A New Start

The snow was starting to fall. Taeyeon rested her chin on the table top and watched the tiny bits of snow flakes blanket the ground. It was just after Christmas, an off peak period for the motel which Taeyeon was working at. Everyone had already gone home for the long break over the Christmas period and leading up to New Year’s Day.

Bored of staring at the snowflakes falling from the sky, Taeyeon gave herself a good stretch and decided to make herself a cup of hot chocolate. She had volunteered to work through the holidays since she didn’t have any plans during this period.

Taeyeon stood at the window, watching the occasional car whizz by on the main road while sipping on her cup of hot chocolate. Letting out a sigh, she wondered where those people were heading to. Surely they had more exciting plans instead of being cooped up at a small motel near the highway.

Just then, a silver SUV pulled into the carpark in front of the motel. Taeyeon couldn’t see the driver clearly as the snow fall was getting heavier. The driver parked at the nearest lot to the motel and took quite a while to get out of the car. She couldn’t tell if it was a male or female as the person wore a thick coat that covered him or her from head to toe and the person wore dark brown boots.

Taeyeon stood behind the reception desk and put on her brightest smile to welcome the guest. A moment later, the main door swung open and the bell chimed, signaling the entrance of the guest. The sudden cold draft cause the newspapers on the rack to flutter. The person quickly shut the door and headed towards the desk.

“A warm welcome to Lavender Motel. How can I help you?” Taeyeon greeted.

“It isn’t exactly warm in here,” came a reply that was as icy as the weather outside.

“Sorry, I wasn’t expecting anyone to turn up in this weather and at this time, so there’s only one heater that’s switched on right now.”

The person shook the snow off the shoulders and pulled off the hood that covered most of the face. A head of blonde hair was revealed when the person pulled off the beanie that was beneath the hood. It was a female. To be exact, a very beautiful female with a sharp chin, big piercing brown eyes and pink lips. Her blonde hair cascaded down her shoulders when she removed her thick coat.

“Why are you staring at me like I’m an alien?” the lady asked.

Embarrassed, Taeyeon pretended that she was checking to see if the door behind the lady was shut properly.

“I’m Kim Taeyeon and pleased to be of service to you. How can I help you?”

“Obviously I’m not here to shop since this is a motel, not a shopping mall,” the lady replied rather sarcastically.

Taeyeon wasn’t particularly pleased at the guest’s frosty tone of voice but she couldn’t do anything since the customer was always right (in most cases).

Taeyeon pulled out a brochure from the drawer and pointed to it. “What type of room would you like? We have the deluxe and standard rooms available.”

The lady walked around the reception area, poking and touching random things with her gloved hand, as if she was an inspector for building maintenance. Taeyeon didn’t say a word except to let the lady roam around the tiny area, wondering what the lady was trying to do.

Finally the lady stopped in front of Taeyeon and studied the brochure carefully.

“The deluxe room has a queen sized bed, a bath tub and a mini bar. It also has complimentary internet access,” Taeyeon explained.

The lady nodded. “I will take it.”

“Great, I just need you to fill up your particulars over here so that I can process your booking.”

Taeyeon handed the lady a pen to fill up the form. Their fingers brushed against each other. The lady’s fingers were as cold as the snow. While the lady was filling in the form, Taeyeon quickly went to the switchboard and turned on the heater in the deluxe room and the corridor that led to the rooms. Though it was only a small establishment, the owner of the motel often reminded his staff to give all their customers the best service so that they could remember them.

The lady tapped on the completed form using the pen. “Done.”

Taeyeon used her finger to trace the name field on the form. “Thank you…Miss Jung.”

Jessica Jung. She doesn’t seem local. Taeyeon thought to herself.

“How many nights are you planning to stay?”

Jessica stuck out one finger. “One. I wouldn’t want to stay any longer in this run-down looking motel. I had no choice but to stay here since the main highway is almost impassable due to the snow storm. I do not have the patience to be stuck in a jam.”

So that’s the reason for her appearance at the motel.

“Do you have any luggage, Miss Jung?” Taeyeon looked around and noticed the lady was only carrying a small handbag.

Jessica pressed the car key in Taeyeon’s palm. “In the boot of the car.”

Taeyeon sighed inwardly. It was a signal that she had to get the luggage out from the car in the cold. She went to the back of the reception and put on her thick winter coat and scarf before heading out.

The wind was chilly and stinging on her face. Taeyeon pulled the scarf higher, covering most of her face except her eyes and hurriedly retrieved the luggage from the SUV. Entering the motel, Taeyeon noticed her guest standing near the heater behind the reception desk.

Jessica appeared to be a little embarrassed at being caught using the heater at the reception. She slipped out of the reception area and pretended to read the room rates sign that was on a wall. Taeyeon smiled at the sight of her strange but rather adorable guest.

Without a word, Taeyeon led the way to the guest room.

Jessica merely mouthed a soft ‘thanks’ before shutting the door after Taeyeon handed her the luggage.

“Well, at least she still has some manners. Good to know I’m not the only one in this motel,” Taeyeon mumbled to herself as she walked to the reception.

Since it was the off peak season, the motel was closed at 7pm. There was a sign that contained a phone number should anyone needed any help or wanted to enquire about the rooms.

At around 7.30pm, the phone rang. Taeyeon picked the call up in the kitchen, wondering who would call.

“Hey, I can’t seem to find the restaurant in the motel. Where is it?”

It was the same cold and demanding Miss Jessica Jung, her only guest in the motel. Taeyeon couldn’t help but chuckle quietly to herself.

“This is a small motel and we only have a dining area. There isn’t a restaurant here.”

“I’m hungry. Where can I get food?”

“If you wish to drive out, there’s a diner about 2km away.”

“Are you nuts? It’s freaking cold outside and the roads are covered in thick snow. How do you expect me to drive out in this weather?!”

Taeyeon had to hold her phone away from her ear in order to prevent her ear drums from splitting due to the high-pitched voice barking at the end of the phone.

“If you don’t mind, I’m cooking some noodles now and I can prepare a portion for you.”

Fifteen minutes later, Taeyeon heard someone entering the dining area. She almost couldn’t recognise her only guest. Jessica was wearing a pair of leggings with an oversize pink pullover and her hair was tied up in a neat bun on her head. She looked nice and warm, a total contrast to the earlier cold demeanor she had when she first entered the motel.

Taeyeon served a bowl of piping hot noodles to Jessica. “I hope this suits your taste.”

Both of them sat opposite each other in the quiet dining area. The only noises were the slurping of the noodles as they ate.

Taeyeon noticed Jessica holding her chopsticks in a rather unique manner, as if the latter was trying to twirl the noodles around the chopsticks instead of clipping the noodles between the two pieces of metal. She found it rather amusing and couldn’t help but let out a soft laugh.

“What’s so funny?” Jessica asked rather fiercely after wiping her mouth.

“Nothing. Do you like the noodles?” Taeyeon attempted to change the topic of their conversation.

“Definitely not Michelin star standard.” The satisfied smile on Jessica’s face betrayed her words.

“Not yet. Maybe my homemade Kimchi Ramen would be a 3 star in the near future,” Taeyeon joked.

“In your dreams perhaps.”

“Haven’t you heard of the famous quote by Mr Walt Disney? Our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them,” Taeyeon said firmly.

Jessica raised her brows at the young looking woman in front of her. She was surprised by the look of determination in Taeyeon’s eyes and the sudden change in tone of voice. Since she had nothing better to do and there was hardly anything to watch on local television (the motel had no cable television channels), she decided she could spare a few minutes talking to the only other person in the motel than being cooped up in the room.

Jessica folded her arms across her chest and leaned back on the chair. “So what’s your dream? Becoming a 3 star Michelin chef who’s famous for Kimchi Ramen?”

Taeyeon shared her dreams of studying Masters and how she was saving money for it. She did most of the talking while Jessica listened. Halfway, Taeyeon made hot barley tea as they chatted through the night. It was almost 11pm when Jessica started yawning. Taeyeon was surprised they managed to hold a conversation for so long and that Jessica seemed to open up a little more. They decided to retire to their respective rooms for the night.

Ten minutes later, Taeyeon’s phone rang.

“The television in my room isn’t working.”

Taeyeon went over to Jessica’s room and realised that it was because Jessica had accidentally flipped the main switch to ‘off’ when she was trying to charge her mobile phone. Turning it back on, Taeyeon left the room.

Fifteen minutes later, Taeyeon’s phone rang again.

“I need a flask of hot water.”

Taeyeon boiled a flask of hot water and brought it to Jessica’s room. Again, she was out of the room in less than five minutes.

In the next hour, Jessica kept ringing Taeyeon’s phone for all sorts of things every ten to fifteen minutes. Each time, Taeyeon attended to all her needs without a single grumble. Each time, she hoped it would be the last time Jessica would call her as she was sleepy and her nice warm bed was calling out to her.

Just past midnight, Taeyeon heard a high-pitched scream coming from Jessica’s room. Worried, Taeyeon dashed to her room and knocked on her door rapidly.

“Miss Jung, what happened? It’s Taeyeon here.”

The door swung open suddenly and Taeyeon’s fist hit Jessica on her forehead instead of the door.

“Ouch!”

“Oopps! I’m so so sorry!!”

Jessica felt a warm hand rubbing the red mark on her forehead. She opened her eyes and saw Taeyeon just inches away from her face. There was a worried look in Taeyeon’s eyes as the latter was trying to soothe the pain on her forehead. Something made Jessica’s heart flutter a little.

“Ya!” Jessica swatted Taeyeon’s hand away. “It hurts!”

“Sorry, sorry! I didn’t mean it. I was knocking for so long and you didn’t open. I was worried something may have happened.”

“There’s a moth in my room. Get rid of it for me!” Jessica hissed, pointing to the window.

Taeyeon went into the room and tried all means and ways to chase the moth out. However, it wasn’t working. The moth merely flew to the ceiling and stayed there.

“Can I offer you another room? I have a spare deluxe room at the end of the corridor,” Taeyeon offered.

“No way, that’s so secluded. If I need any help, I doubt anyone can hear me,” Jessica growled.

Taeyeon slapped her forehead. “You make it sound like this is a ghost town.”

“It sure feels like it. Which motel has only one guest??”

Taeyeon gritted her teeth. “Well, you’re staying in that particular one right now.”

“I demand a room nearer to you…in case I need anything.”

“What? You know what number to call when you need me.”

“It would be faster if I’m next door instead of having to wait for you to stroll all the way there.”

“You make it sound like I’m walking from Busan to Seoul.”

“Almost.”

Taeyeon sighed. “There is a room next to mine but it isn’t a deluxe room.”

“I’m alright with it.”

With that, Taeyeon made arrangements to switch rooms for Jessica.

It was almost 1am when everything was settled. Taeyeon couldn’t wait to go to bed. She fell asleep immediately when her face touched the soft fluffy pillow. A little while later, there was a incessant knocking on her door, disrupting her sleep.

“Taeyeon. Kim Taeyeon. Open up.”

Taeyeon groaned. Reluctantly, Taeyeon got out of her bed and dragged herself to the door.

“What’s up, Miss Jung?”

Taeyeon saw a rather scared looking Jessica standing in front of her room and hugging a pillow.

“I can’t sleep.”

“Huh?” Taeyeon forced her half-asleep eyes open. “Then what am I supposed to do? Sing a lullaby?”

Jessica pointed at the bed and growled at Taeyeon. “I want to sleep in your room. You can take the couch.”

Taeyeon assumed she was dreaming when she heard that command. How could anyone make such a demanding request?

“I must be dreaming…go back to sleep, Taeyeon,” Taeyeon mumbled to herself before closing the door.

Before the door could close fully, Jessica slipped in and stood in Taeyeon’s room. It was a small yet cosy room with a slightly different layout than the other rooms in the motel. It had a feeling of warmth and looked more like someone’s personal bedroom than a motel room.

Taeyeon’s jaw dropped when she saw the milky white skin of the exposed shoulder. Her eyes trailed the shoulder to the face and she gasped when she saw Jessica looking back at her.

“Am I in Heaven? Is this my belated Christmas present for being such a good girl this year?” Taeyeon muttered to herself.

“Ya, what are you saying? Since I’m the guest, I’ll take the bed while you can sleep on the couch.”

The icy cold voice shattered Taeyeon’s dream and brought her back to reality.

“Wait a minute. This is my room…”

Before Taeyeon could finish her sentence, Jessica had already tucked herself comfortably under Taeyeon’s blanket. Using her eyes, Jessica gestured for Taeyeon to sleep on the couch while she rolled onto her side and slept.

Taeyeon couldn’t believe her eyes but she was too tired to argue anymore. Taking an extra blanket from the cupboard, Taeyeon headed over to the couch and was soon asleep.

The next morning, Taeyeon woke up with aches all over her body. It was evident that sleeping on the couch wasn’t the best thing to do.

The smell of lavender reached her nose and Taeyeon wondered where it came from. Getting up, Taeyeon went to the toilet to wash up.

“Eeeeeekkkk! Get out!”

A bottle of shampoo was hurled across the tiny toilet and it hurt Taeyeon on the head.

“Ouch!” Taeyeon rubbed her head as she tumbled out of the toilet.

A moment later, Jessica came out of the toilet with her hair wrapped in a towel. She was still wearing the same sleep wear as last night. It was then Taeyeon remembered that Jessica hijacked her bed last night.

The sight of Jessica walking out of the toilet was like a shampoo commercial. Jessica removed the towel and her blonde hair fell down her shoulders as she toweled her hair dry.

“Stop staring.”

A wave of pink flooded Taeyeon’s cheeks. “If you’re done, I would like to wash up now.”

Jessica went back to her room, leaving a trail of lavender scent. Strangely though, Taeyeon thought her shampoo smelled better than usual.

At the dining area, Taeyeon offered Jessica a bowl of cereals and milk as breakfast. It wasn’t a usual practice to offer breakfast at the motel. Somehow, Taeyeon felt obliged to do so.

Earlier that morning, Taeyeon heard the weather forecast on television. It didn’t sound good and wanted to inform Jessica about it, lest she missed the weather forecast. “It looks like the snow storm isn’t going to calm down for today. I heard the weather forecast earlier and today’s going to be worse.”

A frown appeared on Jessica’s face and a sigh escaped her lips. “Looks like I can’t make it home to celebrate the New Year. Darn project, why does it have to be in this far flung place? Now I’m trapped here.”

Jessica hugged her knees and looked at the white scene outside the window. Everywhere was covered in thick snow. Jessica wore a gloomy expression on her face. Taeyeon didn’t know what to say and decided that leaving Jessica alone was the best way.

It stopped snowing in the afternoon. However, not all the roads were cleared yet as there wasn’t enough manpower to shovel all the snow from the roads at one go. Noticing the sky was clear, Taeyeon suggested taking a walk down the street. Jessica didn’t mind since there wasn’t anything else to do.

Happy that Jessica accepted her suggestion, Taeyeon wrote a sign and pasted it on the motel’s main entrance. Taeyeon was confident no one would turn up at the motel but decided to put up a sign anyway. There was one place everyone would be and Taeyeon knew where it was.

Leading the way, Taeyeon and Jessica strolled down the end of the street. Jessica was puzzled when she caught Taeyeon smiling cheekily. She was very curious about the plans Taeyeon had.

“Why are you smiling like that? It’s creepy.”

“You’ll find out soon. Oh, guess what. We’re here already. Look straight ahead.”

When Taeyeon stopped in her tracks, Jessica turned her head in front to see why Taeyeon stopped walking. Then Jessica let out a gasp, covering her mouth with her hands.

“Oh my God!” Jessica exclaimed in surprise.

Taeyeon grinned.

In front of them was a huge frozen lake with crystal clear ice. In the background, snow capped trees lined the edge of the lake. There was a small group of people gathered near the lake.

“The concert’s starting soon. Let’s go!” Taeyeon pulled Jessica’s arm and both of them ran down the slope towards the lake.

There was a string quartet standing on the frozen lake. People gathered around; those in front seated on the grass while those at the back were standing.

Just as Taeyeon and Jessica reached an empty spot, the quartet began to play a medley of popular tunes. Everyone sang along, some even broke into a dance. Just slightly further up, there was a row of makeshift stores.

One of the stores was selling hot wine. Taeyeon bought two mugs and handed one to Jessica. The taste of hot wine warmed Jessica’s body and it brought a welcome relief from the cold winter.

“I’ve never tasted this before. It’s good,” Jessica beamed.

“The owner took the idea from a European Christmas market. Apparently it’s a very popular drink during the winter period,” Taeyeon explained.

Both of them bought some food and sat by the edge of the lake. They lapsed into a non stop conversation. It felt that they became friends after a day.

As Taeyeon and Jessica were talking, they were interrupted by a shrill noise. Jessica looked around, wondering where the noise was coming from. Suddenly, there was a loud boom and in the next instant, there was a red streak in the sky.

“What was that?” Jessica asked, alarmed by the noise.

There was few more loud booms and the dark sky was lit up in a multitude of colours.

“Oh, it’s already midnight! Happy New Year!” Taeyeon yelled above the fireworks.

“What?” Jessica yelled back.

Taeyeon leaned closer and said into Jessica’s ear. “Happy New Year! This is a special event which happens here!”

“Wow! It’s awesome! Happy New Year to you too!”

Taeyeon stood up and pulled Jessica up too. She took Jessica’s hands and pulled her into a random dance to celebrate the new year, joining the rest of the people who were in a joyous mood.

The next morning, Jessica woke up early and prepared to check out. The weather was good and the roads were finally cleared. It was a good start to the new year.

Taeyeon felt a little sad seeing Jessica go. Afterall, it was the first time she had so much fun with one of the motel guests. Most of them merely stayed for a night and leave early next morning. The motel was just a place for people to sleep.

However, for Jessica, Taeyeon felt a magnetic pull towards her. Although Jessica was rather rude intially, Taeyeon was glad the blonde slowly warmed up to her after staying for two nights. Taeyeon attributed Jessica’s lousy attitude to the bad traffic jam she was in when she arrived at the motel.

Taeyeon handed Jessica her credit card after processing the payment. “Have a safe trip back home and enjoy the remainder of your break.”

“Aren’t you going home too?” Jessica asked.

“I am. I’ll be leaving this place tomorrow once the owners return.”

“I see. Have a safe trip home too.”

“I will, thanks.”

Both of them stood at the reception desk for a while. It was Taeyeon who broke the silence.

“You better get going since the weather’s good now. Goodbye.”

“Goodbye. Thanks for giving me free meals throughout my stay.”

“Hmm…now that you mentioned it, I’ve forgotten to charge it to your credit card,” Taeyeon said with a chuckle.

“Too late,” Jessica laughed.

Taeyeon laughed along too. It was probably the last time she was going to see Jessica. There was a heavy feeling in her heart.

“I should go. Goodbye…for real.”

“Goodbye, Miss Jung.”

“Please call me Jessica.”

Taeyeon raised her brows. “Isn’t it a bit too late to call you that now? I mean, I doubt you would ever return to this far flung place again.”

Jessica let out a sigh. “That’s quite true. However, that doesn’t meant I don’t want to see you again.”

“Huh?” Taeyeon was totally lost.

“We can still be friends right.”

“Oh. Of course,” Taeyeon smiled when she understood what Jessica meant.

Jessica pulled out her phone and keyed something in. The next moment, Taeyeon’s mobile phone vibrated.

“That’s my number. You can call me when you’re back in the city to claim a free meal to make up for the many meals you’ve provided here.”

Taeyeon was momentarily stunned. On one hand, she was surprised Jessica wanted to remain in contact with her. On the other hand, Taeyeon’s stomach was performing back flips.

“S-sure.”

Jessica grabbed her bag and headed out. Just before the door closed, Taeyeon yelled.

“How about next Saturday?”

Jessica stopped in her tracks. She turned around slowly and flashed an okay sign. Then she made a hand signal resembling a phone and put it to her ear while mouthing ‘call me’.

Taeyeon nodded eagerly.

A new year and a new start to a blossoming relationship.

= The End =

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