A delicious scent of home-cooked food permeated the air in the Jung household. Yoona, the middle child, was already sitting at the dining table with her cutlery in her hands.
“Unnie ya, Soojungie, dinner is ready!!” Yoona yelled at the top of her voice.
“Yoong, how many times have I told you not to yell at your sisters like that? You should go to their rooms to call them,” Mrs Jung chided, shooting a fierce glare at Yoona.
Yoona sulked a little, refusing to move from her seat. She couldn’t wait to dig into the food in front of her. Her mother was a fantastic cook and she loved eating at home. The fragrant scent of her favourite beef galbi soup was making her very hungry. She had just finished a bag of honey butter chips but that wasn’t enough to satisfy her hunger.
Just then, Sooyeon, the eldest child, appeared at the dining area.
“Unnie, can you get Soojungie?”
“What’s the magic word?” Sooyeon crossed her arms in front of her chest and waited.
“Please, pretty please,” Yoona said in an aegyo filled voice while batting her eyelids at her elder sister. She tugged at Sooyeon’s tee and gave her elder sister the puppy-eye look.
“Aish, stop talking in that voice!” Sooyeon brushed away the hand on her tee and headed upstairs to look for their youngest sibling.
Soojung’s bedroom door was slightly ajar but Sooyeon still knocked on it and waited for her younger sister to reply. After waiting for a moment, there wasn’t a response from Soojung. Sooyeon decided to peek in, knowing that Soojung probably had her earphones plugged in and was reading some fashion magazines while sprawled on her bed.
The scene was exactly how Sooyeon had visualised before she opened the door. She walked next to Soojung and tapped her on her arm to get her attention.
Pulling out her earphones, the youngest Jung looked at her elder sister with a yawn. She acknowledged her sister’s presence and told her that she would be down in five minutes.
It took fifteen minutes before everyone assembled at the dining table for dinner. The girls said their thanks before tucking into the spread. Yoona always ate the fastest and would take two servings of rice. On the other hand, Sooyeon was slowest, preferring to take her time to chew and digest her food properly instead of wolving it down. As for Soojung, her speed and intake of food depended on her mood.
After finishing their meal, Sooyeon was usually the one who would help to wash up the dishes. She did it on her own accord. She felt responsible since she was the eldest child.
That was a typical scene in the Jung household at mealtimes.
One Saturday afternoon, after the girls completed their homework, Mrs Jung gave Sooyeon some money and allowed the three of them to visit the new ice cream store at the park as a treat. Yoona changed in a flash and was the first to wait at the door for the rest of her siblings. As usual, Soojung would be the last one at the door.
The three of them walked hand in hand to the ice cream store. Sooyeon, the oldest at twenty one, was studying business administration at the university. She was the sensible and dependable one who cared for people quietly in her own ways. Yoona, the middle one at nineteen, was studying theatre and arts at a different university. She was the ‘voice’ of the Jungs and the most outgoing of the three sisters. Soojung, the youngest at seventeen, was studying in a college. Having a cool personality and a love for fashion, she preferred to take her own sweet time to get ready so that she would look her best. They had very distinct personalities which sometimes led to many arguments but at the end of the day, they made up and enjoy their close bond as sisters.
Arriving at the store, Sooyeon was the first to place her order. She always ordered the same flavour of ice cream, vanilla to be exact, wherever she went. Her younger siblings often nag at her for being boring but she would completely ignore them. She remained fiercely loyal in her choice and rarely tried something new. Food was Yoona’s life and she would order two scoops of different flavours while Soojung would always order the latest flavour available or the most unusual one. Soojung was game for adventure and loved to try new flavours.
The owner of the ice cream store was a middle aged lady who decided to open a small ice cream store in the middle of the park because she loved being among the greenery. Plus, all the ice cream flavours sold in the store were handmade, with selected flavours only available in limited quantities.
Sooyeon sat on a high chair facing the window and ate her ice cream while waiting for Yoona to decide on hers. Soojung joined her eldest sister at the high chair shortly. She was busy texting on her mobile phone while listening to music on her earphones.
It was a warm day and there was only a handful of people at the park. Sooyeon couldn’t wait to get home to her air-conditioned room instead of being out in the heat. When Yoona was done, Sooyeon hurriedly paid for all their ice creams. Just as Sooyeon stepped out of the store, she heard a dog bark.
Fortunately that sound caused Sooyeon to stop in her tracks, preventing her from bumping into a girl who was standing outside the store. Sooyeon had been nagging at Yoona for ordering an extra large serving of ice cream but failed to notice someone who was about to enter the store.
“Oops, sorry!” Sooyeon apologised, hurriedly moving the hand with the ice cream away lest it hit the girl.
“It’s okay,” the girl replied in a soft tone.
Sooyeon wasn’t able to get a good look at the girl’s face as the girl had her cap pulled down quite low. The only visible feature was the fair porcelain skin on the girl’s face that seemed to glow.
The girl stood aside, blocking the black puppy with her legs so as to let the three sisters walk out of the store. The puppy was panting and wagging its tail enthusiastically. It resembled a ball of black fur with a short tail.
The Jung sisters hurried out of the store with Sooyeon apologizing once again for the near accident. Her face was pink with embarrassment as they walked away from the store. Yoona was trying to hold her laughter while Soojung was a little upset she couldn’t stay to play with the puppy.
The following weekend, Yoona wanted to visit the ice cream store again. She was drawn by the myriad of flavours available in the tiny store and couldn’t wait to try all of them. After some persuasion, she managed to drag her sisters to the ice cream store.
Upon arriving at the store, Soojung spotted a black puppy tied to a chair that was placed outside the store. She skipped towards the puppy and squatted down to play with it.
“Unnie, doesn’t this puppy look familiar? Is it the same puppy we saw last week?” Soojung asked, ruffling the puppy’s head.
Yoona rushed past Soojung and dashed into the store. “I didn’t notice a puppy!”
Sooyeon stared at the puppy and the puppy looked up at her with innocent black eyes. She found it difficult to locate the puppy’s eyes as they almost blended into the black coat of fur on its body.
“I’m not sure if it’s the same one. Remember to wash your hands before eating your ice cream. I’m going into the store to prevent Yoong from buying every single flavour on display. Mum only gave us twenty dollars for ice cream,” Sooyeon said before she entered the store.
There were three people in the store and they had just paid for their ice cream. No one really stayed around in the store to eat since there wasn’t much space. Most people would buy the ice cream and eat it at the park benches or on their way home. There was only one high table and a row of three high chairs inside the store, with the ice cream display taking up most of the space. On the wall, there was a noticeboard with a handful of colourful post-it notes stuck on it. They contained the compliments from customers who visited the store.
Yoona was scrutinizing the ice cream display carefully, as if she was choosing a piece of diamond. The helpful ahjumma recommended some flavours to Yoona, scooping a tiny bit of each flavour using a small plastic spoon for Yoona to sample.
“Yoong, are you going to try every single flavour? Don’t cause so much trouble for the ahjumma,” Sooyeon chided.
“Unnie, a connoisseur needs time to slowly appreciate the effort the kind ahjumma put into making these ice creams,” Yoona answered in a slow and dramatic manner.
“Don’t worry, let her take her time to decide what she wants. Meanwhile, is it a vanilla for you?” the ahjumma asked.
Sooyeon suddenly turned pink at the ahjumma’s words. She was embarrassed at being so predictable. She gave a quick nod to the ahjumma.
Savouring her ice cream, Sooyeon stood in front of the ice cream display and studied the various flavours behind the glass. The names of some of the flavours were quite interesting such as Nutty Macadamia, Cookie Monster, Hazelnut Haven and Peach Bum. She wondered if the ahjumma came up with those creative names by herself.
“Unnie, I’m done!” A bright voice rang in the store.
“Yoong, control yourself. Can you please be more ladylike?” Jessica nagged, her brows knitted in displeasure at her younger sister’s loud exclamation.
“Unnie!” Yoona called out, eyes opening wide and one hand was pointing at the door.
“Yoong, what did I just tell you?” Jessica sighed exasperatedly. She failed to notice someone entering the store and collided with the person. Her legs tripped over someone’s shoes and a pair of arms circled her upper body, preventing her from falling onto the floor. Her ice cream cup flew out of her hand and handed on the person’s shoulder before sliding onto the floor, leaving a white milky trail on the person’s clothes.
Yoona was almost turning blue as she held back her laughter. Her elder sister just did a dramatic turn and landed in a stranger’s arms. That wasn’t why Yoona was laughing. The real reason was the huge blob on vanilla ice cream on the stranger’s face, the splatters of ice cream on the stranger’s hair and the long sticky trail of ice cream dripping down the stranger’s arm.
It felt like everything was frozen in time. Sooyeon was in total shock as she laid in the stranger’s arms, the stranger was stunned by the cold facial treatment and the ahjumma was looking on with surprise. It took Yoona’s sudden outburst of laughter to break the frozen atmosphere.
Yoona set her ice cream cup carefully on a nearby table and rushed over to help her sister. “Oh dear unnie, are you alright?”
Yoona grabbed Sooyeon by her arms and pulled her upright while the stranger helped by supporting Sooyeon’s back.
“I’m so sorry. So so sorry, I sincerely apologise for the mess,” Sooyeon apologised repeatedly, bowing several times in shame.
“It is okay. Are you alright?” the stranger asked.
Sooyeon was surprised to see a warm smile on the stranger’s face. She thought she would be awarded with a huge scolding since she made such a terrible mess.
By now, the ahjumma came forward and handed the stranger a towel and a small bag.
“Go and get yourself cleaned up at the public toilet over there. I’ll clean up here,” the ahjumma instructed.
“Ahjumma, I’ll clean up the mess since I was the cause of it,” Sooyeon said apologetically.
The ahjumma flashed a warm smile, similar to the stranger’s. “Don’t worry about it. Accidents happen. Just be more careful next time.”
“I definitely will,” Sooyeon promised. “Please let me clean up the mess else I’ll feel very bad.”
The ahjumma nodded and handed Sooyeon the mop since the young girl was so insistent. Yoona helped to clean the mess too.
When they were done, Sooyeon was surprised to receive a brand new cup of vanilla ice cream from the ahjumma.
“It’s on the house.”
Sooyeon shook her head vigorously. “No, I’ll pay for it.”
“It’s only ice cream. I’m happy if you girls appreciate my ice cream,” the ahjumma smiled.
Face still red from embarrassment, Sooyeon could only give a quick nod and accepted the cup of ice cream.
“Unnie, do you think the girl is related to the ahjumma?”
“Huh?” Sooyeon wasn’t paying attention to what Yoona was saying as she was thinking about the earlier accident at the ice cream store.
“Always lost in your own thoughts. I was saying, do you the girl whom you bumped into is related to the ahjumma?” Yoona repeated herself.
“I don’t know. What makes you say that?”
“Just an instinct. She looks really young though I have a feeling she as is old as you.”
“Oh really?” Sooyeon thought hard and she realised she couldn’t remember how the girl looked like. She had been too focused on apologising and was afraid to look at the stranger directly.
“Unnie, I think you almost bumped into her the last time. I remember the puppy. I think it is the same old. She could be the owner of the dog. I have a strong feeling about this..,”
“And so what if your deduction is correct, Sherlock Yoong?”
Yoona grinned. “Then it proves my instinct is always right!”
“Crazy girl,” Sooyeon said jokingly before giving Yoona a light smack on her arm.
Yoona laughed out loud, opening her mouth as wide as an alligator’s.
“Ya, Yoong! How many times have I told you to use your hand to cover your mouth whenever you laugh?”
Yoona stuck out her tongue and ran away from her sister, lest she received another smack from her.
The following weekend, Sooyeon found herself back at the ice cream store. This time, Soojung came along with her as Yoona had to rush an assignment for school. Yoona instructed Sooyeon to buy a pint of ice cream in order to boost her energy while doing her assignment. Sooyeon knew it was just an excuse for Yoona to stuff her face with ice cream. She was envious of Yoona’s slim physique no matter how much the latter ate. In fact, Soojung also inherited the “Can’t put on weight no matter how much I eat” genes.
Just as the ice cream store came within sight, Soojung suddenly sprinted off towards the store, leaving Sooyeon slightly bewildered. Soojung crouched close to the ground, near the entrance of the store and seemed to have taken interest in something on the ground.
Sooyeon increased her pace to catch up with Soojung. Upon reaching the store ,she realised her youngest sister was playing with the black puppy. Soojung cradled the puppy in one arm and used the other to tickle its tummy. The puppy was barking in delight and wagging its tail furiously.
“Unnie, this puppy is so adorable!” Soojung’s eyes were twinkling with joy.
Sooyeon smiled at the sight of a happy girl and an even happier puppy. She knew her youngest sister had a kind heart and a soft spot for animals. In fact, Soojung’s ambition was to become a vet.
“Unnie, please take your time. I wanna play with the puppy for a longer time.”
“Once the owner comes, you have to stop playing with it okay?
“I’m sure the owner wouldn’t mind!” Soojung beamed.
Not wanting to disappoint, Sooyeon decided to order her ice cream and eat it in the store while Soojung played with the puppy.
Stepping in, Sooyeon noticed there wasn’t anyone in the store. She rang the bell that was on the cashier’s counter.
“Coming! Give me a few minutes!” A female voice called out.
It didn’t sound like the ahjumma. The voice sounded too young for a middle-aged woman. Sooyeon wondered who it could be.