Toujours Belle XII

Taeyeon stared into space, lighting the last cigarette in the box. She stretched her hand in front of her, widening her fingers and letting the sunrays seep through them. Will there ever be hope through cracks like this, she wondered, or is she abandoned even by God himself? She chuckled and shook her head at her silly musings. 

She stared at the wooden door; the knocking had been on and off for the past half an hour.

It must be oppa again, she took a puff, or maybe Tiffany.

Either way, Taeyeon was not ready to face them yet. She decided to take a nap when the knocking became more urgent, sending a set of resounding echo into the confined space. Taeyeon sighed, changed the course of her direction and pulled the door open.

“What do you-” the words died on her lips as she stared astonishingly at the fury looking ahjumma at her doorstep. “Halmoni!”

“You lazy lazy child!” She chided, whacking Taeyeon on her arm a few times. Taeyeon winced. 

“It’s noon and you just woke up? Look, the tteokbokki is cold now!” She lifted the bag in her hand.

Taeyeon laughed, politely asking for the bag but the ahjumma had pulled the bag away from her reach.

“You wait here!” She demanded in a shrilly voice, “I will fetch you fresh ones and put down that stick will you!”

She hobbled away, mumbling under her breath at how ill-mannered Taeyeon was. She chuckled, stubbing the cigarette under her shoes.

//////////

It was an understatement that Taeyeon felt uncomfortable. Her insides squirmed and her hands were sweating while she politely closed her lips around the steaming tteokbokki, smiling awkwardly at the ahjumma. Taeyeon took a few more careful bites, diverting her attention to stare intensely at the bowl of red sauce under watchful supervision.

“Taeyeon-ah,” the ahjumma croaked. “Is it true? You… the police…”

“Yes,” Taeyeon honestly confessed, too vulnerable in the face of concern. The ahjumma sighed and stretched a hand out. Taeyeon winced, prepared to receive a slap on her back and a lecture foe her foolishness. Taeyeon was surprised at the warmth that seeped through her body as the ahjumma gently stroke her head instead.

“Taeyeon-ah,” she said, “You lived a hard life.”

Taeyeon felt tears welling up in her eyes and clenched her fists to keep herself composed.

“Don’t do this anymore. Live a proper life.” she continued, running her hand down the length of Taeyeon’s hair, “I can’t always be here.”

“Sorry,” Taeyeon whispered, feeling unworthy of the genuine care and concern she received. “I’m sorry for making you worried, Halmoni.”

“It will be okay,” she hugged her. “You will be okay.” Taeyeon cried unabashedly, in the arms of a motherly figure she was unknowingly blessed with.

//////////

“Hey Hwang!” Tiffany waved, laughing when Hyoyeon pulled her into a hug.

“What is this? You’re prettier than I remembered! I’m so jealous.” Hyoyeon exclaimed.

“What is this? You’re less playful than I remembered! I’m surprised.” Tiffany teased. They shared a laugh.

“How long has it been?” Hyoyeon took a seat across Tiffany.

“5 years?” Tiffany raised her hand for the waiter. They took their orders- Tiffany with her usual steak and salad while Hyoyeon settled for fish n’ chips.

“We grow really fast isn’t it? I never thought I did hear from you again.”

“I never knew there did be a day I contact a troublemaker.” Tiffany sipped on her coffee with a shrug and a teasing grin on her face.

“Now now, stop that judgement. People change.” Hyoyeon playfully wagged her finger at Tiffany. “What can I do for you?” 

Tiffany updated Hyoyeon with the necessary parts of the story and cautiously highlighted the points that required Hyoyeon’s help.

“Ah, that rundown bookstore at Chungmuro.”

Tiffany could not hide the surprise on her face. “Wait, you know Taeyeon?”

“I don’t,” Hyoyeon thanked the waiter, her unwavering gaze fixed on the appetizing meal before her, “But I received the case.”

“Are you able to-” Tiffany scratched her chin embarrassedly, “say, do anything to help her?”

Hyoyeon looked at her with a glint in her eyes, shrugged and poked at her fries. Tiffany sighed and moodily cut into her tender steak. 

“There is no need for me to do anything, Hwang.” Hyoyeon stole a peek at the sullen face and grinned after a minute of silence. “It’s settled.”

“What? How?” Tiffany’s eyebrows disappeared with surprise under her fringe.

Hyoyeon shrugged with a mysterious smile, sending a piece of battered fish into her waiting mouth. 

“Sometimes, some people are secretly blessed and loved by others.”

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