Toujours Belle XV

If we meet again one day, I hope I am a better person for you.

Tiffany gently caressed the words on the bookmark with her finger and carefully slid it between the pages.

Taeyeon vanished from her life without a trace five years ago; living behind a book that she entrusted to Juhyun. For five years, Tiffany scoured around looking for Taeyeon. She did not let any news about Taeyeon go, but was always disappointed.

Tiffany spent months being livid. She screamed, she cried, she locked herself in the room curled up in bed. The was a dull ache in her chest that she couldn’t quench no matter how many dates she forced herself to go. Tiffany wanted to hate Taeyeon, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it.

Im Yoona- Tiffany once met her in Taeyeon’s shop- met with her over coffee. Yoona was Hyoyeon’s best friend, a meek little girl who lived near door. Their differences clicked but Yoona’s family faced a financial crisis that forced them to move out of the Gangnam district to Chungmuro. Yoona and Hyoyeon stayed in touch throughout their growing years and fostered a strong bond.

When Yoona first moved to Chungmuro, depressed and unhappy- Taeyeon had unknowingly graced her with reasons to smile. “A cup of coffee?“, “Smile more Yoong, you look prettier when you do“, “You can talk to me if you need anything.

Yoona and her mother began to secretly guard over that lonesome but kind-hearted girl who lives her life in her bookstore.

Yoona began to visit Taeyeon- purely out of interest and with her mother’s unwilling permission- to get inked in order to give Taeyeon an income. She told some of her trusted friends who supported Taeyeon with her business too.

“You know Yoona,” her mother once told her, “Her smile. Her smile is there but her eyes are always sad.”

When her mother saw Taeyeon being taken away by the police in broad daylight, she tearfully asked Yoona to approach Hyoyeon for help. Her mother wordlessly spent the life-savings she earned from the tteokbokki food truck  to pay for Taeyeon’s fine and lifted the claim on the shop. 

Taeyeon was guilty and touched by her blessings, promising to live her lonesome better by exploring the world. She wanted to be a brighter and better person- but staying in Seoul is proven pointless. Yoona and her mother helplessly watch Taeyeon go, unable to do anything except gave their blessings.

Taeyeon did not want to be selfish because she knew that Tiffany would let go of everything to go with her. Taeyeon did not want to be selfish because she knew Tiffany deserved better. Taeyeon did not want to be selfish because she wants to be a better person by herself before she learn to look after anyone.

She is selfish, Tiffany thought while brushing away the tears in her eyes, selfish for thinking about things only from her point of view.

Jiwoong often met up with Tiffany over coffee too and Tiffany laughed at how Taeyeon had selfishly leave traces of her around Tiffany’s life. Jiwoong now married with a child-on-the-way, Tiffany found herself missing Taeyeon more than ever.

Taeyeon was like the tattoo she had inked; permanently etched under Tiffany’s skin and in her heart.

//////////

“New York? Now?” Tiffany asked incredulously. Juhyun beamed at her proudly, huffing while she sat on her luggage to zip it shut.

“I’m meeting Hannah and her friends so you’re coming with me.”

“I didn’t agree to this, Hyun.”

“Oh come on, I even bought the air ticket,” Juhyun leeched herself on Tiffany’s arm and whined. Tiffany cracked a small smile.

“Alright fine, I have nothing to do anyway.”

“You won’t regret it,” Juhyun exclaimed with a glint in her eyes, “Trust me.”

Juhyun was right when she said to trust her- carefully planned, Juhyun had everything settled for her. Leaves taken, work allocated (thanks to Sooyoung), tickets bought, passport ready, parents in California informed and Tiffany found herself dragging her large pink luggage, dazed.

“Isn’t this great?” Juhyun sighed in a cliché manner. Not ready, Tiffany thought as she stare out of the airplane window dreamily, I’m not ready to travel.

After an agonizing fifteen back-breaking hours on the plane, Tiffany found herself sobbing into the arms of her mother at the airport.

It’s good to be home.

//////////

Tiffany really didn’t know why Juhyun wanted her to visit that popular tattoo shop.

“You know I don’t do tattoos anymore, Hyun,” she said with a frown, licking her salted coated fingers.

“Come on, Tiff,” Juhyun coaxed, biting excitedly into her In-N-Out cheeseburger “I’m just asking you to check it out. I’ll be busy meeting my friends and you have nothing to do anyway.”

“I’m abandoned by the one who dragged me all the way back to America.” Tiffany retorted in English.

“You will be fine,” Juhyun replied in the same language. “Trust me.”

Sighing, Tiffany bid her best friend goodbye. She navigated around with google maps and found herself standing outside a bland looking building with a minimal looking signboard hanging above. 

This is it.

Tiffany found and read some reviews about this place last night in the hotel. It was an unique experience, many customers wrote, and extremely meaningful. Unlike any other tattoo parlor, the owner- allegedly a beautiful blonde Asian- listens to bits and pieces of their life and suggested tattoos to be inked. Quotes, symbols, hand-poked designs; no requests were impossible for the skillful tattoo artist.

Toujours Belle- what a cliché name, she thought, but the font looks strangely familiar. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it. Tiffany shrugged and pushed the door open anyway.

There was a faint jingle and deja vü, Tiffany chuckled to herself. There was a bookshelf breaming with books near the entrance and she felt a pang of familarity as she ran her fingers along them. 

“May I suggest that you get a tattoo today?”

Tiffany heard the teasing voice and she turned to the source. She gasped. 

Taeyeon stood in front of her; hair dyed blonde, jawline sharper, looking prettier and her smile was brighter than Tiffany could remembered. Tiffany gaped at her and Taeyeon chuckled at her expression. The tears were streaming down her face before Tiffany could say a word.

“You can get the same as mine,” Taeyeon pulled the crying brunette into her arms. And Tiffany chuckled through her tears when Taeyeon showed her the hand-poked tattoo sitting on her wrist.

지금은 앞으로 영원히

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