s facial expression relaxed and a smile appeared on her face.

 

 

She’s such a dork.

 

 

She pulled Taeyeon into her bedroom and shoved her straight into the bathroom. Rummaging through the wardrobe, she pulled out some clothes.

 

 

“You should be the one who needs to get changed before you catch a cold. You came here in the rain. You can leave your raincoat in the shower since it’s still wet,” Sooyeon instructed as she stuffed the clothes into Taeyeon’s hands.

 

 

Minutes later, Taeyeon stepped out of the bathroom dressed in an oversized grey tee and pink sweats. She noticed that Sooyeon had already changed out of her hoodie into a matching set of floral pajamas. There was a warm glow and a faint peach scent from two lighted candles in the room.

 

 

“Thankfully the clothes fit,” Sooyeon said with a smile.

 

 

“Yea. Those PJs are cute. You love flowers eh?” Taeyeon asked.

 

 

“Since young, I’m surrounded by flowers. Flowers have become a part of my life. My mum loves flowers and she has always has a huge flower bed in the garden. I used to follow her around when she tends to the flowers in the garden. Now, I’m the one who’s maintaining the flowers,” Sooyeon smiled as she talked about her pet topic.

 

Taeyeon sat on an armchair and hugged her knees. “Tell me more,” she probed. She wanted to take Sooyeon’s mind off the frightful thunderstorm earlier. It was also a good opportunity for her to know Sooyeon better.

 

 

“Do you know that studies have shown that flowers have an immediate impact on happiness? Most people are excited about receiving flowers. They’re generally delighted and grateful.”

 

 

“Ah, that explains why Sooyoung is always smiling to herself when she receives a surprise bunch of flowers from her boyfriend,” Taeyeon said, rubbing her chin.

 

 

“In that same study, creative performance at the workplace was substantially improved with the presence of flowers and plants. It’s amazing how flowers can also help generate ideas at the workplace too,” Sooyeon continued.

 

 

“Wow, the benefits of flowers. Looks like I gotta buy some for the office soon. Useful for my creative guys and my copywriters too,” Taeyeon chuckled. For a moment, she missed the fun she had with her colleagues back at work.

 

 

Taeyeon looked out of the window. The rain seemed to have died down considerably. As much as she loved to have Sooyeon’s company, she decided that it wasn’t right to impose on her. They were only friends. She was reluctant to leave but forced herself to do so.

 

 

“Looks like the storm has died down, I ought to get going. Thanks for the clothes. I’ll wash them before returning them to you,” Taeyeon said, walking towards the bathroom, intending to grab her wet clothes.

 

“Don’t go…”

 

 

“Huh?” Taeyeon felt Sooyeon holding onto her arm just as she stepped into the bathroom.

 

 

“Don’t go. Stay with me tonight, I don’t want to be alone. I’m scared. What if the thunderstorm comes back again?” Sooyeon said softly, tightening her grip on Taeyeon’s arm.

 

 

Taeyeon looked at the girl standing in front of her. Her long dark brown hair caressed her shoulders, bordering her pale oval shaped face which was illuminated by the warm glow of the candle nearby. She had a sad puppy look in her brown eyes.

 

 

There was a strange feeling in Taeyeon’s stomach. It felt like someone just released butterflies in her stomach. She could feel the heat rising up to her cheeks as she stood in close proximity to Sooyeon. She wanted to reach out and touch Sooyeon’s face. She wanted to run her fingers through her hair. She wanted to protect her from the fearful thunderstorm. She knew deep in her heart that she wanted to stay with Sooyeon, at least for tonight.

 

 

“Okay, I’ll stay. It’s more fun to have company instead of hanging out alone in this crazy weather,” said Taeyeon, trying to maintain her cool. She didn’t want to admit that her main reason for staying was to ensure that Sooyeon was safe.

 

 

Sooyeon slid underneath the quilt and motioned for Taeyeon to join her on the other side of the single bed. Taeyeon gave a small nod, removed the rubber band from her hair and climbed onto the bed, lying as close to the edge of the bed as possible. She was afraid Sooyeon might mind the close physical contact.

 

“Taeyeon…” Sooyeon called, breaking the silence in the room after a few minutes.

 

 

“Yes Sooyeon?”

 

 

“Come closer. You’ll fall off the bed if you’re lying so close to the edge,” Sooyeon said softly.

 

 

“Oh, okay,” Taeyeon replied, hesitant. She moved closer to Sooyeon, still leaving a tiny gap between them.  She could feel the warmth from Sooyeon’s body. She believed Sooyeon could hear her heart beating like crazy in this close proximity.

 

 

“Taeyeon…”

 

 

“Yes Sooyeon?”

 

 

“Thank you.”

 

 

“Thank me for?”

 

 

“Thank you for staying,” Sooyeon’s voice trailed off.

 

“My pleasure, my princess,” Taeyeon said, smiling sheepishly.

 

 

Aish! What did I just call her? My princess??Doesn’t that make me a knight in shining amour? Gawd! Why the hell did I just say that? It’s so embarrassing! Oh my Gawd!!

 

 

Sooyeon blushed upon hearing that.

 

 

Taeyeon…am I allowed to call you Taeyeon ah? You’re like my prince charming. Coming to rescue me from the horrible thunderstorm.

 

 

Taeyeon’s heart fluttered at the sight of Sooyeon’s shy smile. Unknowingly Taeyeon had casually placed one arm behind Sooyeon’s back as she was talking to her. Realising her action, Taeyeon hurriedly withdrew her arm but was stopped by Sooyeon.

 

 

“Hold me tight, protect me from that horrible storm outside,” Sooyeon said softly, her voice hardly audible. She snuggled closer to Taeyeon, enjoying the warmth from Taeyeon’s body.

 

 

I hate thunderstorms. Daddy wouldn’t have lost control of the car if there wasn’t a thunderstorm. I miss Daddy.

 

 

Taeyeon caught a tear that escaped Sooyeon’s eyes. Not knowing the reason why Sooyeon was upset, she pulled the younger girl closer to her and wrapped her arms around her back, hoping it would comfort her.

 

Rubbing her hand along Sooyeon’s back, Taeyeon whispered, “Smile and think happy thoughts. I’ll hold you in my arms. I’ll be your sunshine and protect you from the stormy weather.”

 

 

“I never known you’re cheesy. You always seem aloof and serious.” Sooyeon bit her lips, trying to suppress a giggle.

 

 

“You don’t like it?” Taeyeon asked gently, playing with the ends of Sooyeon’s hair. She looked into Sooyeon’s brown eyes, wondering what sort of reply she would get.

 

 

Sooyeon shook her head mischievously.

 

 

“Ahh…okay, I shall leave then,” Taeyeon teased as she attempted to slide out of bed.

 

 

Sooyeon hooked her leg with Taeyeon’s, preventing her from getting out of bed.

 

 

“You’re not going anywhere. You said you’ll protect me,” Sooyeon reminded Taeyeon.

 

 

“Ah…I did say that a few moments ago ah. Okay, time for bed,” Taeyeon said as she let out a yawn.

 

 

“That sounds so insincere,” Sooyeon grumbled.

 

Suddenly Taeyeon felt an overwhelming sea of emotions taking over her body. She leaned on her side and grabbed Sooyeon by her shoulders. She brushed Sooyeon’s fringe aside and stared intensely into her brown eyes.

 

 

I feel the urge to tell her…my feelings…no…I NEED to tell her my feelings. It’s my chance. Do it or drop it, right now!

 

 

“Listen to me carefully. I’m not good with matters of the heart. I don’t know how to tell you what I’m feeling right now. I don’t know why my palms are starting to sweat and there’re butterflies in my tummy. I’ve not felt this way before. I only know that I want to get to know you better. When I said earlier that I’ll hold you in my arms and protect you from the storm, I truly meant every single word with all of my heart…if you allow me to,” Taeyeon said nervously.

 

 

On one hand Taeyeon was glad that she had summoned enough courage to tell Sooyeon how she left. Yet on the other hand, she was apprehensive of Sooyeon’s reaction to her sudden ‘confession’.

 

 

Sooyeon was taken aback by Taeyeon’s words. She looked into the older girl’s eyes. Taeyeon was frowning back at her.  She wanted to trace the outline of the girl, who was illuminated by the moonlight coming from the window, with her fingers. Instead, she used her fingers to gently brush across Taeyeon’s eyebrows, as if to part the eyebrows that were ceased together.

 

 

Just then, as if the Heavens wanted to make a point, there was a loud clap of thunder. Taeyeon instinctively covered Sooyeon’s ears with both hands. Sooyeon looked at the baby face girl who was gazing back at her. She smiled and pulled Taeyeon’s hands away from her ears.

 

 

“Thank you,” Sooyeon said, feeling grateful.

 

“I told you I’ll protect you and I mean it,” Taeyeon said firmly.

 

 

“I know,” came a short but sincere reply.

 

 

A smile appeared on Taeyeon’s face. She gave the younger girl a hug.

 

 

“I’m tired. I want to sleep now. Good night Taeyeon ah.”

 

 

Sooyeon buried her face into the crook of Taeyeon’s neck, taking in her scent and listening to her soothing heartbeat.

 

 

“Sooyeon ah, good night,” Taeyeon said as she stroked Sooyeon’s hair.

 

 

Soon, the two girls fell asleep; two hearts beating as one, along with the pitter patter of raindrops against the window panes.

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