You are on page 1of 202


chapter one
She wished, first, that her arm wasnt bent unnaturally under her body in such an angry way, shoved
between her breastplate and whatever, be it mattress or couch or floor, was underneathand
wished, second, that she were someone else entirely. The sun was settling uncomfortably on her
eyelashes, pulling back the lids with insistent, spiteful tugs. This was going to be another morning
like many other mornings and as the realization settled under her skin, she wanted less and less to
open her eyes at all.
The arm around her waist tightened as she cleared her throat and rolled over, attempting to ease the
tension in her own trapped, now traumatically numb, arm. The ceiling looked like a dozen ceilings
she had seen before, the pockmarks and plaster not quite identical, obviously, but still resolutely
contributing to the intimate familiarity she couldnt shake.
A blithe thought came then, of how when people were cornered, they would lash out. Previously she
had wondered if they knew they were lashing out while in the process of it, but now she wondered
if they could even know they were cornered. She had lived a good twenty-six years; it felt over-long
because it hadnt been broken up into chapters. There was no beginning and end to events, and so
there was no way to know if one was living it correctly, in any respect. Still, dimly, shed had the
feeling she had been living it incorrectly for some time now.
With a sigh, Kim Taeyeon gently removed the arm from around her waist and sat up, climbing
unsteadily out of bed.
Like most mornings, it was not a clean break. She was hunting for her clothes when the girl on the
bed stirred and mumbled something at her, her eyes opening in bleary indecency. Taeyeon cleared
her throat and zipped up her jeans. It was a little after lunchtime. Hmm?
Where you going?
She was a pretty girl, probably about nineteen years old. Of the brief images she could recall from
the previous night, Taeyeon remembered that the skin at the base of her neck was impossibly
smooth, that her hands were soft as though they had never worked. Maybe she was a student.
Taeyeon blew some of the hair out of her eyes and pulled her shirt on.
I have to go. I have an appointment. Her cellphone wasnt in her pocket like usual so she had to
hunt for it.
The girl then said what they all more or less said, perhaps not always because they meant the
sentiment but because it was expected and the transaction was somehow empty without it. Her wide
eyescircle lenses, Taeyeon thoughtblinked long fluttering eyelasheslikely fakeand she
said, unnaturally high and mouthwateringly sweet, Will I see you again?
Taeyeon smiled because she had spotted her cellphone on the nightstand by the girls head. She
scooped it up and then leaned down for a quick, perfunctory kiss. Of course. I had fun. Ill call
But you dont have my number.
She breathed out noisily through her nose. Her head was aching. She had no idea if it was a

hangoverthe dry mouth and numbness of limbs would indicate soor a habitual headache like
usualthe burden of living everyday as she did would indicate sobut it was making her feel
electric under her skin, impatient with the strain of feeling unnatural.
She patiently counted to ten and made herself smile gently. This was a very nice girl with a very
nice apartment. She brought up her phones address book and then wordlessly, the smile
unwavering on her lips, passed the phone to the girls pale, trembling hands. The trembling inspired
her annoyance to dissipate, somewhat. It was easy to forget what a young, innocent girl looked like
from the inside out.
Here. The phone was back in her hands. I put my name in, too, in case you didnt remember it.
A genuine, heartfelt smile which Taeyeon couldnt help but return.
Thank you. She kissed her again, lingeringly this time. Lee Kiyoung. Thanks.

She escaped onto the street, her head feeling light enough to float away. When shed left the
apartment and realized there were eight flights of stairs between her and freedom, she had begun to
feel sick and had taken them at a sprint. Now her heart was pounding in rhythm with her head. She
gulped in cold air. Her jacket was too light for Seoul in winter. Her head was killing her. Pressing
her back against the brick wall, she tried to find consciousness. There was something she had to do
today, just like there was something she had to do everyday. She opened her eyes, looking blankly
at the city street in front of her. What was it.
Lunch with Hyoyeon. In Gangnam.
It was one of the girls who followed her.
Right, she said, breathless. It was a habit to not make eye contact with these fans. She felt around
for her car keys. They were in her right jacket pocket but she couldnt see her car on the street, nor
did she have any idea where the parking garage was, if the building had oneit had to have one,
even if it wasnt a very expensive area, there were always parking garages
You came here in a cab, one of the other girls said. A brief glance confirmed there were only four
of them today. If she was a long way from her neighborhood, that made sense; it was only a certain
type of character who could handle following one person around without cognizance of the maze
barriers. We called it for you, both of you were too drunk to drive.
Right. That was all she said.
We called another one when we saw you were coming down, itll be here soon.
How did you know I was coming down or God why are you here or Maybe Ill just walk, what about
that, I dont need you all clustered together on the tip of her tongue but all she said was what she
always said: Right.
Your car is at the bar in Seongdong if you want the cab to take you there instead of to lunch.
The cab pulled up and one of the girls handed her a cup of coffee.

Feel better, Taeyeon unni.


The cabdriver wanted an autograph for his kid instead of cab-fare. This was par for the course;
Taeyeon hadnt properly paid cab-fare in over five years. She straightened her rumpled clothing on
the drive over, fixing her hair. She wasnt sure why. It hardly made a difference. She and the girls
had spent over a decade together at this point. They knew each others habits better than they knew
their own and used each other as a reference, an encyclopedia on their own particular quirks and
Hyoyeon seemed like she had been waiting a while. She was on her second cup of coffee. Of all the
Girls Generation members to keep waiting, Hyoyeon was probably the best. She was sharp and
would make her aggravation known with little fanfare, which was more than she could say for other
Hey. Sorry Im late. She smiled at the waitress. Just coffee.
Are you eating at all these days? This was Hyoyeons version of a greeting.
Taeyeon looked down at herself. She was a little skinnier than usual but hardly worth noting. What
do you mean?
Every time weve had lunch for the past three weeks, youve only had coffee.
Taeyeon shrugged. I eat a lot at night, trust me. I sit in the booth for two hours and just eat junk.
You should exercise more.
If I wasnt so lazy. Are you mothering me? She smiled wryly but the words had an edge to them.
Id try to, but I dont think youd let me.
Taeyeon sipped her coffee. Is everything okay? Hyoyeon shrugged. Hows Dujun?
Theyre working a lot, because of the album, so I dont see him very much. She shrugged. On
most people, it might have been an attempt to look as though the whole thing didnt ruffle her, but
the truth was that little things ruffled Hyoyeon anyway. She was far from a clingy girlfriend. It was
why Taeyeon had said a million times that Hyoyeon was the only one of them she would consider
dating, even if they all knew that wasnt entirely true.
Speaking of album Hyoyeon began and Taeyeon squinted at her, the headache coming back
with a dedicated vengeance. Hyoyeon recognized her shift in mood immediately. Or not
Taeyeon shook her head. Sorry. Headache. Speaking of album, what.
How close are you to finishing yours?
She sipped her coffee leisurely to give herself some time to think of a good way to say it. I would
say, maybe, less than half finished.

Less than half?

Maybe closer to
Well, how much of it have you
I have one song finished, Taeyeon said baldly and then smiled, feeling suddenly neurotic. Its a
good song.
Then just put out a single, Hyoyeon chuckled. I just ask because Juhyun asked and Juhyun asked
Because of the group.
I mean, its up to you, really, when our next group album comes out. After your solo album, before.
It depends on you.
You would make a great manager, you know that?
No, I wouldnt, I hate entertainers.
Taeyeon laughed. She felt a little better; the headache wasnt disappearing, but it certainly was easy
to ignore around someone like Hyoyeon. This was probably true of nearly every member of the
band, but most potent with Kim Hyoyeon; when they had met eleven years ago, they had been so
awkward it gave Taeyeon headaches. Over the years they had settled into a comforting sort of
familiarity. Of course, over a decades worth of friendship would do that, but with Hyoyeon,
Taeyeon knew that she herself had not gotten any less awkward; they had both just become more
adept at being comfortable with the mutual awkwardness.
It was for this reason, really, that although she would not single Hyoyeon out as the member she
was closest with, she was easily the member she trusted the most.
For her part, Hyoyeon was probably incredibly aware of this, and this was probably why she felt
comfortable broaching subjects with Taeyeon that other members would be afraid to.
Hyoyeon put both her hands on the table, fingers spread with pensive intention. The other thing I
wanted to talk to you about
Wow, really. Taeyeon sipped her coffee. You really would make a good manager, I feel burdened
the minute you open your mouth.
They shared a wry smile. Hyoyeon went on, You havent returned any of Juhyuns texts, so Im
going to ask on her behalf
Texts? Taeyeon frowned. Im sorry, I literally just woke up.
We both expected as much. Anyway, since she has a schedule with you tonight, she was wondering
if youd carpool with her over to Jessicas. Im going to be coming from Dobong because Im
filming, so I cant pick her up
Yeah, sure, whatever, Taeyeon said quickly. She had forgotten that Juhyun was a guest on her
radio show tonight. Before she had ended up in that bar last night, shed planned to write up some

good questions to ask her, since she wanted it to be a really good interview. She knew better than
anyone how to draw good responses out of someone quiet like Juhyun, especially since she had
known her forever. She scratched the back of her neck thoughtfully. Why are we meeting up at
Jessicas, though, just wondering.
Hyoyeon paused, exhaling impatiently. Ah, really. You really dont check your text messages, do
I do, she lied defensively. It was taxing, really. She had over one hundred unread messages. She
tried to prioritize them, but most times that meant only reading the ones from her manager so that
she knew to be at schedules on time.
The least you could do is check into group chat once in a while, Hyoyeon said. Youre aware
that Stephanie is back in Seoul, right?
Taeyeon felt suddenly as though she had been kicked. Hyoyeon looked at her with something
resembling pity.
Of course Im aware, Taeyeon said. Her tongue felt numb. So it was like that. She had been in
Los Angeles for nearly three months. It was like that, huh. I am aware
She got in yesterday morning. Hyoyeons tone had softened. It was hard to look at her, now, when
her expression was filled with sickening sympathy. So Jessicas having us over for dinner tonight.
Youd know that if you checked into group chat once in a while, or even checked your texts.
Ive been busy, Taeyeon said quietly. I
I know, Hyoyeon said softly. But just make the effort if you can.
The pounding in her head suddenly intensified to the point where she felt as though she might be
sick. She felt as though the alcohol wasnt out of her system. It prickled all over her body, the
immediate feeling of wanting to be back in that warm bed, eight floors up, pressed against Lee Kiwhoever or any girl or anyone, really, anyone that would block out this feeling.
She steeled herself and inhaled. It took all her willpower to not exhale in a rush of exhausted
tension. Good, she said briskly. That means we can talk about the album tonight. And we can
start production on it immediately. Good.
Hyoyeon looked at her for a long moment. She wondered what she must have looked like from the
outside looking in. Was the forceful stamping down of emotion, desperate climbing into her Idol
Group Leader skin visible from the outside?
Okay. That was all Hyoyeon said.
Okay, Taeyeon agreed. She stood abruptly, throwing down enough money to cover her coffee and
Hyoyeons meal. Its on me. I gotta run, I have a schedule.
Arms folded across Hyoyeons chest; she sat back. Of course you do.
Taeyeon looked out the window for a moment and then smiled tightly at her old friend. See you
see you tonight.

Taeyeon sat in the recording studio, listening to the mastered version of the last song she had
recorded. She had heard it thirty or forty times, mastered, by now. It was settling into the grooves of
her brain. She looked at her phone.
128 unread messages.
She swallowed hard and began to diligently scroll through each one. There was no way she could
reply to each and every one. There was a pang of guilt associated with each and every attempt at
communication from people she loved, attempts that had gone ignored. She sighed, rubbing her
temples. She continued scrolling up until her finger landed on a name that she knew she hadnt seen
in her texts list for three months.
Yeppeuni Hwang
She opened the message.
Taeyeon~ Im getting into Seoul Friday morning ^^ Would you want to meet me at the airport? Let
me know!
She sucked in a sharp breath. The message was five days old. She continued scrolling until the
name, the familiar heart shape, appeared again. This was from three days ago.
Okaaaaaaay, Im guessing no reply means youre busy, keke ^^ Its ok, Jessi says shell pick me up.
No problem ^_~
The next message was immediately above it, only fifteen minutes between.
But! Maybe we could have dinner the night I get in? Or just drinks, knowing you, kekekeke. Missed
you a lot, let me know ^^
Her fingers scrolled hastily now, ignoring any other names except the pressing bold one, the starkly
mocking heart shape. The next one was from the day before.
Jessi says youre pretty busy lately, so Im guessing dinner or drinks wont be possible? No problem
^^ But Ill see you at dinner tomorrow, right? I miss you a lot, TaeTae. Its hard to talk like this.
Thats why I didnt text you before. Okay. Miss you ^^
Another one, only a few hours later.
Im in Seoul! Hey, havent seen you in group chat, by the way. The rest of the girls are there.
Anyway, let me know if you want to hang out today, otherwise Ill see you tomorrow.
The next one was from the previous night. Taeyeon suspected it had come in when she had pressed
Lee Kiyoung up against the door of her apartment, her hand snaking underneath her skirt.
Guess Ill see you tomorrow night? Jessi says you havent touched base with her but that she
doesnt think youd miss it. Please come? I miss you so much. I have so much to tell you. Youre not
ignoring me, right? I bet you wouldnt kekekeke ^^ Miss you, TaeTae.
That was the last one. There was a string of messages from her manager, a few from the other girls.
She replied to the ones from her manager, confirming schedules and appointments. The mastered

version of her song picked up its loop for the fourth time. She read the last message from the little
heart shape one last time. Her eyes traced the words. It wasnt until the song picked up to loop for
the fifth time that she managed to press reply and type out a message.
See you tonight, Fany.

chapter two
Taeyeon twirled her pen distractedly between her fingers. Looking across the mic, she met Juhyuns
eyes and smiled at her. Juhyun smiled back; Taeyeons heart swelled. Seo Juhyun was someone she
would never tire of staring at. She was graceful in ways that defied language. Taeyeon loved her
very much.
When the commercials ended, Taeyeon plugged her headphones in again.
Taeyeons Late Night Radio picks up the second half with a guest that Late Night listeners should
hopefully be very familiar with, unless they want to make me angry. This is a person who is so cute,
you instantly want to take care of her, yet someone who is so bright and mature, you can feel only
frustration that she wont let you. In the studio with me is Seohyun, please welcome her.
Juhyun leaned toward the mic to introduce herself. Taeyeon watched her attentively; it was second
nature at this point. Every word and syllable was a reflection of nine different people.
Seohyun sshi, she said, the term dripping with such forced formality that Seohyun laughed. We
know each other pretty well, right?
Mmm, Juhyun agreed. I think we are familiar with one another.
Yes, Seohyun and I have worked together in the past, Taeyeon joked. Im Seohyuns fan.
Truthfully, Im Taeyeons fan.
Yes, Taeyeon said distractedly, looking down at her script. Thats why I invited you. Seohyun, I
wont beat around the bush, because youre a guest that truthfully, regular listeners should really
know a lot about you, since I talk about you a lot.
So Ill ask the question I think everyone wants to hear the most. Since youve released your first
solo album, many people, I think, are curious about the answer to this question. Especially since the
album is doing so well, and the song had an all-kill on music charts, so certainly a lot of people are
wondering about this question.
All right.
The question iswho is your favorite member of Girls Generation?
For the first night in many, Taeyeon wrapped two hours of radio without a headache. The mixture of
Juhyuns company, the vibrant atmosphere in the booth that night (many of the writers were
Seohyun fans), and the vitamins and water Juhyun had brought Taeyeon before the show started not

only relieved her of the tension in her head, but did the trick of allowing her to forget about the
mounting anxiety of that nights dinner.
Of course, as soon as she finished recording, the comfort and ease melted away and her stomach
tightened. She realized with a start that she was about thirty minutes away, give or take traffic or a
hold-up from fans on the way out of the MBC building, from seeing a person she wanted very badly
to look at and very powerfully knew she shouldnt.
She waited patiently while Juhyun distributed signed copies of her album to the staff, greeting each
and every staff member individually with an earnest and professional fashion that again made
Taeyeons heart swell. It was difficult not to see Juhyun as something between a little sister and a
daughter. Logically, she knew there was only a two year difference between the two of them and
that she, Taeyeon, was hardly mature enough to qualify as much of an older sister, let alone a
mother, but her heart could not help but feel that way every time she looked at the girl she had
watched grow up for eleven years.
Unni. Juhyun was in front of her suddenly, looking down at her with warm, placid eyes. Are you
ready to go?
Yes. She took Juhyuns hand, lacing their fingers together. Come on, theres a back exit to the
parking garage, we can avoid the fans.
Certain fans were unavoidable, though. A few of the girls who followed her were gathered around
her Kia Amanti when they rounded the parking garage corner. Taeyeon pressed the lock button on
her keys just to hear it honk loudly and startle the fans. She smiled wryly; Juhyun nudged her, but
Juhyun didnt live with the daily headache.
Taeyeon opened the passenger door for Juhyun and let her in. One of the fans was standing at her
elbow. Her head pounded suddenly. She slammed the door.
Do you all want to get run over, she said softly, edgily. She rounded the car and opened the
drivers side door.
Are you going to Jessicas? one of the fans asked politely.
Usually she ignored them. Tonight the anxiety was scraping at the self-control she had worked years
to build up. She rolled her eyes, spat, Dont you already know? and then climbed into the car,
slamming the door after herself. With a roar of the engine, she peeled out of the parking garage, not
bothering to make sure she had cleared them from in front of the car. Undoubtedly they would
follow. Undoubtedly a group of them were already waiting at Jessicas for her. She growled
unintelligibly under her breath as she eased her car out into the Seoul traffic.
Juhyun put one cool hand on the side of Taeyeons neck. Unni, take it easy. They just want to rile
you up.
Why is it me.
All of the other girls had stalker fans who occasionally followed them, showed up at their
apartments in the hopes of seeing them, or followed them to various filming and schedules, but she
was the only one with a dedicated group that followed her every move. She couldnt sneeze without
one of them offering her a tissue, appearing from behind some circumspect hiding space. One had
cornered her in a public bathroom once.

I dont know, Juhyun said thoughtfully. You must have done something to encourage their
Taeyeons eyes narrowed. She changed lanes abruptly because there was a taxi behind her. She
knew. So its my fault then, she said bitterly. Her tone held a hint of defensiveness and reproof but
she smiled because, in all things, she didnt want to hurt Juhyun.
No, Juhyun said delicately. She paused. But maybe you should consider the impression you give
Taeyeon was silent as she maneuvered her car through Friday night central Seoul traffic. Perhaps it
was sheer willfulness, but she had no idea what Juhyun meant. Of the nine of them, Taeyeon was
the most stand-offish with fans; she was known for it, actually, and had often seen fans discussing it
on the internet. She had worked hard to train the fans into understanding that there was a distinct
line between acceptable fan behavior and unacceptable fan behavior. She went out of her way to be
kind and approachable during public fan events like fan meetings, signings, concerts, show tapings.
The moment a fan overstepped their bounds and inched into her private life, she was quick to
change her attitude toward them. She had done this for years and as such had developed a reputation
for her hot/cold behavior among fans. For that reason alone, she could not understand what
compelled these girls to follow her around. Certainly they knew that the moment they had started,
she had immediately begun to hate them. Why her, of all people? Many of the other members were
far more indulgent toward disrespectful fans. Why not them?
She realized with a start that she was fuming heavily, exhaling angrily out of her nose just like
Juhyun did when she was angry. For her part, Juhyun was looking at her softly out of the side of her
Relax, unni.
Usually Taeyeon hated being told to relax. She disliked any blatant dismissal of her feelings. But
Juhyun was an exception; Juhyun got away with a lot around her. It was impossible to be angry at
She exhaled, letting the tension melt out of her body. Traffic had slowed to a crawl.
Ah. Juhyun looked at her phone. Its Hyoyeon unni.
Mmm. She tried to get into the right lane for her upcoming exit. Whatd she say?
Hurry up, were waiting on you two and Im impatient asas heck. Juhyun pursed her lips.
Taeyeon doubted Hyoyeons text had been that mild.
What? she snapped. Coming from Dobong is a piece of cake, so of course you got there before
us, try navigating traffic out of Yeouido, see how you fu
Unni, Juhyun said mildly, eyebrows raised.
Taeyeon sighed for what felt like the millionth time that night.
Juhyun put her phone away. Are you anxious about seeing Tiffany unni?

Taeyeon chuckled dryly. Juhyun really didnt beat around the bush. It was surprising, though, since
the magnae was not usually the prying type. Taeyeon gave it some thought before answering.
Not anxious, really.
Its somewhere between there. She breathed. She didnt dare turn her head to make eye contact
with Juhyun; she could feel the sympathetic, pitying gaze. That was how they all looked at her
when it came to Tiffany. Pity. Oh you poor languishing thing. She clicked her tongue impatiently.
Look at it professionally, Juhyun suggested. Doesnt that make it easier? Instead of thinking
about Just think about how we can start on another group album, unni.
Right, Taeyeon agreed, feeling like a robot. Human mode disabled. Leader mode enabled. Work,
work, work; the sum of nine parts was a pop album with sweat and tears in it. There was no feeling
or desire in it. It was easier that way.

Jessica and Tiffanys apartment was four flights up. Taeyeon had unconsciously dragged her feet,
but Juhyun was a slow walker anyway. Jessica had called through the buzzer that the door was
open; they knocked twice before opening it. Beyond the threshold, the pressing milieu of the past
ten years of her life hit her, wrapped itself around her, swept into her lungs and pinned her to the
When the nine of them got together, it was loud. Suffocating. Irrepressible.
Taeyeon prided herself on a lack of soppy emotion when it came to things like this, but occasionally
it was okay to admit it.
Took you long enough, Jessica complained, taking their coats at the door. They slipped out of
their shoes. Yoona, Hyoyeon, and Yuri were gathered around the television, which was set to a low
murmur, talking loudly about the news broadcast. Sunkyu was in the adjoining kitchen, counting
utensils and arguing with Sooyoung, who was holding two bottles of beer for no discernible reason,
except perhaps that Sooyoung really liked beer, which Taeyeon guessed was actually a very
discernible reason.
We had to stop for stomach medicine, Taeyeon explained, when I heard you were cooking.
Jessica punched her in the arm, hard. Jackass. I ordered in.
Oh, thank god.
Wheres Tiffany unni? Juhyun asked, helping Jessica hang up their coats in the front closet. The
back of Taeyeons neck prickled uncomfortably.

Outside. Jessica gestured with her head toward the back door, beyond which lay the balcony.
Juhyun wrinkled her nose. Is she back to that?
Somehow picked it up in L.A. again, Jessica said with a shrug. Im going to get her to quit. Her
eyes scanned over to Taeyeon, meeting her gaze and locking it. So youre alive, huh.
Taeyeon smiled faintly, looking down at herself for a moment. Seems so.
Jessica rolled her eyes. With an impatient head shake she grabbed Taeyeon by the shoulders and
hugged her tightly. Jerk. Answer my texts sometimes, okay?
Okay. Her tone was soft as she relaxed in Jessicas arms. Jessica gave good hugs. It was difficult
for Taeyeon, who could only pat her awkwardly on the back in response, to feel as though she even
deserved them. They were warm and honesteverything Taeyeon wasnt. She sighed. Im sorry.
Ive been
Busy, Jessica finished with a laugh and as she pulled away, Taeyeon could see her rolling her eyes
again. I know.
Then she said, Juhyun and reached past her to pull the youngest into a hug but at that moment
the back door slid open and a rush of cold air accompanied the most breathtaking person Taeyeon
had ever laid eyes on. Her stomach fell. She was going to be sick.
Tiffany unni! Juhyun cried and Tiffany turned, her dark hair moving around her face in slow
motion, perfect white teeth flashed in accordance with two upturned eyes. Taeyeon choked on a
gasping breath; it was stupid, it was dramatic, it was like she was fifteen years old again.
Juhyunnie, Tiffany said warmly, striding across the apartment to wrap Juhyun in a hug and her
proximity nearly knocked Taeyeon off her feet; if Jessica hadnt been standing right beside her,
holding her up with sheer force of magnetic will, Taeyeon wondered if she mightve collapsed.
Juhyun was released and Taeyeons best friend turned to her, smiling so refreshingly sweet and
forgivingthere was no bitterness, no condemnationand put her arms around Taeyeon.
I missed you, TaeTae.
Taeyeon breathed in, holding onto Tiffany with one arm. She kept the other pressed immobile to her
side, knowing that if she risked to wrap it around Tiffanys warm, lithe figure that she would be
rendered incapable of letting go. She breathed in.
You smell awful, she lied, mumbling into Tiffanys hair. The smell of cigarette smoke clung to
her. It was usually enough to nauseate Taeyeon, but this was Tiffany, and there was nothing about
Tiffany that each of Taeyeons five senses didnt find perfect. She swallowed hard; with one hand,
Tiffany hit her back playfully.
Jerk. There was a smile in her tone. Cant you just say you missed me?
She pulled away and couldnt help but fall into Tiffanys eyes, liquid brown and hypnotizing.
I missed you.

Tiffany grinned. Me too. She looked over her shoulder and then suddenly Taeyeon was reminded
that not all of her senses found Tiffanys Everything perfect, as Tiffany shouted in that way-tooloud voice: Yeah! Is the food here yet?
She smiled briefly at Taeyeon, squeezed her hand, and then walked off to harass Sunkyu. Juhyun
followed along behind her (probably not with any intentions of harassment). Taeyeon watched her.
Her insides felt numb. Once again her skin tingled, seemed at once on fire with the need to press
against a mattress, feel skin around her thighs, a tongue in her mouth. She felt helpless and could
not understand why.
Jessica wrapped an arm around her shoulder tightly. Her lips pressed briefly against Taeyeons
temple. Taeyeon knew without looking that Jessicas gaze was probably saturated in pity. Just like
all the rest.
Come on, baby, Jessica murmured in her ear, pulling her bodily toward the kitchen. I bought
your favorite wine.
Taeyeon exhaled, long and measured. Yes. She would need wine.

Stephanie Hwang was a living angel with a halo behind her head.
Taeyeon smiled at her drowsily.
It was not a halo actually just a white pillow on Jessicas white couch but it meant the same thing,
deep down.
Hello, she said, and there was a moment when Tiffanys smile was so blinding white, so naturally
pure, that Taeyeon worried her headache would come back.
Hello. Tiffanys voice, Tiffanys voice, so low, so raspy, so very much the greatest thing to ever
happen to Taeyeons ears. Taeyeon leaned in, pressed her body close. Tiffanys body hummed,
vibrated. Warm. Buzzing.
Youre drunk, Tiffany said softly.
Mmm, Taeyeon agreed. She had Tiffany pinned to the couch. She could make love to Tiffany on
this couch. With all of these people watching. She didnt care. If Tiffany said the word, she would.
All she needed was the smallest bit of encouragement and she would press Tiffany against the
yielding couch cushions, put her mouth on every centimeter of flawless skin, skin that she had
dreamt about. She would draw her own name from Tiffanys lips, make her tremble with want the
way she had for years and years. And they would watch and maybe they would stop pitying her.
Tiffany giggled softly, brushing Taeyeons bangs off her forehead. She didnt seem to mind being
pressed against the couch like this. Her legs had even opened for Taeyeon, and Taeyeon swallowed
hard, pressed herself between Tiffanys legs and wanted her with her whole being.
I thought you were going to grow your bangs out, Tiffany commented.
I will if you want me to, she said candidly. Id do anything you wanted.

Tiffany laughed outright. Noooo, I just expected to come back after three months and youd be
showing that sexy forehead of yours.
She looked into Tiffanys eyes. They were eyes you could look into for the rest of your life. Music
was her life, her passion, but she would give it up just to stare into Tiffanys eyes for her entire life.
With permission. Always with permission.
I missed you. The words tasted bitter on her tongue but she meant them sweetly, sincerely.
Looking at Tiffany day in and day out was painful, but it was the good kind of pain, the aching pain
like long nails scratching her back, or the bitter acidic burn of hard liquor clearing her throat. Good
pain, pain she longed for.
Tiffanys smile was soft. Sad? I missed you, too.
Why didnt you call. Her voice felt faraway. Rough. She had drank too much. As usual.
Would you have answered?
She wasnt sure. Yes. Yes.
Taeyeon, youre drunk. It was Sooyoung. She was pulling Taeyeons arm. She was trying to take
Taeyeon away from Tiffany. She wrenched her arm away, snuggled into Tiffanys embrace. Tiffany
accepted her. Her arms came around Taeyeons back. She put her head in the crook of Tiffanys
neck, where it didnt smell like cigarette smoke, it smelled like a girl she had met at fifteen years
old and promptly fallen in love with.
Wanna stay.
Its okay, she heard Tiffany say. I got her.
Sooyoung lingered by them. Sooyoung was drunk, too, yet Taeyeon was sure she was looking down
at her with pity. Are you really okay? Shes
Its fine, Tiffany said lightly. They talked about her like she wasnt there. Taeyeon was a problem
that the members had to deal with sometimes. Someone should check on Taeyeon. Have you heard
from Taeyeon. Does Taeyeon know about this. When Taeyeon finds out she will be upset. Did
Taeyeon say anything to you. Did Taeyeon do anything to you. Did Taeyeon hurt you. The problem
the problem the problem was Taeyeon.
She felt like crying. She pressed herself into Tiffany. It was the closest she would ever get.
Tiffany would never love her like she loved Tiffany but at least Tiffany didnt hate her for it, at least
Tiffany wasnt disgusted, or afraid. Or concerned. Concern was the worst. There were few phrases
she disliked more than Taeyeon Im concerned.
I am drunk, Taeyeon announced suddenly. She felt she should be upfront with Tiffany, who was
so pure and good. Then she felt self-conscious. Dont take me seriously, Im drunk.
Yes, baby, I know youre drunk, Tiffany said. She was smiling. She was so pretty.
Youre so pretty.

Tiffany laughed.
I love you.
Another laugh. She lifted Taeyeons bangs off her forehead again. Love you, too.
If only unni was this affectionate sober, Yoona commented. Where had Yoona come from. Yoona
was drunk. Yoona was a lousy drunk.
Go away, Yoona, Taeyeon said eloquently and Yoona laughed that great laugh, that great Yoona
laugh that was so much more Yoona when Yoona was drunk.
She looked down, and then she looked up. Jessica and Tiffanys apartment, quiet with the
comforting volume; the eight people she loved most in the world, maybe, although she would never
say it. When Tiffany had said, three months ago, that she needed a break and was going to head
back home to California to sort out her head, none of them had suspected it would last as long as it
didand yet none of them had really expected her to come back. It wasnt that they thought she
wouldntit was just too difficult to have expectations.
Eight years ago they had been shoved out on a stage and forced to be a group, and so sometimes
they wondered if they were forced to be a family, too.
Taeyeon did, sometimes. She wondered sometimes if she loved the group because she loved them,
or if she loved them because she had to. But that night, pressed against her best friend, the girl she
loved, and surrounded by the group members that she needed like air, she thought it wasnt an
obligation, really. It was love, in a pure, drunk, beautiful kind of way.

chapter three
The light had faded. She wasnt sure if she had fallen asleep, but the next time she came to, the
apartment was significantly quieter, darker, and Tiffany was attempting to extricate herself from
underneath Taeyeons body. The living room was dark. They were alone.
Where are you going, she mumbled. She tightened her grip around Tiffanys waist.
Trying to get away from me, Taeyeon mumbled. She looked blearily at Tiffany. So pretty. Are
you afraid of me?
Tiffany gazed at her. Her expression was soft. Not at all. Never.
I would never hurt you.
TaeTae, I know that.
Her stomach lurched and fluttered. She loosened her grip a little.
I have to pee, Tiffany told her. She let her go and rolled over, burying her face in the couch

Where is everyone?
They went home. She opened one eye. Tiffanys legs. The curve of her knee. She reached out
with one finger and touched her, lightly. Jessi said it would be better if you stayed the night here.
Mmm. Can I sleep with you.
Tiffany laughed and ruffled her hair. Youre a pervert. Ill be right back. Go drink some water.
She did stagger into the kitchen and drank glass after glass of water. She tried to relax. Her mind
felt fuzzy, pleasantly blurry, but she wanted to remember how the evening had gone. They had eaten
dinner after the food had arrived. She hadnt eaten muchperhaps that was why she had gotten so
drunkbut she had looked at Tiffany from across the table and that had been enough. They had
discussed the next group album and had decided to meet with their producer within the next week.
They had discussed concepts, song ideas. They were excited about it. Their sixth full-length album.
It felt like it was a long-time coming, even if it really wasnt.
When Tiffany talked about L.A. her eyes lit up. Taeyeon was sure she had a boyfriend. She was sure
of it. She had drank a lot of wine to dull the ache.
Tiffany came back. She leaned against the kitchen door and watched Taeyeon drinking water.
Taeyeon put the glass down. You gained a lot of weight.
Tiffany shoved her. Youre such an ass, oh my god.
Speaking of asses, yours is looking
She shoved her again. Jerk.
Taeyeon gazed at her. She wanted to say something but could not make herself. Jessica came in
then, dressed for bed. She grabbed a water bottle from the fridge.
Does Taengoo need blankets and pillows or are you going to grab some for her? she asked
Tiffany shrugged. She can sleep in my bed.
Jessica looked at her. Her expression was very serious. Taeyeon stiffened.
Are you Jessica began, but Taeyeon pushed past both of them on the way back to the living
Ill sleep on the couch.
Then Tiffany, who didnt know how to whisper properly, said in a hushed tone, Stop making her
feel bad.
I just dont want you to be uncomfortable
Its fine

Taeyeon pulled off her jeans and collapsed onto the couch again. Jessica came in and kissed her
forehead. She put a water bottle on the table next to the couch.
Love you, Taengoo. Let me know if you need anything.
Dont want you to be uncomfortable, Taeyeon retorted, but regretted it the moment she saw
Jessicas face fall. It wasnt Jessicas fault she was like this. It was her fault, everything was her
own fault. She shouldve fallen in love with someone else. She grabbed Jessicas wrist. Love you,
Tiffany had gone into her room and came back with a blanket and a pillow. Jessica went to bed.
Tiffany lifted Taeyeons bangs off her forehead again. Taeyeon gazed up at her. She thought her
expression was probably not dissimilar to worship. Other people looked up to the heavens for
comfort, but Taeyeon needed only to look up to Tiffany.
You can come sleep with me, Tiffany said, but Taeyeon took the pillow and blanket anyway.
You dont know what Ill do to you in your sleep.
Tiffany chuckled. She put her hand on Taeyeons cheek. Absolutely nothing. Because you would
never hurt me. Good-night.
She tried to get comfortable on the couch but it was difficult and she felt guilt and her head was
killing her.

There was no glamor to waking up alone, either.

She groaned and rolled over. Her neck and upper back were both stiff. The three of them had been
too drunk the previous night to think about closing the curtains in the living room. Without opening
her eyes Taeyeon knew just how much light was threatening to split through and make the pounding
in her head worse.
She blinked slowly. Slept with her contacts in, again. A groan slipped past her lips.
Taengoo. Jessica slapped her butt. Rise and shine.
Taeyeon screwed her eyes shut. There was nothing worse than being woken up by Jessica, who had
perfected the art of waking people up in the most obnoxious ways possible, mostly in retaliation of
all the years they had all spent attempting various methods on her.
What time is it. Her voice sounded as rough as it felt.
A little after eleven, Jessica chirped. Jessica was awful because Jessica never got hungover. Not
only was she a charming, happy, clingy drunk, but she never got hungover. Taeyeon hated her. Or
would, if she could.
Ugh. She rolled onto her back. On the table next to the couch was a glass of water and a bottle of
pain medicine. Sitting up, she tipped the bottle into her mouth and washed down the pills with

Thats more than the recommended dosage, Jessica said thoughtfully. She sat on the table,
crossing her legs primly.
Taeyeon closed her eyes, massaging the bridge of her nose. Youre more than the recommended
dosage. What did I do last night.
Got drunk.
Obviously, Taeyeon retorted.
And didnt wake up with a strange girl, for once.
Youre pretty strange.
Jessica grinned. She moved to sit behind Taeyeon and then massaged her temples gingerly. Taeyeon
leaned back into her touch.
You just clung to Tiffany all night and whined about how much you loved her.
Taeyeon cringed. She could actually feel her head throbbing.
So nothing unusual then, she said bitterly.
Nope, run-of-the-mill drunk Taengoo, Jessica said softly. How are you?
What do you mean? Jessica remained silent, gently massaging her head. It felt good. Taeyeon
sighed. Its a little hard to see her. But
But. As hard as it is, its a lot harder to not see her. She frowned. Does that make sense.
Yeah. Jessica kissed the back of her head. I love you, Taengoo.
Taeyeons skin felt prickly. Mmm, she agreed. She knew Jessica wouldnt expect her to say it
back. Not sober. It wasnt in her personality.
I just want you to be happy.
Taeyeon thought about it for a long time. I am happy, she lied. She felt Jessicas arms wrap
around her shoulders from behind, felt her press another kiss to the back of her head. She could tell
Jessica didnt believe her. Jessica, like the rest of them, pitied her.
But all she said was Okay, and then she stood and headed toward the bathroom to shower,
mumbling something about having to meet unni for a late breakfast. Taeyeon released an unstrung
sigh and fell back on the couch, nursing a pounding headache. She was beginning to forget what a
head that wasnt pounding and throbbing painfully even felt like.
She felt a weight on her shoulder and when she opened her eyes she found Tiffany nestled against
her side, eyes closed. Her hair was a mess and her face was lined with sleep. Taeyeon shifted as
gently as she could to make room for her best friend.

Good morning, Tiffany mumbled sleepily.

Morning. She cleared her throat. The discomfort was throbbing in her veins. About last night
Sorry I well
For what?
Shhhh, Tiffany hissed and she flung an arm around Taeyeons waist. Lets sleep.

The next time she woke up the headache was a little better but the dryness in her mouth was a
million times worse, the couch was cold and uncomfortable, and she was alone. She wandered into
the kitchen to drink water. She liked looking at all the magnets and pictures and notes Jessica and
Tiffany had collected on their refrigerator. She liked Jessica and Tiffanys apartment a lot. When the
lease on their old dorm had ended and theyd decided to move into their own apartments, Taeyeon
hadnt actually expected the two of them to move in together. She knew, of course, how close they
were, but they argued so often she hadnt expected it. They were a nice fit, though.
Hyoyeon and Juhyun moving in together had made less sense, even, although they had been
roommates at their old dorm. Taeyeon could never quite figure out how the two had managed to fit
together so well; in a lot of ways they seemed like polar opposites. Juhyun was straight-laced, neat,
meticulous, organizedHyoyeon was none of that. Yet they fit together so well; Juhyun cleaned up
Hyoyeons messes while Hyoyeon forced the straight-laced magnae to be a bit more flexible, an
accomplishment the rest of the group had been attempting to achieve for years. Somehow, despite
their differences, they were perfect as roommates.
Taeyeon supposed that, in a way, the trio of Yuri, Sooyoung, and Yoona were technically also
perfect as roommates, although she was loath to admit it. When they had announced that they would
be springing for a bigger apartment so that the three of them could live together, her initial response
had been, Is it really safe to put so many stupid people under one roof? They were bad enough on
their own, but if you put any of them together you wound up with a chemical compound of so much
immature jackassery it shouldve been illegalTaeyeon thought this lovingly, of course. Still, they
somehow worked as roommates, perhaps mostly because it was better to confine their stupidity to
one place rather than scattering it about SeoulTaeyeon thought this lovingly, too, of course.
She and Sunkyu had considered moving in together but they both knew it wouldnt happen.
Certainly Sunkyu was the member she confided in the most, the member she was incredibly close
to, and they had lived comfortably as roommates for many years, but Sunkyu knew better than most
people how much of a loner Taeyeon was. And she had wanted to be with her family, who lived in
Seoul anyway. She had moved back home with them while Taeyeon had gone out of her way to get
a small apartment out of Gangnam, where the rest of the girls were livingit wasnt terrifically far,
just far enough to give her an excuse to decline invitations when she just wasnt in the mood for
socializing. It was nothing against them; it was just her nature. She preferred isolation and had
already lived many years surrounded by them.
There had been rumors on the internet, at the time, that there must have been rifts in Girls
Generations friendships if leader Taeyeon was living alone, but no one had ever understood Girls

Generation except Girls Generation.

The balcony door opened then and Tiffany came in from outside. She was showered and dressed but
now she smelled like cigarette smoke
You better quit, Taeyeon said. She leaned against the counter and drank water.
Tiffany smirked. Yeah, or youll do what?
A frown settled on Taeyeons lips. She decided not to rise to the bait. Come on. I thought you
I did, she replied, but I started again while I was in L.A., and
Its bad for you, it smells, and were going to be working on our comeback, so your throat and
lungs need to be in excellent shape.
Oh, so this is an order from the team leader?
Taeyeon looked at her. No. Its a request. From your best friend.
Tiffanys smile was beautiful. All right.
Thank you.
Tiffany brushed past her to open up the refrigerator. She did smell like cigarette smoke but she also
smelled good, clean. It stuck hard in Taeyeons throat and became difficult to swallow. She closed
her eyes. The ache in her head had dulled to a steady, humming throb. Easier to ignore.
Do you have somewhere to be? Tiffany sounded hesitant. Or can you stick around.
She wanted very badly to lie to her best friend and make a hasty getaway. She could only handle so
much closeness for so long before the proximity began to drive her insane. But it had been three
months. And the earnestness in Tiffanys tone made her insides feel soft. Tiffany wanted her there.
She paused. I dont have anywhere to be, she said. Do you want breakfast?
That smile again. Her entire body throbbed just looking at it. Yes, please.
Okay, Taeyeon said, looking in the refrigerator over Tiffanys shoulder. I guess Ill make you a
western-style breakfast or
Tiffanys hand wrapped securely around her elbow. She looked into Taeyeons eyes. Ive been
eating western food for the last three months, she admitted. I kind of missed your Korean food.
Taeyeon nodded, numb. Kimchi fried rice, it is.

They stood at the counter and ate from the pan. Drinking water and eating made Taeyeons
headache slip through her skull and disappear. Things felt like old times, suddenly. They leaned
against the counter and caught up, trading stories of what they had done over the past three months.
This space, where their words met and brushed against each other, the depths of Tiffanys rolling,

throaty tone, the familiar entwining of their laughterthis was where Taeyeon felt the most at
home. Tiffanys crescent-shaped eyes and her perfect white teeth, the soft skin along her cheekbone.
This was home. She had her best friend back.
So were you with your dad the entire time?
Noooo, Tiffany intoned, laughing. I mostly stayed with unni and her husband. I saw Daddy a lot
butI dont know, if I spent the entirety of three months around him Id probably go crazy.
Mmm, maybe, Taeyeon agreed. She scraped the bottom of the pan. Or youd realize you didnt
want to come back.
It was a big part of why she rarely stayed with her parents for more than a few weeks at a time. If
she stayed too long, let Jeonju get back into her bloodstream, would she want to come back to
Seoul, to this complicated life with people she loved and a job she couldnt live without and the
hollow misery and/or happiness of the past eleven years of her life? Would she start weighing the
pros and cons, an activity she had avoided for years, and come up with the realization that it, this
life, wasnt for her? She was terrified to find out.
Tiffany was silent for a long moment. Perhaps, like Taeyeon, she was trying to piece it together, too.
No, she said at last. Id come back, no matter what. This is my home. My real home.
Taeyeon tried not to let on how surprised Tiffanys confession made her. Neither of them had ever
admitted to thinking of Seoul as home. It was easy to circumvent the depth of the conversation
home is where the heart is or home is where your family iswhich meant that home was both
places. But Tiffany had never admitted to thinking of Seoul as her real home.
Taeyeon ran the pan under the water and rolled up her sleeves to scrub it.
I guess its mine, too, she said quietly, thoughtfully.
It better be. Tiffanys tone sounded like it was struggling to remain light, casual. Your home
should always be where I am. She smiled.
Taeyeon frowned, scrubbing the sponge against the sticky sauce in the pan. Always? But youll
find someone else.
She said it with the kind of frank openness that being in love with one person for the better part of
your life would bring someone. She had long accepted it. Tiffany would find a person who wasnt
her, and she would love them and marry them. She, Taeyeon, would remain in the wings, watching
but not watching, alone but pretending not to be. She had accepted it, and it was not quite as
melancholy as words made it out to be.
Tiffany made coffee.
Maybe Ill find someone else, but Ill only ever have one TaeTae.
Her stomach felt very strange in response.
Speaking of having you, Tiffany went on and Taeyeons stomach somersaulted in turn; her eyes
caught Tiffanys twinkling mischievous eyes and she swallowed hard.

Having me?
Jessi told me you have a girlfriend. Tiffany grinned but Taeyeon snorted, rolling her eyes back to
her work. She let the soap suds creep up her wrists.
You know I dont do relationships.
Yeah, but Jessi said
Jessica is too deep into her own relationship to be able to comprehend other peoples, Taeyeon
retorted. She rinsed furiously. I dont do relationships.
Tiffany smirked. It was maddening. Jessica seemed pretty certain that you were seeing one girl
more than any other girls.
That doesnt make it a relationship.
She clapped her hands gleefully. Oh my god, you are!
Taeyeon shut off the water. For some reason a tension headache was building behind her ears. She
swallowed around the confusion in her throat and set the pan on the drying rack. Tiffany was still
smiling gleefully at her.
So whats her name? Do I know her? Jessi says shes the coordinator for Soojungs group.
Taeyeon sighed. Tiffany was not going to give up.
Kang Hyejin and I dont know if you know her.
Did she ever work for us?
Why are you so nosy? Her eyes narrowed, partly in suspicion, but also in an attempt to ward off
the sharp pain of another headache.
Because! she whined. She handed Taeyeon a towel to wipe her hands with. You dating someone
is a big deal.
Im not dating her.
But you knew who I was talking about when I said you were dating someone, so you admit that
theres something unique about your relationship with her. Is she pretty?
Obviously shes pretty, Taeyeon said stiffly.
How old is she?
Our age. Why are you asking so many questions?
I cant be excited that my best friend has a hot girlfriend?
Shes not my girlfriend and who said shes hot?

Tiffany laughed outright. Well, if Kim Sleeps-With-A-Different-Girl-Every-Night Taeyeon is

going back to the same girl over and over again she must be pretty hot.
Youre just as annoying as Jessica, Taeyeon grumbled. Her ears felt hot. The headache clenched
around the base of her skull.
Can I meet her?
Taeyeon was about to lose her temper. She knew that Tiffany probably realized this; Tiffany knew
her better than anyone and knew her limits, her buttons, and how to push them. Her mounting
annoyance seemed to only bring Tiffany delight. The most annoying thing was that Tiffany was so
annoyingly pretty when she was amused like this. It staved off her anger temporarily.
Why not?
Do I have to introduce you to every girl I sleep with?
I dont think my brain has the capacity to deal with that many people, Tiffany commented wryly,
but if this ones your girlfriend, then yes, you have to introduce me.
She is not my girlfriend. I see her sometimes. I see a lot of people.
Yeah, but do you see all of them more than once?
Taeyeon remained silent. Tiffany had a point, even if she didnt get it.
Tiffany clapped again. Oh my god, this is so exciting. Ive been waiting for you to settle down and
get a girlfriend.
A pause. Tiffanys enthusiasm made her feel queasy. Why? she asked softly, but she thought she
knew the answer.
Because. Youre my best friend. And I want you to find someone who will make you happy.
Or, thought Taeyeon as she studied Tiffanys face silently, impassively, you want me to get over you
so that you can stop feeling guilty all the time. You want me to find someone else, so I can forget
about you, and you can stop pitying me, worrying about me, fearing me.
She released a sigh that stuck in her lungs a bit, forgetting to relieve her of any of the pressure that
had built up. Im gonna go.
Tiffany walked her to the door. Dont forget about dinner.
You promised to have dinner with me tonight.
I did?

Yeah, you promised last night.

Taeyeon slipped into her shoes, grumbling. You took advantage of me while I was drunk?
You wish, Tiffany shot back, eyebrows raised. Taeyeon coughed quietly, embarrassed. There are
worse things than having dinner with me, she reminded Taeyeon teasingly.
Yeah? Taeyeon checked the time on her phone and then shoved it in her back pocket. Ill try to
think of some. Give me a call when youre ready.
Tiffany smoothed Taeyeons hair across her forehead and tucked it behind her ear. Wordlessly, she
closed the door. Outside it was cold as hell but Taeyeons skin was burning. It had burned for more
than ten years now.

chapter four
Later, Kim Taeyeon will attempt to romanticize it and call it love at first sight. Its not conscious
dissimulation; its the frivolous imaginings of a mind streaked with teenage love. Later, she can
only recall the feeling in her stomach, the butterflies that burst into busy activity and then settle
down just as quickly as they come. Later, she will fantasize that there were sparks when they first
touched, when Stephanie Hwangs tan, warm hand grabbed hers and she shook it enthusiastically.
She will fantasize that the world fell away and there was just the two of them and that she was
fifteen years old and in love.
Presently, though, her first thought is that Stephanie Hwang is too fat and hopes that shes fatter
than her, Taeyeon, who felt the fattest of all the trainees. It is the sort of teenage insecurity that has
come crashing down around her shoulders without warning; back in Jeonju, it didnt feel this way.
People in Seoul are thin, beautiful, talented. At least she thinks so.
She thinks, with frustration, that the companys lack of organization is probably intentional, to jerk
them around, to keep them in their place. She has been with SM Entertainment for barely four
months and already she feels jaded, cynical. She has jumped through numerous hoops and all she
wants is to sing. She thinks this quietly, staring into the dark pools of Stephanies eyes. The only
indication shes received that she will have a new roommate is another one of the girls in the dorm,
earlier that morning, saying there had been a message on the machine that another trainee would be
joining them in the hostel and that they should make room. Taeyeons room is the only one still
unfilled; the hostel is full to brimming now, sevennow eightgirls of various ages all under one
roof, sevennow eightgirls with nearly identical schedules, sevennow eightgirls with the
same industrious rawness in their eyes, exhaustion in their bones, tension in their muscles.
The other trainee, whose name Taeyeon still hasnt memorized, because she isnt in the same
practice group as Taeyeon and there are too many names to learn anyway, had told her to make
room for the new girl and she had, moderately. She has little in the way of possessions, truthfully,
and feels barely moved in herself.
When she comes back from practice that night, sore and aching, the tan girl with dyed blonde hair is
in her room, looking at the framed pictures of Taeyeons family on the wardrobe. Taeyeon sets her
backpack down on the floor with a thud and the girl turns. She is chubby. Her eyes disappear
completely and her smile is bright, magnetic, and Taeyeon feels herself smiling back unconsciously

as the girl dips down in a low bow.

Hello! she greets excitedly and with one word Taeyeon can tell shes a foreigner, the American
accent in even her greeting unmistakeable. You must be Kim Taeyeon.
She bows as well. Yeah.
Taeyeon is not shy, although many take her to be so; she suspects Stephanie Hwang thinks so too
when she doesnt ask for her name, but its not in Taeyeons nature to prod answers out of people if
they dont give it up in the first place.
The bright smile falters, but only slightly. Im Stephanie. Hwang. Stephanie. Im from California.
Nice to meet you. She smiles but it hurts her cheeks. She looks down.
Stephanie looks at her expectantly.
Im going to shower, Taeyeon says, and the communication is broken.
She showers. When she comes out, Stephanie showers, and Taeyeon does homework in the
meantime. She is in bed, lights out, before Stephanie finishes her shower. In the morning, she leaves
for school before Stephanie is awake. They spend the next week seeing each other seldom, if at all.
They only share the large dance class together at SM. At home they eat separately, do homework
separately. It is a vague, tiring routine.
She thinks, often, that Stephanie is very pretty, but she thinks many people are pretty, and the
thoughts are drowned out by thoughts of school, training, school, training, school, training, losing
weight, mom, dad, oppa, Hayeon, the crushing loneliness. There is too much. Her mind feels
compacted. When the thoughts of Stephanie come, sometimes forcefully, demanding, she pushes
them out and resolves to think about them tomorrow.
What shes avoiding thoughts of, really, she doesnt know. She just knows it feels better if she
doesnt think about it.

Taeyeon sshi. Are you done?

Its the weekend. Taeyeon is eating. Stephanie is doing the sink full of dishes left behind by their
various roommates.
Taeyeon looks down at her bowl. Mmm. She holds it tight in her hand as Stephanie attempts to
take it from her.
Ill do it, Stephanie says kindly. Her speech is funny. Its not even that the pronunciation is poor
although it isbut that she says everything with such a short tongue. Its cute.
No, Taeyeon says. She stands. Why did you do this whole sink full of dishes? You shouldve left
them to be cleaned up by whoever dirtied them.
I just want to be useful.
Taeyeon frowns. You have just as much use as anyone else, she says stonily, rinsing her bowl.

This is as complicated and lengthy as their conversations get. She feels like Stephanie walks on
eggshells around her. She has taken more quickly to the other roommates, the other trainees.
Stephanie is about to leave, so Taeyeon says, Stephanie sshi.
Stephanie stops. Already she is becoming paler, thinks Taeyeon, and shes only been out of
California for a few weeks now. Isnt that funny.
What year were you born?
1989. You?
Taeyeon smiles. Oh. Were the same age.
Stephanies eyes widen. Taeyeon cant help but bristle at the surprise, but shes used to it. She is
growing slowly, but theres still time; shes only fifteen.
Really? Stephanie says excitedly. Lets be friends, then.
Okay, Taeyeon-ah?
It sounds cute from her, somehow, and Taeyeon looks down busily into the soap suds spilling out of
her bowl. Y-yes Stephanieyah
Stephanie giggles. This is cute, too. Taeyeons cheeks feel very warm.
Since were friends, Ill teach you how to say my name, okay? Ste-pha-nie. Okay?
She nods numbly, not daring to repeat it back. She knows she will get it wrong. The F sound is
difficult on its own, never mind adding junk before and after it. But Stephanie is looking at her
expectantly, so she mumbles out the name quickly, hoping that itll suffice.
Stephanie shakes her head and repeats: Ste-pha-nie
Its too long, Taeyeon says hotly. She sets the bowl on the drying rack. Whats your Korean
Now Stephanie blushes. The pink against the tan of her cheeks is oddly mesmerizing. Shes pretty,
Taeyeon thinks and then thinks it again before she can make herself un-think it. Shes pretty.
Not telling, Stephanie says.
She tries to brush past Stephanie out the door but Stephanie moves her body forward, swings into
Taeyeons personal space, and there is little she can do to stop herself from bumping bodily into
Stephanie. Her body feels warm. She is radiating warmth. Taeyeons ears feel hot. Her throat closes
How about this? Stephanie is too close. Her voice is very loud, rough. Yet melodic. Taeyeon feels

like she cant breathe. How about just the last two syllables. Pha-nie. Ffffff. Fany.
Pany, Taeyeon attempts and the smile Stephanie bestows on her is so beautiful she has to step
Close enough, Stephanie says.

A few nights later she watches from her bed, in the dimness of the dark moonlit bedroom, as
Stephanie comes out of the shower, wrapped in a towel. She is unable to sleep that night. She thinks
its probably the moonlight, which can make anything look beautiful, irresistible. She thinks it
might just be that the curve where shoulder meets neck might be beautiful on anyone, and she
theorizes that there is nothing abnormal in thinking girls are beautiful, since doesnt it seem as
though girls were made to be beautiful? Its a resolution she has contented herself with many times
in the past; it was fine to notice how pretty girls were because that was the point of girls. They were
pretty. To notice that much wasnt weird; it was normal.
It doesnt help her go to sleep but it helps her through the next week, when Stephanie is near and
her skin looks smooth and sweet and her hair smells nice. It is not the first time she has felt this way
about a girl, but its certainly the most powerful.

Its when they have grown used to each other that Stephanie is transferred into her trainee group, the
sprawling cavalcade of girls unlovingly dubbed Girl Group. For the first time, they spend the
entirety of their practice together and leave at the same time. She waits with something approaching
impatience as Stephanie says goodbye to everyone, because Stephanie is that kind of a person.
They head to the subway together.
Where are we going? Stephanie asks.
Taeyeon blinks at her. To get home.
Oh! Stephanies eyes are wide like a puppys. You can take the subway home?
Of course. Taeyeon frowns. How have you been getting home?
What, Taeyeon snaps and feels bad when Stephanie recoils at the sharpness of her tone. Thats
such a waste of money, Fany.
Stephanie scratches the back of her neck in a clumsy, anxious gesture that makes Taeyeons
stomach feel strange, fluttery. I didnt know how to use the subway, so
Oh man. Taeyeon sighs. Thats you shouldve said something
She teaches Stephanie how to use the subway system and her ears become red and stay red because
Stephanie is so impressed with her knowledge. She doesnt want to admit that she really only

learned how to ride the subway a few months ago herself, because shes a country kid, and no, she
isnt cool, theres really nothing cool about her, but Stephanie keeps smiling and poking her arm and
the truth is, she begins to feel sort of cool.
They decide to get dinner together. Taeyeon counts the money in her pocket with her fingers,
searching the streets for a place she thinks Stephanie would like. She knows Stephanie and Sooyeon
eat western food a lot. Western food never treats Taeyeons stomach well, and its expensive, but her
eyes seek out western restaurants anyway.
How about here? Stephanie takes her elbow and gestures and it is a long moment before
Taeyeons eyes can focus on anything except Stephanies warm hand wrapped around her elbow.
When she looks up, she sees that theyre at a noodle stand.
Here? Are you sure?
Yeah, why not? Its late and noodles are cheap
I figured youd want western food.
Stephanie shrugs. She waves her hands around frantically in the way that she does when her Korean
is failing her in an attempt to explain. They order noodles. The ajumma gives them a lot because
theyre the only customers and she says they look skinny. It makes them laugh because it isnt
something they hear often, not while training. Taeyeons eagerness to pay for both of them
somehow results in a skirmish; she is unable to think straight, batting away Stephanies outstretched
hand with half the money in it.
The way Stephanie eats noodles is cute. Slurp once, slurp twice, big gulp of water. Her cheeks
become round and her eyes disappear. Her mouth is mesmerizing.
Taeyeon dislikes the feeling mostly because she likes it too much.
Taeyeon-ah, mumbles Stephanie in her terrible Korean; she touches Taeyeons cheek with one
finger and Taeyeon has trouble swallowing. Air becomes stuck in her throat.
Im glad were in the same trainee group now. Her eyes disappear. Even though her mouth is
covered by the bowl shes lifted to her mouth, Taeyeon knows she is smiling. She has memorized
Stephanies smile. She can even see it when she closes her eyes.
Me too.
Even if one of us gets cycled out, or we dont debut together, oreveneven if one of us doesnt
debut Lets stick together, okay?
Taeyeon is surprised to feel how quickly her own mouth turns up into a smile. Okay.
Deal, okay?
Stephanie sticks out her pinkie. Something inside Taeyeon tells her that if she goes ahead with this,
she will never be able to look back. She hooks her pinkie around Stephanies, touches their thumbs
together, and falls head over heels.


Hey, whered you go?
Hyejin blinked up at her with sleepy concern. Taeyeon snapped her eyes back into focus; her mind
had wandered, as her mind was fond of doing. She smiled briefly, propping herself up on her
elbows as she looked down into Hyejins eyes.
Ah, I was just trying to gather my strength up for round three, she said with a grin.
Technically round four. Hyejin stretched beneath her, her soft skin pressed against her own. You
just spaced out suddenly.
Sorry. Taeyeon leaned down and kissed her, first on the forehead and then on the lips, briefly.
Sorry. A lot on my mind.
Like? Hyejins arms came around her waist, pulling her closer. This was their push-and-pull,
always. Taeyeon wanted sex. Hyejin wanted intimacy. Every encounter was a battle to reconcile the
New album. You know. Work.
Hyejin tilted her head up for another kiss. And?
Taeyeon lifted one shoulder casually. Just work. She could see Hyejin wanting to ask more and
pressed a kiss above her brow, sighing. She slipped her hand between them, hoping to distract her.
Successful, she coaxed Hyejin into round four and released a sigh from deep within her chest. It felt
warm between the sheets and she rolled off of the girl beneath her, stretching out on her back and
bringing one of the sheets with her, wrapping it around her front for modesty while it stuck
inelegantly to her skin. She had come straight over to Hyejins apartment after leaving Tiffanys; her
skin, muscles had felt crackling, like they were on edge.
Hyejin was used to her coming over in that condition, raw and disoriented with the force of her own
feelings. Hyejin was a depository for the emotions she fought most seconds of most days to keep at
bay. It was in this condition that she had made love to Hyejin against a wall, on a table, in the
shower, once right against the door outside Hyejins apartment where anyone couldve seen them.
Relaxation was not something Taeyeon knew how to come by honestly.
She felt fingers stroking her hair and exhaled again, leaning into Hyejins touch.
Talk to me about it, Hyejin said.
Taeyeon bit back a sharp retort. Although she had been seeing Hyejin regularly for a few months
now, it was true that the other girl did not know her very well. Their relationship was mostly
physical, and Taeyeon did her best to keep it just that. It was for that reason that she tried to bury
her annoyance at being coerced with the phrase she liked leasttalk to me about it. Hyejin had no

way of knowing how annoyed that sort of prodding made her feel.
She remained silent, releasing an impatient, long-suffering sigh that she hoped conveyed that she
had no plan on replying. Hyejin continued stroking her hair.
I heard from Soojung that Tiffany is back in Seoul, Hyejin admitted and Taeyeon glanced at her.
A frown set deep into her features.
She paused. Mmm.
Is that why
Soojung has a big mouth, Taeyeon commented lightly.
How are you She seemed to gather from Taeyeons expression that this was a bad question to
ask. I just mean
Shes my best friend. Taeyeon rolled her eyes. So obviously its good to have her back. Is that
what youre asking?
You know thats not what Im asking.
Then I have no idea what youre asking.
She put a hand up to her forehead. There was a headache forming there, and behind her eyes. She
brushed Hyejins hands away from her hairfirst, hastily, and then feeling apologetic, she laced
their fingers together.
I dont want to talk about it, she said at last and closed her eyes. She heard Hyejin sigh and felt
her move awayif not physically, then emotionally. That was what Taeyeon wanted. She liked to
picture herself encased in heavy armor. People like Hyejin kept trying to get in, but they were
wrong to do so. The armor was impassable.
I know that youre not my girlfriend, Hyejin said softly. The room was so quiet and still; her
voice was barely a whisper but it practically echoed in the silent room. But I still care about you.
Taeyeon snorted. She hadnt meant it derisively, really; it was a sweet sentiment. There was a
vibrating sound from the nightstand and she opened her eyes to see Hyejin reach over and pluck
Taeyeons phone from the mess on the surface.
She glanced at it before handing it over. Her tone was strange. Im guessing this is Tiffany.
The name on the screen was the one she had always programmed her best friend in as: Yeppeuni
Taeyeon cleared her throat, embarrassed. From this angle, even things she thought of as casual jokes
between her and her best friend had an almost sinister, embarrassingly telling slant to them.
Its a nickname, she explained half-heartedly before answering the phone. Hello?

TaeTae~ Tiffanys cheerful voice blared out at a decibel best heard from at least a foot away,
which was how far Taeyeon yanked the phone from her ear at the first sound of it. Tiffany had
somehow never understood that phones had microphones and therefore there was no reason to yell
into them.
Yes? Taeyeon tried for a pleasant tone but wondered, under Hyejins watchful gaze, if it wasnt
too pleasant.
Im hungry, Tiffany called teasingly. Come meet me at that place in Hongdae, okay?
IHongdae? Taeyeon groaned. Getting across the city around dinnertime was going to be a
nightmare. Cant you come to
Im waiting! Tiffany interrupted. See you soon, love you, bye!
Taeyeon exhaled, hanging up the phone. She dared not meet Hyejins eyes.
Leaving? Hyejin said softly, casually.
Mmm. She climbed out of bed, dressing. Im sorry. Ill make it up to you. She leaned over the
bed to kiss her briefly. Hyejin rolled her eyes.
Im not your girlfriend, Hyejin reminded her. You dont need to make it up to me.
Taeyeon knew it was true but somehow she still felt reprimanded.

chapter five
It was easy to get a good table, even at restaurants in Hongdae, when you were two popular
members of the nations most beloved girl group; they usually got the same table every time they
came here. It had been awhile, but the small square table shoved tightly in the corner still felt warm
and familiar to her. It was almost too hot in the crowded barbecue restaurant, but even that had a
pressing and comfortable familiarity to her. She grilled the chadolbaegi because Tiffany was terrible
at it and Tiffany refilled the soju.
There were times like this, when things were familiar and there was good food and soju and it was
just Kim Taeyeon and her best friend. It wasnt painful, it didnt make her heart ache. There were
times like this when she thought she might never be truly happy, but that shed probably always
have her best friend, in some fashion. That was a comfort.
Ballad to dance song ratio, Tiffany prompted. They were discussing the new album.
Ive written a lot of ballads in the last year, Taeyeon said thoughtfully, so Im thinking of just
shoving them all onto this album.
Oh, just unloading them on us, huh.
Yeah, something like that.
Arent those songs for your solo album? Tiffany picked a piece of meat off the grill and chewed it

Mmm. Taeyeon shrugged, draining the rest of her soju. She waited for Tiffany to finish hers
before re-filling them both. Like Ill ever finish that.
You seemed so excited about it a few months ago, Tiffany pointed out.
Taeyeon relaxed, shrugging. She leaned back against the wall. Shed always taken the seat against
the wall so she could people-watch or keep an eye out for fans. It was the familiar gesture of
routine. She chewed thoughtfully. Well, Im still excited about it. I mean, its music, Ill always be
excited about music. I justwhen things dont come together the way you want them to, its
Tiffany lifted one shoulder casually. I guess thats true.
Anyway, with nine people working on them, maybe itll work out the way I want it.
Tiffany squinted at her and then raised her shot glass. This is going to sound cheesy, but
What else is new.
its kind of symbolic of life.
Yeah. I keep thinking that, you know. Whatever it is I want or need, Im sure itll happen, since its
the nine of us.
Taeyeon shook her head, hiding a smile. Cheesy Hwang.
Oh my god, whatever. You totally feel the same.
Yeah, Taeyeon acknowledged, glancing away from her as she downed another shot. But you
wont catch me admitting it.
You dont have to say it to them. Tiffany looked at her softly. But you can always say it to me. I
know all your secrets, Kim Taeyeon.
She caught Tiffanys gaze and held it. It felt warm, just like the restaurant. All of them, huh.
When drinking with Tiffany, whose liver was made of some indestructible solid metal, it was easy
to go through two bottles of soju. Taeyeon was not quite the lightweight she had been when she had
first started drinking with Tiffany, but after they opened the third bottle, she was feeling a little
light-headed. She knew if she stood up she would feel as drunk as she was, so she stayed seated,
curling her legs around the table legs, and ordered more meat to help reduce the effect of drinking.
Thanks for having dinner with me, by the way, Tiffany said.
Like I had any choice in the matter.

Can you believe I havent had a single meal with Jessica since I got back? The party last night was
the only time Ive hung with her, shes with unni
Every second, Taeyeon finished, rolling her eyes. Theyre joined at the hip these days.
I mean Im happy that theyve gotten so serious, Tiffany admitted. Because theyve been dating
forever but it never seemed serious.
I feel like Jessica always wanted it to seem less serious than it was, Taeyeon said thoughtfully.
Why? In case it didnt work out? Tiffany asked. Taeyeon pursed her lips. Tiffany nibbled the end
of her chopstick in thought. Did you ever feel like that?
Taeyeon hummed vaguely. No, she lied.
If Tiffany realized she was lying, she didnt let on. She poured them more soju in silence.
Whats going on with everyone else?
The liquor was making her candid, so she freely gossiped in ways she did not ordinarilywhich
she knew was likely Tiffanys intention in getting her to come to dinner and get drunk with her.
Tiffany liked gossip. She liked knowing every little thing about the girls, weaving tidbits of
information around them like rope so she could tie them together, draw them near. Taeyeon admired
her for it. She knew the nine of them hadnt stayed together this long through idleness and inaction;
she also knew she, Taeyeon, was not capable of the same earnestness and determination.
So she talked, because Tiffany was a lifeline, and she would do everything in her power to keep
them together. She talked. She talked about Hyoyeons relationship, how there had been a brief
flare-up when theyd been photographed together, but that the company had managed to hush it up.
Juhyunnies album did, of course, really well.
Of course, Tiffany murmured, content. I feel bad about missing that.
Taeyeon shrugged. She did great, you know she promoted it like a pro.
Juhyuns solo efforts had pretty much solidified, for her, that she personally was not ready for a solo
effort. Not a serious one. It seemed like it should be simple, especially when all she cared about,
really, was making her own music, putting some sort of finished product on a shelf, being on stage,
but something had held her back that didnt exist with Juhyun. Juhyun had no unfinished business,
she thought. Juhyuns loyalty to the group had never been called into question. Was that it? She
couldnt quite put it into words yet. She owed the other eight members a lot, and it wasnt
something she could understand, could only feel heavy in her heart.
She moved on briskly, telling Tiffany about Sooyoungs work on her radio show, Yoonas recent
wrap on production of her film, Sunkyus various MC positions.
She loves it so much more than I ever expected her to, she commented. And Yuri, too. But she
and I write music a lot together and I think thats a thing I think its a thing she needs to keep
doing. I think shes really good.
And you?

Taeyeon frowned. I guess Im good at it, too, I just mostly do it because I need to.
Tiffany smiled, showing those sweet curved eyes. Taeyeon sighed, unconsciously. I meant. Whats
up with you. Since neither of us called while I was gone, like the jerks we are.
She smiled weakly. Nothing new.
Tiffany bit her lip. Nothing?
Taeyeon shrugged. Really. Nothing has changed with me since you left. Im a little skinnier.
Yeah, its gross, Tiffany pointed out, heaping more meat on Taeyeons plate and pushing some of
the side dishes on her side of the table closer to Taeyeons side. But I mean, theres got to be
something. Taeyeon shrugged, shaking her head. She had spent three months feeling empty and
needyand guilty for feeling so. What about Hyejin?
There was a throbbing right behind Taeyeons ear. She sighed. What about her?
Is it serious?
No, Taeyeon said, for what seemed like the thousandth time. Like I said, theres nothing serious
about it.
If theres nothing serious about it, why are you seeing her so often? I mean, otherwise, you dont
tend to sleep with the same girl more than once.
First of all, thats not really true, Taeyeon muttered. It wasnt. It was some sort of invented
misconstruction the girls had developed about her. Just because they never saw her with the same
girl more than once didnt mean it was true.
Okay, but you clearly see her more than anyone else. Why?
Maybe because she doesnt ask me so many annoying questions, like some people. She tried to
keep her expression casual, relaxed, but the tightness of her tone betrayed her.
Tiffany sighed. They were finishing the third bottle. I just want you to be happy, baby.
I am happy, she lied, again.
I want you to be happy with someone. They shared a long, agonizingly inscrutable look. Why
cant you just make this a real relationship?
Because I dont do relationships, Taeyeon said bluntly, and with a note of finality. The liquor was
making her blood boil somehow. What about you, she retorted. Have you seen anyone lately?
Tiffany didnt hesitate. I was seeing someone, in L.A. Taeyeon was taken aback by her speedy
candidness. But it didnt work out. Obviously. But Im open to a relationship.
Well. Taeyeon drained the last of her shot, feeling like shed been punched in the stomach. You
and I are different. We always have been.

Tiffany looked at her for a long moment. Taeyeon tried to meet her gaze but was seized with a
vague sense of fear that forced her to avert her eyes.
Were not that different, Tiffany said at last.
Im not sure what you mean.
Thats because youre drunk. Her tone was light, flippant, but the way she looked at Taeyeon was
Im not that drunk. I dont need to be drunk to find you confusing. Youre always confusing.
Im confusing? Tiffany shot back, eyebrows raised. Taeyeons heart fell a little; getting Tiffany
angry was never a good idea. Her best friend was probably one of the most genuinely kind and
warm-hearted people alive (although, admittedly, Taeyeon was a bit biased) but her temper was no
joke. She was Taeyeons polar opposite in many ways, and this was probably the most salient; for
all the intensity that Taeyeon bottled her feelings, Tiffany regularly exploded with hers at the exact
same intensity.
Taeyeon studied her plate pensively and then with careful deliberation admitted, Yeah. You
confuse me. Youre confusing.
And youre selfish.
Taeyeons eyes widened. What?
Tiffany shook her head and looked away. There was a loud burst of laughter from the table closest
to them. Taeyeon gripped the table, trying not to get upset.
What do you
You really only think of yourself, dont you. I mean, you dont think about me at all, do you?
Just the idea of it made Taeyeon laugh bitterly. She had no idea, did she, of how often Taeyeon
thought about her. Youre all I think about, she said tightly; she wasnt sure if it was the alcohol
or her swiftly rising anger that made her tongue looser than usual, but it was hardly a secret, was it.
How can you say that to me, when you know how I feel? I think about nothing but you.
You think about me, Tiffany argued, but you dont consider me. You dont look at it from my
point-of-view. You dont get it.
You wont let me, Taeyeon snapped and the dishes on the table bumped and crashed into one
another. All you do is confuse me and send me mixed signals
Mixed signals?
She hadnt meant to say that. I just mean
You just mean that its all about you, what you want, your feelings. Right? Have you ever stopped
to think about how I must feel?
Taeyeons head felt unhinged from her neck, like it was going to float away and take her mixed,

spinning thoughts with her. What had she spent three months waiting for, anyway? For Tiffany to
come back and confuse her and ruin her and make her feel awful? Was it a fair trade-off? There
were no faint or vague emotions when it came to Tiffany, she thought; the euphoria of her presence
was just as powerful as the misery.
Taeyeon waved her hand dismissively, pinched the bridge of her nose. She didnt want to get angry.
Excuse me, she said, standing up to go to the bathroom, leaving Tiffany behind at the table. Her
legs were shaky and as soon as she was on her feet she could feel the world spin and collect itself;
she was far drunker, and angrier, than she had thought she was while sitting down.
Sunbae? Taeyeon sunbaenim?
The one and only, she joked wryly, washing her hands in the sink. Looking up into the mirror, she
met the eyes of the young girl behind her and smiled politely. Im just kidding.
The girl smiled, tilting her head to the side. Youre kidding? Then youre not Taeyeon
She turned, holding eye contact with the girl. She recognized her now; she was a member of a girl
group that had debuted earlier this year. They had only met once, maybe, when her group had come
to Taeyeons radio show and admittedly, she wasnt following new groups close enough to
remember her name.
That depends, do you want me to be? she teased, and then smiled. It had never failed her. It
worked on every person except the person she wanted the most.
This time was no exception. Yes.
Taeyeon looked at her. She was an idol, so she was pretty. The prettier someone was, the more they
could distract her and make her forget.
She cleared her throat. Come on, come have a drink with me.
The girl, whose name Taeyeon found impossible to remember, was very excited to meet Girls
Generations Tiffany, even as Girls Generations Tiffany was not as keen on meeting her. No one,
save for Taeyeon, would ever know that, though, as no one was better at being polite and sweet than
Hwang Miyoung. It just so happened Taeyeon had known her long enough that it was easy to tell
when she was annoyedand she was very annoyed.
Taeyeon cheerfully asked for another bottle of soju. Youre old enough, right? she asked
lightheartedly, but the girl shook her head.
Im eighteen.
Shes eighteen, Taeyeon, Tiffany said icily.
Ah, Taeyeon smiled. Well. No one needs to know you were drinking.

Shes eighteen, Tiffany repeated, and her eyes were sharp. And a rookie, who wouldnt be able
to survive a scandal this early in her career
Oh please, no one will find out.
Also, again: shes eighteen.
Youve never drank with an eighteen year old? Taeyeon joked, trying to keep the mood light for
their juniors benefit.
No, Ive never drank with someone eight years younger than me, Tiffany said pointedly. Taeyeon
scoffed. The girl looked between them, meekly.
Maybe I should
No, its fine, Taeyeon said dismissively. Youre still a rookie so youll have to get used to the
fact that not every senior you meet is going to be nice to you, she quipped, nudging her head in
Tiffanys direction.
And get used to the fact that some of the seniors you meet will take advantage of you, despite the
fact that theyre much older than you
What do you mean by take advantage, Taeyeon shot back.
I mean exactly what youre trying to do here
What am I trying to do?
Tiffany rolled her eyes. You and I both know exactly what youre trying to do.
Im doing what you want me to do, Taeyeon laughed. She had definitely drank too much, and the
words were leaping onto her tongue too quickly for her to stop them. Or what you say you want
me to do. But maybe you dont really mean that. She felt something inside of her break and her
self-control crack apart. Maybe its better for your ego if you can keep stringing me along forever.
She regretted saying it the minute she saw Tiffanys face. It wasnt a good expression. It was an
expression that for most Girls Generation members meant duck and cover; get out now if you
want to be spared the wrath of Tiffanys temper.
What is that supposed to mean.
I just mean that
But Tiffany had grabbed her wrist, yanked her to her feet. We need to talk.
They excused themselves from their junior, who for her part, did her best to look politely
disinterested, as though she witnessed arguments between members of the most high-profile idol
group in the nation often.
What is your deal? Tiffany pushed her into the bathroom, locking the door behind them. She was
angry, but she looked surprised, too. Taeyeon thought she knew why. They had argued millions of
times, but it wasnt in Taeyeons nature to be aggressive, antagonisticthat was Tiffany, usually,

and Taeyeon at her worst was sullen and quiet. The alcohol had unhinged her, but it had been three
lonely months that had loosened the bolts.
Why would you bring that girl back to the table? Seriously, Taeyeon, use your brain
Why? Taeyeon frowned. I thought it would make you happy. I mean, thats what you want,
right? For me to get out of your hair, to stop moping after you like some lovesick jerk, so that you
dont have to feel guilty?
Thats not it, at all. Come on.
Oh, but only when it suits you, right? Taeyeon went on. Her throat felt tight and swollen. I mean,
you dont mind giving me false hope every few months just to keep me devoted to you, like an
idiot, because you like the attention, dont you?
Are you kidding me right now?
No, Im not.
Youre drunk.
Im drunk, but Im not stupid. You want me to date someone so badly because you want me to get
over you, right? Because Im a burden, right?
You are not a burden, Tiffany said softly. Her anger had disappeared and that made Taeyeon feel
worse, because she knew what the alternative to anger was. She would prefer anger.
Admit it.
I want you to be happy.
But not too happy, Taeyeon corrected. Because it must be a real ego boost knowing you have me
wrapped around your finger. It is, isnt it. I bet thats why you came back.
Tiffany didnt reply. She just looked at her, a long, sad look. A look filled with pity. The alternative
to anger that Taeyeon feared most.
Of course. Everyone pitied her, of course, but Tiffany pitied her most of all.
Her best friend shook her head, slowly, looked at the floor, slowly, and sighed. Slowly.
Im leaving, she told Taeyeon, and then she didturned on her heel and walked away. Looked
back once with an air of disquiet. Walked out the door. It wasnt very different from three months
ago, when Taeyeons heart had climbed into her throat and Tiffany had left her standing there,
pathetic with emotion, weak with hopelessness.
She washed her face and left the bathroom, took a young, starstruck girl home with her and hoped
that in the morning she wouldnt remember Tiffanys face, the way Tiffany had looked at her like
she was a heavy weight not worth carrying anymore.

chapter six
When theyre sixteen Stephanie has her first boyfriendnot her first first boyfriend, as shes told
Taeyeon that she dated back in L.A., but her first boyfriend in Korea, her first boyfriend since
becoming a trainee, her first boyfriend under Taeyeons apprehensive, watchful gaze. Hes a year
older than them and a student at the foreign school Stephanie and Jessica attend. Hes tall and goodlooking and has broad shoulders and clean skin.
(When Jessica is pressed for more information, she reveals that no, he has no criminal record what a
stupid question Taeyeon stop interrogating me oh my god.)
Despite herself, Taeyeon is fascinated, but her fascination only knows how to manifest itself in
biting, acidic nagging when Stephanie comes home late on weekends, cold air and euphoric
excitement clinging to her. She scolds her, because they do have a trainee showcase to prepare for
early the next morning, but mostly because thats what she does and thats what she thinks
Stephanie expects from herTaeyeon, short and occasionally boyish and somehow, therefore, the
completely nonsexual roommate who has somehow managed to become one of Stephanie Hwangs
best friends despite the fact that theyre polar opposites.
And because its just what Taeyeon does and its what Stephanie expects from her, she just laughs at
her scolding, takes her clothes off in front of their shared closet and leaves for the bathroom in
underwear that doesnt match and is still impossible not to stare at.
When Taeyeon tries to think about it, it hurts, so she tries not to think about it at all. She wants to be
a singer and so she decides thats all she can do; she cant even picture herself in a relationship. She
cant imagine herself in a romantic situation. Its not that shes incapable, really, she just cant
picture it, so she shoves it out of the way.
Jessica has said to her, more than once, that she gets it, but Jessicas had three boyfriends since
Taeyeons met her, so Taeyeon thinks shes probably full of it.

She first meets Shin Yoojung after math class one day when she is staring with despondent
indignation at todays returned math exam. Sooyoung laughs so hard Taeyeon hopes her head will
collapse in on itself and then says shell meet her outside so they can walk to practice together.
She shakes her head, stuffing the test in her pocket, and then there is a girl, with clean skin, tiny
eyes, pretty teeth. She stands expectantly in front of Taeyeons desk as Taeyeon pulls her backpack
How did you do, Taeyeon?
Her voice is soft, lilting. Taeyeon finds it pretty in the way she finds all melodic things pretty, in the
way she hears music in almost everything. She clears her throat, shrugging. Uh, not as well as I
thought, but, and when she shrugs casually, the girl smiles and its bright, glittering, familiar.
I just saw you looked upset, so if you need help in math, I dont mind helping you.
Ah, Taeyeon replies, and doesnt know what else to say. Truthfully, shes terrible at math, and its
bringing down her average, but she is not the sort of person who can imagine being tutored, or
asking for help, even when its being offered. Moreover, it only upsets her in a halfhearted way,
because she cant think of what shell need math for. She doesnt know how to look in the future

past the stage lights, because singing is the only thing she knows how to do well.
Or not, the girl says bravely, laughing, and her laugh is even more melodic than her voice; it
makes Taeyeons insides feel like liquid. Maybe we could just hang out.
It hangs in the air a little and when she smiles, Taeyeon returns it, warmly.
Sorry, she says softly, I guess I dont know your name.
I usually sit in the back, the girl responds by way of explanation, so maybe you dont notice me.
Im Shin Yoojung.
Kim Taeyeon, she returns, but Yoojung giggles.
I know.
They arent quite friends after that, but they do say hello everyday except the day after Sooyoung
jokes hey Taeyeon whos that huh your girlfriend and Taeyeon feels too embarrassed to say hello
next time.

Stephanie and the-guy-whose-name-Taeyeon-refuses-to-remember break up only six weeks after

they start dating. Stephanie texts her about it and when she comes home, Taeyeon is prepared to
comfort her, but Stephanie is completely unfazed. She smiles brightly, not at all the mess of tears
Taeyeon had expected.
It was mutual, she says, and then, matter-of-fact: Im only sixteen, no relationship at this age
should be long-term.
Despite the five months between them and the fact that Taeyeon has always seen herself as
somehow responsible and protective, everything Stephanie says to her is soaked in wisdom she
would never be able to produce. She nods, dazed with numbness, and joins Stephanie in folding
their laundry wordlessly. All the things she had planned to say as words of comfort melt on her
tongue. She wonders if Stephanie will ever be someone who needs comfort. She wonders if she
will, either.
Taeyeon is not someone who feels comfortable being comforted. And for the first time since
meeting her, she realizes that Stephanie isnt either. They have very little in common, truthfully, but
she wonders if thats a significant thing.
He was a good kisser, Stephanie admits and Taeyeon rolls her eyes. Partly, again, because its
what she thinks Stephanie expects of her, and mostly, really, because its the last thing she really
wants to hear.
Then she asks, TaeTae, of the boys youve kissed, who was the best kisser? and Taeyeon wrinkles
the t-shirt shes folding, self-conscious.
She pretends to think. Um.
I know you hate talking about stuff like that, but its me, you know?
Right, Taeyeon agrees. She folds the t-shirt into a tiny little square and then attempts to fold it

some more. Well

Have you ever kissed anyone? Stephanie narrows her eyes at her. Taeyeon feels her ears become
Of course, she says defensively. Im sixteen, of course
I mean, like, a real kiss, not the kind of kiss youd give to your mother.
Oh my god! Stephanie squeals and hits her shoulder. Her teeth are pearly white and her eyes
disappear into those perfect stupidly charming crescents that Taeyeon is starting to hate looking at.
Taeyeon, you havent?
Taeyeon tries, desperately, to think of something cool to say, but can only mumble, Dont make
fun of me, which she thinks, really, only makes it worse. She picks up another shirt to fold.
Oh my god, Stephanie keeps saying. Taeyeon imagines inventive ways to murder her.
Strangulation by sweatpants. Suffocation by old t-shirt.
Its not that big of a deal, she says finally, mostly in an effort to get Stephanie to stop oh-my-goding at her. Ive never had a real boyfriend, and I dont really have time, and truthfully, I dont
really know how to.
Yeah, but Taeyeon
No, really. She puts down her laundry. Its embarrassing, leave me alone.
She stalks into the kitchen to make dinner. A childish part of herthe part who has never been
kissed, she supposesimagines that Stephanie will follow her to apologize, but of course, she
doesnt. Realistically, Taeyeon knows theres nothing wrong with never having kissed someone, but
realistically, she also knows that shes behaving as immaturely as she feels. Really, why should it be
embarrassing, she wonders.
Because, she thinks to herself, you know why you havent.
Deep down, I think you know.
She makes kimchi fried rice, which is the only thing she knows how to make. She thinks of calling
her mother. She thinks of crying, but she hasnt cried in months, and it would be impossibly
juvenile at this point. She thinks of leaving, because its just her and Stephanie in the dorm and even
rooms away, the awkwardness is choking her.
She turns the heat off on the pan and when she turns, Stephanie is at the entrance of the kitchen,
looking something approaching apologetic and smiling that stupidly pretty smile.
TaeTae, she says, a request buried in her tone.
Stephanie drifts closer. Guess what.

She sighs. What.

The world doesnt right itself quick enough; suddenly Stephanie is pressed against her. That stupid
smile. Taeyeon sucks in a quick, shallow breath.
Im going to teach you how to kiss.
But she doesnt teach, really. Theres no instructions, no lecture, no diagrams. She leans in and her
lips are warm and wet against Taeyeons. The napkin in Taeyeons hands falls to the floor. She feels
Stephanie grip her wrist, press her thumb into her forearm; lips move, and open, and then her
tongue is there, pressing against Taeyeons lips and Taeyeon tenses, her fingers flex uselessly at her
Stephanie pulls away a fraction of a centimeter. Her eyes are closed. In the restless breath between
them, she murmurs, Open your mouth for me, and then does it again, her lips too warm, sealed
tight against Taeyeons and then her tongue pries open her lips and hesitantly, Taeyeon lets her in
and she is kissing Stephanie Hwang and her stomach feels like it could explode.
In a good way. In a good, filled with heat and fluttering confusion sort of way. Her tongue tries to
meet Stephanies but shes too disoriented, its too slippery, and Stephanie is too experienced, her
tongue knows exactly where to go, and then she makes a noise, a quiet noise, a satisfied hm in the
back of her throat and draws Taeyeons lower lip between her own and then shes pulling away and
Taeyeon tries to suck in more air, but cant.
And and and and and, Taeyeon thinks, dazed.
Stephanies eyes flutter open and she smiles teasingly.
There you go, she says. Now youve kissed someone.

She finds out later that Stephanie had her first kiss with a girl, too, years ago, and that Stephanie
thinks thats perfectly normal, really, for girls to practice on each other; the revelation makes her
wonder if she should ask, then, if it felt like this afterwards, but theres no way of putting into words
what this isand if she could, shes sure she would scare Stephanie away.
Because this is a fiery, consuming and obsessive and near 24/7 mental reenactment of the kiss. Its
lying awake at night, her heart beating fast and her breathing shallow, as she imagines how it could
have been different, if she had suddenly transformed into the worlds best kisser and kissed
Stephanie back so exceptionally that Stephanie would say she had never had better, if they had
never stopped kissing, if they were still kissing, if she was free to kiss Stephanie whenever she
wanted to.
This was thinking, urgently, that she would never be able to kiss anyone else ever again, and now
not because of inexperience, but because she was sure she only wanted her lips to remember
Stephanies lips. She wanted Stephanies mouth to be the last mouth that touched hers, forever. She
only wanted Stephanies warm, taut, trembling body pressed against her, and Stephanies clean
white teeth knocking against her own, and Stephanies lips and Stephanie, Stephanie, Stephanie.
It does not come gradually after weeks of analysis and self-inquisition. It comes almost
immediately, and it makes her feel like crying. She tries to put a name on it that isnt love; she

experiments with calling it infatuation as though a technicality could make it less painful, less
As quickly as it comes, the denial comes even quicker. It comes constantly. Attempts to convince
herself there is no way she knows what love is, and sure, this is the strongest shes ever felt about
anyone, but there is a difference between love and an admittedly obsessive fixation and you are
bound to feel this way, Kim Taeyeon, that was your first kiss. She smells nice and shes pretty and
her smile makes your heart feel as though it could fall out, but that isnt love.
She feels awful, and homesick, and very afraid.

She promises to walk Yoojung home, since its on her way to SM and its nice, ambling down side
streets while the sun slips past the horizon line. Their fingers brush as they walk side-by-side and
after the fifth or sixth time Taeyeon starts to consider that Yoojung is doing it intentionally. Their
eyes meet and experimentally, Taeyeon holds the gaze for longer than traditional and Yoojung holds
it, too. Their eyes only avert when they reach the curb and have to watch for traffic; as a bus passes
swiftly, right by their toes, Yoojung takes her hand and Taeyeon feels something in her heart clench
and then release. She feels better, for the first time in weeks.
Yoojung kisses her at the door, in the shadows sliding across the abandoned street, and her lips are
nothing like Stephanies. Theyre shy, hesitant, and clumsy; they make Taeyeon feel experienced
and her eyes are screwed shut tight as she leans in, sighs into Yoojungs mouth, holding on for dear
life and hoping she can fall in love with someone who can love her back.
She waits seven days before asking Yoojung to be her girlfriendin the least romantic way,
stupidly, in text message form with a sloppy heart tacked onto the end of itbecause she needs
seven days to decide its okay. She spends seven days watching Stephaniein practice, at lunch, in
their dorm, while sleepingand seven days pretending she doesnt love her. There are seven days,
days where she holds Stephanies hand on the subway and days where they press against each other
at dance practicedays where she feels terrible about herself, worries that something is wrong with
her. Shes sick, she thinks. This isnt love, it cant be love, because youre just being sick, weird.
Yoojung replies within seven seconds and of course she says yes, and for seven more days Taeyeon
keeps it as a secret in her heart. She doesnt need to say it, she doesnt need to admit it to herself,
but she thinks shes taken a step to being okay with it. She is a girl who happens to like other girls
and she is not a girl in love with her best friend.
She thinks if she learns to be okay with the first part, she can convince herself of the second part.


She and Yuri had once got drunk together in this very recording studio, the first time theyd tried
writing songs together. Taeyeon remembered it well. They had paid for studio time themselves; the
label would evaluate the finished products. It was just the two of them alone in the recording booth,
messing around with the soundboard and drinking soju. Three junk demos and one good demo had
come out of the whole day, one song that they lovingly crafted until it was good enough for an
album. Taeyeon looked back on it, really, as one of their worst songs but whenever she listened to it,

her heart swelled because of how close she and Yuri were that day.
It was like this every time she saw Yuri. Today they drank water and messed around with with the
soundboard to produce significantly superior, she hoped, music, but she still felt the same.
When Girls Generation had first moved in together, right before their debut, Taeyeon had
developed a brief, two-week long crush on Yuri. It was that brief. It was that moment of living in
close quarters with someone pretty and hoping that feelings could be transferred from person to
person, like admitting an attraction to another band member would somehow reduce the intensity of
her feelings for Tiffany. That day, years ago, when theyd drank soju in this very room, shed told
Yuri that, about the briefness of her crush, and Yuri had laughed that great way she laughed, rubbed
the back of Taeyeons head and said, Im honored, and Youre the cutest, Taengoo.
Like all of them, Yuri looked at her with pity most of the time, but it was a little more bearable from
Yuri, who she supposed faked it better than the rest.
Hows work? she asked when they broke for lunch.
Yuri sighed. Becoming more and more like work everyday. I dont know what to do with myself.
No one does. Taeyeon shrugged. But youll do okay.
Yuri asked, How are you? in that heavy way they tended to ask how are you when they were
worried about Taeyeon. No one else got how are you with the same weight Taeyeon got how are
you. They asked it like they expected her to fall to pieces if they didnt.
Good, Taeyeon replied. She thought that if she ever answered them honestly, they wouldnt know
what to do with it. They asked her because they felt they had to, because they loved her and they
wanted her to know they loved her. That didnt mean they would know what to do with a real
answer, Taeyeon thought.
She had promised herself long ago to never burden anyone with the chaos of human emotion.
How are you really, though, Yuri pressed.
Really good, Taeyeon shot back, grinning slightly.
Are you and Fany fighting?
No, I she began hotly and then broke off, breathing in through her nose and then exhaling.
How did you know?
Yuri laughed. It doesnt take a genius to figure out when you two are fighting.
Which is good, since youre not a genius.
First: you guys are always fighting, so its a good bet. Second: you revert to this like, wounded
puppy dog look whenever you two are fighting. And third
Wounded puppy dog? Taeyeon repeated, incredulous. Slightly offended. (Slightly intrigued;
puppies were cute, right?)

And third: Tiffany called you a self-obsessed jerk in group chat the other day, which you would
know if you ever checked into group chat
Really, Taeyeon said wryly, scratching her temple. Thats not really incentive.
A shrug. She fiddled with the headphones in her lap. We fought. Its no big deal. Itll blow over in
a few days; it always does.
It was true. She had known Tiffany for about ten years of her life and reasoned they had probably
spent a good 50% of those ten years in a stupid argument of some sort. It was the way they
communicated, somehow. It had always been like that.
Im not going to beat around the bush, Yuri said. She leaned back in her chair and pulled her
headphones off.
Why not, that sounds fun.
I want to know, really, how are you doing with Tiffany being back.
They didnt usually say it outright. They usually stepped across the words, refusing to say what, and
Yuris candidness surprised Taeyeon into her own.
I feel terrible, she admitted. Yuri didnt blink, just met her eyes honestly. Terrible, but a good
kind of terrible.
What do you mean?
I mean, its hard to be around her. Taeyeons voice was soft. Recording booths were sound-proof
and she heard her words sink solidly into the walls around them. Its always been hard. It never
gets easier. Thats how I know its love, because it refuses to go away.
She had never been this honest. She had never pieced it together aloud. Yuris slight eyebrow raise
was the only indication that she was surprised with Taeyeons bluntness.
Then how is it good? she asked. Gently.
Its goodbecause because its Miyoung. Shes my best friend. I need her. Its bad because Im
in love with her and Ive always been in love with her, but its good because I love her, shes my
best friend. Its painful to have her around, but its even more painful to be away from her. Does that
make sense?
It makes sense.
Id be flat-out lying if I said her presence doesnt affect me. She wet her lips. It throbbed in her
throat and then in her head. Its driving me crazy. It makes me want to run away. But
She broke off. She had no idea how to say this.
I dont know how to tell you how awful these past three months were for me. I dont even want to
remember them anymore. Its like my mind is trying to cross it out, blot it from existence, because it

was too painful. Its the longest Ive ever been away from her since I was fifteen years old. Now I
Yuris expression had become so impossibly soft that Taeyeon hated to look at her. It was beyond
pity now.
Know what? she asked.
Taeyeon closed her eyes. That I cant be away from her. I know. Its not even about my feelings.
Its because shes my best friend, and shes more than that. Id die without her. Really. I would.
Admitting it was like expelling ten years of held breath from her lungs. She felt winded. She
thought for a moment that she might cry. Yuri looked at her carefully, and then smiled. She reached
out and rubbed the back of Taeyeons head.
So, she said gently. Always gently. Now you know.

chapter seven
Stretched out, gleaming in the mid-day sun, her eyes swallowed the sight whole. Her lips trailed
from shoulder to collarbone to throat to jaw. Beneath her, the sunlight came undone. Fingers
clasped and she pressed two complaisant hands to the mattress, pressed the sunlight beneath her and
quaked like a leaf.
Taeyeon sighed and swallowed Hyejins breath, the gasp of her name. Her nose nudged lips and her
lips tasted the soft, salty skin of Hyejins jawbone and it was two hours before she came up for air,
watched the sunlight escape, skittering over the edge of the bed and disappearing.
Hyejin gripped her shoulder with one hand, slid down her upper arm and slipped downward, nails
scratching inside her forearm. Taeyeon shuddered. She had done nothing but shudder since she had
left the recording studio, took her car across the city, and stalked up four flights of stairs to Hyejins
apartment. Shuddered, when she pressed Hyejin against the wall, shuddered when she led them
inside, shuddered when they hit the bed, and shuddered now in her arms, shuddered so violently
that Hyejin held her tight and said whats wrong and wrapped the blanket around them both and
where there had been sunlight, minutes and hours ago, there was Seoul in winter, banging at the
window and wanting in.
She kissed Hyejins forehead and kissed Hyejins mouth, ignoring her questions because whats
wrong was not something she could truthfully answer, even if she had wanted to; all she knew was
that she needed to not think and in Hyejins arms, pressed against Hyejins skin, was where she
could do that.
Beneath her, there was a hoarse laugh and a murmur of approval. Hyejin touched her hair. Well,
hello, she said softly, and they both laughed because they were the first words either of them had
spoken since Taeyeon had come in two hours ago.
Hello, she returned.
Surprise visit?

Yeah. Her legs tangled with the legs beneath her. She dropped her head, exhausted, her forehead
against Hyejins shoulder warm, laden with sweat.
Youre lucky I happened to be home, Hyejin commented. There was a schedule in Busan for
today that was cancelled.
Taeyeon held her tongue. If it hadnt been Hyejin it wouldve been someone else. Maybe. Or maybe
not. Tiffany was right, she thought, there was something different here if Taeyeon kept coming back
to it.
Tiffany. She sighed.
I just wanted to see you, she admitted softly. I said Id make it up to you, didnt I?
And I said you didnt have to, didnt I? Hyejin laughed. Im not your girlfriend.
Taeyeon lifted her head and searched her eyes. Do you want to be?
Hyejin looked taken aback. She reached up, lifted Taeyeons overgrown bangs off her forehead. The
action made her ache. Are you asking me to be?
I dont know, Taeyeon said honestly. She gazed into Hyejins eyes, hoping for an answer. She
didnt know what to think anymore.
Hyejin looked at her gently. At a certain angle you could even call it pity. Taeyeon shuddered. She
was becoming obsessed with seeking it out, identifying it, but she couldnt get rid of it, so what was
the point?
You dont want a girlfriend, Hyejin told her plainly. She smiled. You dont want a relationship.
Right. Her throat felt tight. I dont.
The sun had gone down and the room had become shadows. They felt like spectators. Yet, Taeyeon
somehow felt more alone that she had.
Wordlessly, she climbed from the bed and dressed. Hyejin rolled on her side and watched her,
propping her head up on the palm of her hand.
Are you leaving? she asked. It wouldnt be out of the ordinary.
No. Taeyeon sat down on the edge of the bed and reached down to feel around for the rest of her
clothes. Im making you dinner.

I told you my refrigerator was empty. Hyejin sat on the edge of the counter and crossed her legs.
Taeyeon could feel her eyes following her as she moved around the kitchen.
It just so happens kimchi fried rice is the only thing Im good at, Taeyeon commented, lighting
the burner. So you had all I need. She kissed her.
Do you cook for all the girls you sleep with? Hyejin asked, lightly, joking. She leaned in for

another kiss.
Taeyeon rolled her eyes. Just the really pretty ones. She added oil to the pan and felt Hyejin
stroking her ear, running her thumb underneath it, trailing her fingers down the nape of her neck.
As she made the rice she wondered why she could not fall in love with someone who could love her
back, and she also wondered if she could be loved back. She wondered about domesticity. She
wondered about being a high-profile idol and being in love and wondered why kimchi fried rice was
the only recipe she had been able to pick up from her mother.
She wondered about Tiffany, about what Tiffany was doing right now, she wondered about Tiffany.
Can I ask you a question? Hyejin touched her elbow.
You can ask.
Hyejin laughed, a little. If you hadnt become an idol, what do you think youd be doing right
Taeyeon frowned, stirring.
I like a lot of kimchi so Im going to use the rest of the jar, okay?
Thats fine, Hyejin replied, but are you going to answer the question?
All I said was that you could ask. Taeyeon reached past Hyejin for the jar of kimchi shed put
aside but was surprised when Hyejin grabbed her hand, pulled it into her lap. She looked at her,
briefly. It was not often that she looked into Hyejins eyes; it wasnt often that Taeyeon looked into
peoples eyes, period. Yet she had found herself searching Hyejins eyes several times this evening.
So youre not going to answer? Hyejin asked.
Its a hypothetical question, so any answer would be hypothetical, Taeyeon pointed out. She
wanted Hyejin to free her hand but it would be rude to pull away.
So, its dumb to answer. No offense.
You cant just speculate? Youre supposed to be a creative person.
Taeyeon chuckled. No, Im not. Im an idol. That means Im supposed to be obedient and polite.
Then why dont you obediently and politely answer my question.
Another headache. Its dinner time, Taeyeon replied, glancing at the clock on the microwave. So
I guess Id be making dinner. Maybe for someone a little less annoying.
She said the last part with a tight smile. She didnt want to hurt Hyejin. She didnt want to hurt
anybody. She worried sometimes that she was a loose cannon and all it did was make her want to
protect everyone around her.

She pulled her hand away and finished cooking.

Do you know I didnt go to college? Hyejin asked after a long and uncomfortable stretch of
Taeyeon glanced at her.
I started doing this, hair and make-up and stuff, to pay my bills. Once I made enough, I was going
to go to school. But I realized working for idols made me enough money to live on, and I liked it, so
I never went.
Hyejin was looking at her, openly. Taeyeon turned the heat off on the stove. She wasnt sure what
she was supposed to say. Hyejin rarely talked about herself. Taeyeon wondered, now, if that was
because she didnt want to or because she thought Taeyeon didnt want to know.
Taeyeon scratched her neck. What did you want to study, if you went?
Business, maybe. She hopped off the counter. She reached up to get bowls from the top cabinet.
Taeyeon watched her.
Cant picture it.
Me, neither. Hyejin smiled at her. She was very pretty, Taeyeon thought. It was a dumb, simplistic
thought, but it came to her suddenly.
I didnt want to work for idols at first, Hyejin went on. I really hated idols, did you know that? I
thought they were all fake.
Taeyeon snorted. Dont worry, we are.
Youre not.
Taeyeon neglected to reply. She sat down to eat. Hyejin joined her.
My favorite color is red, Hyejin stated. Taeyeon blinked at her. And I have two younger sisters.
Taeyeon held her breath. Where was this going?
Hyejin counted on her fingers before picking up her spoon to eat. Thats four things about me. You
She played with her spoon.
My favorite color is
Taeyeon. I can type your name into any search engine and find that out.
Then I dont know what to tell you, Taeyeon said softly. Theres not that much to learn. I have an
older brother and a younger sisteryou can find that online, too. I love my parents very much
you cant find that, but you could probably figure it out. There were a lot of things I thought about

being when I was a kid, but when I discovered music I knew Id be unhappy if I did anything else.
Is that what you want?
Does that mean youre happy, Hyejin asked, just as soft, doing what youre doing now?
Taeyeon tensed. Everyone was so concerned about whether or not she was happy, like the
contentiousness of her own personal happiness was keeping them up at night. She thought, maybe,
the other members loved her, so that was why. They wanted her to be happy. For Tiffany, Taeyeon
thought, her unhappiness was a source of guilt. If Taeyeon was unhappy, then certainly Tiffany
would blame herself. Her guilt made Taeyeon feel guilty. It was a constant, unremitting obligation
stay happy, or at least learn to fake it, or everyone will be upset. An ugly cycle of guilt.
I dont
Look, Hyejin said. If I had gone to school for business, theres no way of knowing who I would
have met or what I would have done. For all I know, I couldve been happier. I mean, theres no
way of knowing, right?
Taeyeons mouth felt dry. Right.
But I cant help but feel that I did the right thing. Because Ive met a lot of great people and Ive
done a lot of great things, and maybe it couldve been better, but regretting my decision would be
like saying Im dissatisfied with what I have now. My friends, this apartment, my work. Even you.
But Im not dissatisfied. Get it?
They ate.
The sun had sunk completely so Hyejin got up to turn on a light. It made the room yellow, sicklooking. The kimchi fried rice was a little bland.
Taeyeon said, I think if I hadnt been pulled into Seoul, I would have stayed back in Jeonju
forever. Hyejin looked at her. She looked prettier standing near the window, near the moonlight,
than near the lamp. Taeyeon tried to think of a good way to say what she wanted.
AndI mean, Im not the sort of person who can go out of my way to meet people. I mean, I
prefer to be alone, she explained. So the fact that they shoved me into this oversized group was
kind of a blessing, because I have eight people who are so important to me, that I
She shook her head. Tried again. Every time I try to imagine my life going a different way, I
picture myself alone. I like being alone, so it isnt a bad thing. I meanI dont know what the
difference between happy and unhappy is, really, and I dont want to spend a lot of time thinking
about it. But when I think about how my life couldve taken a million different paths, the other
paths end with me alone, and this path ends with them. That makes me think it must be the right
Hyejin was smiling at her, so she thought maybe shed said the right thing. She scratched the back
of her head.
So yeah. Thats a thing about me, she said awkwardly, clearing her throat. How many more do
I have to tell you?

Hyejin stood over her and smiled, touched her hair. She had crossed the room in two steps and
Taeyeon was grateful because she suddenly felt like she needed to be close to someone.
Its okay, Hyejin said gently. Thats enough for now.
She leaned down and kissed her. Taeyeon reached out, grasped blindly, but there was only the table
to hold onto.
I like you, Kim Taeyeon, Hyejin said, quiet. She cupped Taeyeons face. A lot. I wont be your
girlfriend, but Ill be your friend. Okay?
Her heart felt a little lighter.

She slept in the next day and cancelled her morning schedules, much to her managers exasperation.
She felt drained, somehow, and wouldve cancelled lunch with Sunkyu if she hadnt thought that
Sunkyu would track her down and drag her by the ear if she had. She wondered, disgruntled, not for
the first time, if the entertainment company couldnt have saddled her with a bunch of girls a little
less overbearing and intrusive, but she loved them nonetheless.
On the way to meet Sunkyu she texted Tiffany for the first time in days. She had thought about it
for awhile and had settled on the numbingly asinine, Sorry about the other day.
By the time Sunkyu arrived at the cafe, Tiffany had sent back a reply.
Its okay. I miss you!
It was always okay and she always missed her. Somehow, despite not deserving it, thats what it
Hey, Taeyeon greeted, putting her phone in her pocket. Sunkyu sat down with a tired expression.
How did the meeting with your uncle go?
Sunkyu was the sort of person who knew how disarmingly alluring her smile was and rarely
hesitated to use it when she needed it. Taeyeon had known her long enough to know that the
appearance of it so suddenly was not necessarily a favorable portent.
Do you want to hear the good news first, Sunkyu asked smoothly, glancing down at her menu, or
the bad news?
Rarely did Taeyeon ever want to hear bad news, whether it was first, second, or third. Good news,
I guess.
He says hes excited for the album, excited to produce it, excited to give us the opportunity to coproduce itpretty much excited all around.
That sounds like sunsaengnim, Taeyeon said wryly, biting her lip. Whats the bad news?
Sunkyu kept her eyes on the menu. She sighed a little.

He said it would be a good idea to treat this as our final album together. A farewell album.
Taeyeon felt something inside her come a little unhinged. She dragged her index finger down the
outside of her water glass, gathering up the condensation and then rubbing it against her thumb.
Last albumtogether, she repeated, mechanically. They want to dissolve the group?
Not officially. Sunkyu shrugged a little and set her menu down. But yes. Sort of. He says hes
not sure what they really want, but that theyre probably going to offer all nine of us nine different
contracts, if you know what I mean.
Taeyeon set her jaw so hard she felt it pop just slightly out of place. Bad habit. She grit her teeth.
Well, the sales of the fifth album were lower than sales of the fourth, so
They were slightly lower, Taeyeon shot back, feeling her anger rise. Barely two hundred copies
lower and it was still the best-selling album of the year, how d
I know, Taeyeon. Sunkyus voice was calm. I know.
Taeyeon tried to relax. She was getting angry with the messenger. Sorry, I
I know.
But still, I mean. If we can sell more than any other idol group, still, what would be the pointour
popularity isnt declining, at worst its on a plateau and thats a good thing, considering how old we
are for idols She was rambling, she knew, but this was one of the few things that she had ever
been opinionated, communicative about.
Sunkyu poked her tongue into her cheek and played with her hands restlessly. Well, Juhyuns
album sold about the same as our last group album did.
So? It sold that much because shes a member of the group. Anyone can see that.
But look at it from the companys standpoint, Taeyeon. If Juhyun can sell that much, then surely
Jessicas solo album could sell just as much, if not more. Or Tiffanys solo album. And yoursthey
know yours can sell even more. Why would they waste money producing one group album if they
can make, say, five times that amount producing five solo albums?
She knew that Sunkyu was just trying to be logical but Taeyeon was too upset to think of it that
way. She sounded like a traitor. She breathed evenly.
Thats maybe true, she said, but. Why dissolve the group? Why cant we do both?
Sunkyu shrugged. Thats why they probably wont break the group up officially, but there likely
wont be any time to produce another one once they start focusing on pushing us as soloists. Plus
She broke off and hesitated. The waitress came and went and they sat silently, suddenly
realizing the severity of the conversation they were having in a very publicalbeit fairly empty
Plus what, Taeyeon prompted quietly, once they were alone again. Her voice had become sullen

and she could hear it, hear it behind the pounding of her skull.
Plus, they fully expect that when they offer us all different contracts, some of us wont sign.
Taeyeons eyes narrowed. Is that right.
Thats what he said they probably think. He really wasnt supposed to tell me any of this, Taeyeon,
but he did because, you know. Hes my uncle. And he thinks that if we have time to think about it,
we can come up with a solution that will make us happy.
There was a rhythmic, irksome tapping coming from somewhere and when Taeyeon looked down
she realized it was her own fingers drumming anxiously on the table. She wanted suddenly to be
back in Hyejins apartment, her face buried in Hyejins hair, or to be anywhere at all where it was
dark and quiet and she didnt feel like things were falling apart.
So, Sunkyu said simply, lets focus on making this album, and we can figure it out in between.
I told you, Taengoo, because youre our leader andI mean its your decision if we should tell
everyone else.
Her body suddenly felt so weak. Youre our leader. She swallowed. I mean, we should, she said
softly, and her voice broke a little, but how.
Sunkyu didnt have an answer for that. They ate their food silently. A little boy, maybe about ten or
eleven, had approached the table and asked them for autographs. Taeyeon watched Sunkyu talk to
him, her eyes stinging. Sunkyu was always good with the younger fans. Sunkyu was good with
everything, with everyone; she was charming in ways that translated to any and all age groups.
Which noona do you like best she would tease or can you sing your favorite song for noona in
places where Taeyeon would just put silence instead.
Ive liked noonas for a long time, he said, clutching both autographs to his chest. Ill always
Taeyeon looked at her hands. Where did they find their faith, their trust. Where would she find hers.
Outside, winter pulled at her scarf and coat and tried to swallow her whole. The girls who followed
her everywhere sensed her mood and didnt try to talk to her today; they stood at a distance as she
got into her car and closed the door, put her forehead against the steering wheel and cried for the
first time in three months.

chapter eight
Stephanie gives her exactly seven days before changing her life; in retrospect, Taeyeon thinks its
nice, since shes already changed her life a million and one times over the past two years.
Taeyeon isnt sure how she figured it out; she and Yoojung had been sitting on her bed, a foot and a
halfat leastbetween them, doing their math homework and Stephanie had really only walked in

and saw them for all of five seconds. But well, maybe thats a thing about Stephanie, because as
much as she and Sooyoung like to make fun of her awful Korean and call her dumb, the thing is, the
thing about Stephanie isStephanies smart. Shes really smart.
Because somehow she figures it out, and she waits seven whole minutes after Yoojung leaves, after
Taeyeon has walked her to the door and kept her hands deep in her pockets and nowhere else, when
Stephanie asks, How long have you two been dating?
The question is so unexpected that Taeyeon answers it immediately: Only a week. And then:
What? Dating? No
Stephanie laughs. Theyre going to order jajangmyeon and are turning the messy dorm upside down
looking for the menu. Taeyeon pauses, one hand deep in the couch cushions, and faces Stephanie.
Stephanie with her white teeth and crescent-shaped eyes and her long eyelashes and her pretty lips
and the totally non-judgmental look on her face.
Its okay, she says with a smile. You can tell me. Why didnt you tell me, jerk, were supposed to
be best friends
Ibuthow did you know we were
Oh. Stephanie waves a hand dismissively and then attempts an explanation that she apparently
doesnt know enough Korean for. It doesnt matter, I can just tell.
It doesnt bother you? She finds the menu underneath the throw rug in front of the couch.
Why would it bother me? Shes pretty enough for you, I guess.
I mean that were both She breaks off. Its one thing to say it to herself, in the quiet space of
her head, but another thing entirely to say it out loud.
Girls? Stephanie supplies. Oh, come on. I knew you liked girls.
Taeyeon can only sputter in response, her eyes and mouth both open as wide as they can be, because
how in the world could Stephanie have known when she hadnt even known, not really, and did this
mean that other people knew and did it mean that Stephanie
Dont worry, its not obvious, TaeTae. Stephanies voice was gentle. A lot of my friends back in
L.A. were, so I guess Im just good at being able to tell? I wish youd trusted me enough to tell me.
Taeyeon twists her fingers together anxiously. I didnt know how youd react.
Well. Stephanie shrugs. Im happy for you.
Its a little thing, objectively, but it feels like an enormous weight no longer pressing against her
heart, and Taeyeon forgets, a little bit at least, how she feels about Stephanie because she really does
like Yoojung a lotshes pretty and has a cute smile and likes Taeyeon back and Stephanie
approves of her which is good becauseits true, she and Stephanie are best friends. Whatever else
it is she feels for Stephanie, and she really doesnt want to think about it, but whatever else it is,
theyre still best friends. Stephanie looks out for her, covers up for her, and when Taeyeon asks
haltingly for privacy one night, Stephanie is willingtoo willing, reallyto find somewhere else to
sleep the entire night while Taeyeon is clumsy and stupid before getting it right, just near the end.

She even asks about it, later, like a best friend should. How was it? she wants to know.
Good, Taeyeon says. They lie on her bed, staring at the ceiling. Neither of them have made it to
the shower after practice, the exhaustion too fastened to their insides.
Just good? Stephanie snorts.
Well, at first it was awkward, Taeyeon admits. But then it was good.
Is it different than with a guy?
Taeyeon turns her head to give her a look. How would I know, Ive never slept with a guy.
Oh, right. They lie in silence. Taeyeon feels like her words are hanging in the air and for the first
time in weeks she remembers how much she likes Stephanie and suddenly the idea of talking about
it with her is mortifying. And on the other hand, it isnt. Because Stephanies her best friend, her
world, her stupid wife, her other half and thats all a lot heavier than feeling attracted to her, or
infatuated with her, or liking the way she looks when she smiles.
Maybe. Maybe, Taeyeon thinks, a stupid, helpless, schoolgirl infatuation is nothing in comparison
to finding the best friend youll ever have.
Stephanie sighs, content. The moment stretches.
Are you going to do it again? she asks.
Taeyeon laughs. Yeah, definitely.
You know, Stephanie says, conversational, but with an edge that makes Taeyeons shoulders
hunch up near her ears. Shes cute. Yoojung.
She is, Taeyeon agrees, feeling like theres more.
But what?
I mean, were going to debut in a few months.
Uh, hopefully, Taeyeon corrects.
Hopefully. I mean, do you think it would be okay to date someone like that once you debut? I
mean, youre an idol. Youll be an idol.
Taeyeon frowns. She hasnt thought that far. What do you mean?
I mean, its dangerous, isnt it? Even if it was a guy it would be dangerous just to date anyone.
What if they say something? You have to date another idol, at least, because theyll want to keep it
secret too.
Shes so pragmatic about it, Taeyeon thinks. Its human emotion, and yet she thinks about it so

She forces herself to laugh a little. What other idol am I going to date? I mean, really
Jessica? I mean, shes really pretty
Taeyeon sits up, twisting around in surprise to look down at Stephanie. Jessica? Too? She
Well, she hasnt said anything to me about it but she obviously is, I mean, come on She rolls
her eyes and Taeyeon wonders, first blithely, and then with growing desperation, how Stephanie
manages to see things like that when she has no idea.
Jessica would be good, Stephanie says casually, putting her arms underneath her head and looking
up at the ceiling. Since well all be in the same group.
Uh, I dont think Jessica would date me, Taeyeon says, holding back a laugh. She lies back down.
I dont think Id date her either.
Well, someone else, then, theres tons of idols who are
How do you know.
I just know, its obvious, okay.
They spend the next hour talking about which idols are and arent and which trainees are and arent
and who is but doesnt realize it yet and the hour hand creeps toward midnight as their words
become slower, more slurred, until they drift off to sleep side by side, practice clothes still on, sweat
drying and sticking to their skin, and the weightlessness of their friendship settling between them.

Somehow, though, even though she really hadnt even considered listening to Stephanies words, by
the time they receive word theyll debutafter a million false starts much closer to a year later,
rather than the months they had hoped forshe feels like the thing with Yoojung has run its course
anyway. She tries, more than once, to make it work, because shes dated Yoojung for more than a
year now and she thinks, maybe, pragmatically, she probably loves her, or loves being with her. And
it isnt the idol thing, she thinks, or at least she tells herself that, and it isnt the Stephanie thing
either because she tells herself that every single day.
Its just time, she tells Yoojung, who is crying. She touches her shoulder and pulls away. They
made her leader. There is so much to do, so much choreography to memorize, so many songs left to
record, so much weight to lose, so many teeth to get fixed, so much to refine a normal, confused,
maybe-in-love eighteen year old kid into a polished idol. She feels like the weight of it all is
crushing her.
I really care about you, she says, and I always will, but I dont think I can
And maybe the worst part of it is that Yoojung seems to understand entirely, understand too well;
she cries but she takes it okay, says she understands, and when she says she understands, Taeyeon
wonders how much shes understood over the past year and changedid she understand, because
she had looked like she understood, one time, one time when they were sitting in her room and
Stephanie had come in to get something and Taeyeons eyes had followed her like magnets stuck to
iron and Yoojung had looked at her, sadly, and maybe she had, reallyunderstood.

When she comes home that night, she thinks she must look awful because Stephanie rubs her
shoulder and then pulls her close. She tries not to, she really tries, but the tears come anyway, hot
and shameful. Its the first time shes cried in front of Stephanie, or really anyone in years except
her mother, and she doesnt even know why she does. She just does. It feels terrible, in the pit of her
stomach, and the way Stephanie strokes her hair feels nice, and the two feelings together make her
cry harder.
Her best friend holds her tight. She clings to her, making a mess of her shoulder, but somehow it
wont stop. She doesnt know how long its been, but finally Stephanie speaks, soft and soothing
against her ear.
Hey, can I tell you something?
She can only bury her face in the crook of Stephanies neck, nod silently.
Im scared, Stephanie says.
Of what?
Of debuting. Of all of it. What if they dont like us? I mean, they already dont like us, and we
havent even done anything. What if we have no fans? What if no one likes the song? Her voice is
steady. Somehow, Stephanies the strong one and she, Kim Taeyeon, is a crybaby.
What if we fail, Stephanie says softly, and I have to go back to California, tell my daddy I
couldnt do it? I dont even know if I can do it
You can do it. She mumbles it, quiet, into Stephanies shoulder and grips her tight around the
waist. Shes ashamed to lift her head and show her red, crying face, but she does it anyway because
Stephanie has to know. Thats the only reason I know well do well, because you can do it. I know
you can. Youre amazing.
Somehow saying it is like a weight off her shoulders, like she has spent the last three years needing
to tell Stephanie that shes amazing, that shes the best person Taeyeon knows, that shes changed
her entire life.
Stephanie smiles at her, wipes the tears off her cheek with her sleeve.
Lets make a pact, okay? She holds Taeyeon tighter, guides her head back onto her shoulder and
pulls her close. No matter what happenswe fail or succeed or whateverno matter what
happens, the two of us will be together. Okay?
Taeyeon doesnt know how to answer. She sniffles, nods her head against Tiffanys shoulder, her
nose brushing the soft skin of her neck.
Okay, she murmurs.

They hook pinkies and touch thumbs and Taeyeon suddenly feels like crying again, because she is
eighteen years old, about to debut, and she is so in love with her best friend her heart feels like it
could burst.

Her mouth felt numb as she introduced the song and then sat back, slipping her headphones off.
There would be fifteen minutes of commercials after the song, so she took the opportunity to look
over the new page of script that one of the writers had placed in front of her.
Shifting impatiently, Taeyeon released a sigh. Shed only been sitting in the booth for a little over an
hour and she was already tired, aching to go home. Usually two hours of radio passed like a blur,
because it was enjoyable work, but now, when she had something else weighing on her mind, it
couldnt have dragged slower.
Ah, one of the writers said, passing behind her chair, isnt that Tiffany sshi?
Huh? Taeyeon snapped, wondering if it was possible that she had read her thoughts. Tiffany
Glancing up from her script, she spotted Tiffany outside of the DJ booth, waving from the window.
Taeyeon bit her lip, trying to mask how excited she was to see her. Wordlessly, and she hoped,
impassively, she waved her in.
Whats up, Tiffany called cheerfully as she came in. She looked good. Taeyeon could hardly
speak, could only watch her with longing, careful eyes as she came closer and then sat on the table
right next to the script Taeyeon was currently studying.
What are you doing here, she asked, soft. She suddenly felt better than she had all day.
I dont know, I thought Id come visit you.
Taeyeon pointed past her at the camera. Its viewable radio today, say hi.
Tiffany looked surprised, twisting around to wave at the camera. Good thing I wore make-up, she
joked, smiling brightly. It was her Idol Smile, Taeyeon thought with amusement, but it wasnt any
less pretty.
The messages were coming in very quick on the website now. Taeyeon checked them quietly,
mostly as a way to stop herself from gazing at Tiffany until her eyes fell out. There was a small
satisfaction in how excited the fans and regular listeners were at Tiffanys presence; if only the label
understood that, that people liked them as members of a group more than individuals, or that they
liked them as individuals because they were a group. But even if they could be convinced of that,
was she really someone who could do the convincing?
Its been awhile since Ive seen you working, Tiffany commented casually. She touched the back
of Taeyeons hand with one finger, featherlight. I was going to text, but I thought Id surprise you.
Taeyeon hummed, content, and gave her a smile. All the worries that had colluded in her head since

lunch with Sunkyu earlier were slowly easing their way into nothingness. Tiffanys presence was
always a collaboration of extremescomforting or stressful. Sometimes both. Today it was mostly
just the former.
They sat in comfortable silence as the commercials played; Tiffany looked over her script for her,
making amused sounds at the funnier bits, and Taeyeon read messages on the website.
Tiffany noona, marry me, she read.
You have to buy a ring, Tiffany said casually, and dont call me noona, Taeyeon.
When Taeyeon turned to look at her, stricken, her best friend was grinning. Taeyeon blushed. Im
just reading the messages
I know.
Her smile was teasing. Taeyeon shook her head.
You look cute today, Tiffany added. She plucked at the bracelet Taeyeon wore on her wrist and
then dragged her finger up the sleeve of her navy blue sweatshirt. Taeyeon bit her lip, looking down
at her outfit. She had literally thrown on the most comfortable clothes she could find.
I look like a bum, she joked, her tone careful as Tiffanys finger slid distractedly up her covered
A cute bum, Tiffany returned and she laughed, uncomfortable.
Tiffany was a natural flirt, and always had been, but sometimes it was harder to handle than other
As the commercials came to a close, she made Tiffany sit down before she picked up the last thirty
minutes of the show. She cut out one short segment so that Tiffany could talk a little and the last
half hour flew by in ways she had wished the first hour and half had.
Lets go get something to drink, Tiffany said as they were leaving and Taeyeon agreed, because
she would never turn down alcoholalthough maybe she shouldjust as shed never turn down
time with Tiffany.
Although, she thought, maybe you should.
They slipped out the back way toward the parking garage. There were a few more fans waiting for
her than usual.
Tiffany, polite as always, smiled and bowed to them as they approached the car. Excuse me, she
said sweetly to the ones blocking their way to the car, and they moved quickly. Taeyeon rarely
spoke to them, but they were surprisingly obedient when spoken to. Really, Taeyeon thought wryly,
they pretty much listened to anything you said except leave me alone.
Dont talk to them, Taeyeon muttered, holding the passenger door open for Tiffany.
She held her breath as Tiffany slipped past her into the car, too close for comfort.

What am I supposed to do, Tiffany complained once Taeyeon had come around the car to climb in
the drivers seat, ignore them?
Taeyeon slammed the door shut. Yeah.
I cant. Maybe if you were more friendly with them, theyd leave you alone.
I sincerely doubt it, Taeyeon replied, rolling her eyes as she pulled out of the garage. She glanced
in her rearview mirror to see if they were following. They were. She turned on the radio and turned
up the music.
Tiffany drummed her fingers against her thighs rhythmically, distractedly, before turning the music
down a little.
Did you ever sleep with any of them?
Taeyeons brow wrinkled. Who?
Tiffany gestured vaguely behind them, where a taxi was following the car.
Them? Taeyeon spat. Uh, no.
Really? I know some idols who do.
Uh, maybe they do, but I would never
Why, youve slept with fans before. Havent you?
Taeyeon gaped at Tiffany in disbelief. As they crawled to a red light she turned to see if Tiffany was
really serious. She was.
Um, no? Maybe a casual fan butI mean these girls know my schedule better than I do, they
know what kind of toothpaste I use, they probably know what color my underwear is right now.
Who would sleep with someone like that?
Tiffany shrugged, frowning. You know my schedule better than I do.
We work together.
You know what kind of toothpaste I use.
Weve lived together.
What colors my underwear?
Probably pink, but anyone whos met you for ten seconds could guess thatare you trying to say
Im stalking you, or that you wouldnt sleep with me, or both?
The light turned green and Taeyeon accelerated briskly, trying to lose the taxi behind her.

So you would sleep with me? she joked with a grin. This was a game they played, sometimes, a
stupid, dangerous game where they pretended they could joke about things that Taeyeon yearned for
with her entire being.
Im just pointing out that someone knowing that much about you isnt really a reason to not sleep
with them, Tiffany replied, crossing her arms over her chest. Still, she was smiling. And yes,
theyre pink.
Either way, I havent, and I wouldnt. Theyre crazy. Theres a pretty big difference between
allowing someone into your life and someone forcing their way into your life.
She had managed to lose the taxi by taking a side street but the roads were unlit and sheathed in
shadow. When she glanced at Tiffany, she could barely see her face but her silence was oddly
Taeyeon sighed. Whats your deal?
I just think, why else would they follow you around like that?
So she thought it was her fault, too. Just like Juhyun had. Ive never encouraged them, she said
If you say so.
Taeyeon scoffed. Why do you care so much?
Tiffany was silent for a long moment. Taeyeon tried to find a parking spot that wasnt an hour walk
from the club.
I dont, Tiffany said, finally, in a small voice, and Taeyeon wasnt sure why, but her heart
suddenly began to beat very fast. For a long time, she wasnt sure what to say, and busied herself
parallel parking.
She turned the car off. Look. Who I sleep with is none of your business. Just like who you sleep
with is none of mine. Right?
Right, Tiffany said, and got out of the car.
Taeyeon sighed and counted to ten slowly. She wasnt going to risk getting into another fight with
Tiffany so soon after making up. She didnt have the energy needed to make Tiffany aware of just
how emotionally traumatic and manipulative her preoccupation with Taeyeons sex life was, and
she wasnt sure she had the willpower for it either. She took a breath.
It occurred to her, suddenly, that she had spent a good ten years of her life convincing herself that
being Tiffanys best friend was the healthiest thing to strive forthat if Tiffany could never feel the
same as she did, that at least there was that, at least there was their friendship, and that had to be a
good thing. It was only now that their mutual codependence had become stifling.
It wasnt a normal friendship, she thought, because it had nothing to do with choice. They needed
each other. They had tied themselves together so tightly that there was no room for movement. She
could tell Tiffany that who she slept with was none of her business, but of course it was her
business; Taeyeons entire life was Tiffanys business, and Tiffanys life was Taeyeons. How could

she hope to move on when everything she did only made the rope tighter, tied them together more
profoundlyhow could she even breathe?
The revelation made her feel weak, dizzy. She got out of the car and followed Tiffany into the club.
First order of business: get drunk. Second order of business: loosen the rope.

chapter nine
The sun came in strong and crooked and it was like most mornings: Taeyeon wished for her
headache and almost diurnal hangover to disappear, for her to learn to sleep in a manner that didnt
leave her with numb limbs and aching joints, that whatever girl she had brought home and was
currently pressed against her like a too-warm blanket would leave with little to no fanfare. She
rolled fussily onto her back and attempted to stretch but she was bound, restrained by a solid
She mightve pushed it off if she hadnt inhaled just then and the familiar shampoo scent caused her
eyes to snap open and blink blearily.
Taeyeon had watched Tiffany sleep for years. Well, nohastily, she amended that thought; it made
her sound like a stalker. But she had. She could cast her memory back pretty far and still, there was
Stephanie Hwang at fifteen years old, sleeping in the bed across the room. There was Stephanie
Hwang at twenty, asleep in the van en-route to another schedule. There was Stephanie Hwang at
twenty-five, slumbering in the practice room after another all-nighter. It was an image she was used
to and yet irrepressibly moved by.
She followed the line of Tiffanys nose with her eyes and then studied her mouth and her jaw. Her
headache fell away a bit. She watched the rise and fall of Tiffanys chest and felt lighter than air.
A rumbling vibration came from somewhere on the other side of the bed and then a piercing, shrill
ringtone, a catchy American pop song, burst forth, and Taeyeons eyes widened as though shed
been caught; instantly, she shrank backwards, attempting to put an impossible distance between her
and Tiffany as she watched her best friends eyes flutter a bit, rousing herself.
The eyes remained closed, but she rubbed quickly at them and her nose and then threw her hand
behind her, groping around blindly for the source of the noise.
Taeyeon watched as Tiffany stifled a yawn, flung one arm over her eyes to block out the sunlight,
and then answered the phone with a hoarse mumble: Hello.
She shifted a bit, arm still thrown over her eyes. Yeah. Hey. She had switched to English. Her
voice was hoarse and thick from sleep, but warmth and sweetness escaped it and Taeyeon felt
stupid, lovesick, just watching, just listening. She could catch little of the conversation but thought
maybe she understood time difference and six in the morning here in Korea and some vulgar
slang word that Taeyeon was pretty sure constituted an insult but was said gently, like a term of
endearment. It ended, maybe, with something about call you later but her lack of English
comprehension coupled with the weird feeling of dread in her stomach made it very difficult for
Taeyeon to really understand.

Tiffany disconnected and dropped the phone to the floor, keeping her eyes covered for a few
breathless moments; for a second, Taeyeon was sure she had fallen back asleep, but then there was a
sleepy groan and Tiffany rolled over, pressed right up against her and put an arm around her waist.
Morning, Taeyeon, she murmured sleepily, and bumped her nose against Taeyeons cheek.
Good morning, Taeyeon croaked out. Her mouth was dryer than she had thought.
Tiffany mumbled something unintelligible and shifted. Her body felt warm; her breath warmer.
Taeyeon swallowed hard.
Hows your head, Tiffany asked, eyes still closed.
Could be worse, Taeyeon admitted. You?
Tiffany laughed lightly and it was soft, tingling against the skin behind Taeyeons ear where her
mouth had settled. You know I dont get hungover, she replied.
Oh yeah, I forgot that I hate you.
You do not. Thanks for letting me stay.
Taeyeon made a dismissive noise and closed her eyes. Maybe they could fall back asleep like this.
Maybe shed loosen the rope tomorrow. Or next week. Or in a year or two. Whatever. Im sure I
begged you.
You did, actually, but I wasnt going to tell you about it for the sake of your pride, Tiffany
laughed and Taeyeon laughed too.
What pride, she wondered.
A warm silence followed and Taeyeon felt herself drifting off to sleep. Tiffany rested her head onto
her shoulder and breathed evenly.
Quiet, this is quiet time.
There were just eight hours of quiet time.
Shhh I cant hear you Im asleep...
Tiffany punched her in the stomach and she groaned, rolling away from her.
Never mind, Im awake.
Tiffany rolled over, too, onto her stomach, and put her cheek down on the pillow. Taeyeon peeked at
her and mirrored her position. They looked at each other, one eye each, a breath between them.
You were right, Tiffany said at last.
Of course I was, Taeyeon agreed. Im always right. What about?

Tiffany rolled her eyeswell, the one eye Taeyeon could see. About. Me wanting you to date
someone. Its true. Taeyeon held her breath. I want you to get over me. You need to get over me.
Push. Pull. Push.
I dont want to talk about this.
Its not that simple.
Tiffany sighed. But you dont even try. If youd let someone else get close, then you could
She trailed off absently. Taeyeon exhaled, rolling over and flopping onto her back. She looked at the
ceiling, at the miniature holes formed by little pockets of air in the paint. She could feel Tiffany
watching her and wanted very badly to disappear from her sight.
I just want you to be happy, Tiffany said, just as shed said a million times. Thats all I want.
Youre not a burden. Youre my best friend. I love you. And I want you to be happy.
Taeyeon closed her eyes. Was that possible, she wondered. Happiness. Had she convinced herself
that there was only one thing, one person, that could make her happy? Was it natural to want, yearn
for the same thing since you were fifteen years old, encumbered by awkward adolescence, dizzy
with hormones?
But love wasnt a thing you could turn on and off like a faucet. Romantic love or platonic loveit
was all the same involuntary feeling. If it could be controlled, she would have turned it off long ago.
Not just her feelings for Tiffany. Even her feelings for the rest of the group, she would turn those
off, too; feeling desperate with devotion toward the members wasnt a good thing, had never been a
good thing, wouldnt be a good thing. If she could turn it off, she would push them into distant slots.
The slot for friends, acquaintances, co-workers, colleagues. People you could get along with, but
didnt feel like you were taking your every breath for.
She thought about it, because she needed it. She knew Tiffany was right. Maybe Tiffany didnt even
know how right she was. It was like a Chinese finger trap, and the more she tried to pull away, the
tighter she was held. The only break was a clean break.
If she could say it, she would try, but her lips stayed closed. At last, Tiffany sighed and rolled closer
again, putting her head on Taeyeons shoulder and her arm around her waist.
Im sorry, she said softly.
Taeyeon laughed silently, reflexively. Involuntary. She could no more make herself stop feeling this
way about Tiffany than Tiffany could make herself feel something that wasnt there. It made
Taeyeon feel guilty to have burdened her so badly.
No, Im sorry, she replied, whispered. You were right, too. You were right. I dont think about
your side of things. Its selfish.
Tiffany didnt respond for a long moment and then she laughed. Did you just admit that I was right
about something?

Taeyeon opened one eye. Tiffany had lifted her head to grin at her.
So if I was right, Tiffany began thoughtfully, that means that you were
Taeyeon narrowed her eyes.
You were ugh, whats the word, you know my Koreans bad you were
Im going to kill you.
No, dont kill me, Tiffany cried dramatically, you have to teach me Korean, sunsaengnim,
sexiest sunsaengnim
She shrieked, dodging the hand Taeyeon shot out to violently murder her with. Reaching behind her
head, Taeyeon seized a pillow and lobbed it in Tiffanys general directionthe ensuing yelp and
thud confirmation that she had hit her target.
She barely had time to feel smug before the pillow was flopped with a dull thwack on her nose as
Tiffany whined, Not the face, you jerk, this face makes money.
Like this one doesnt? Taeyeon shot back, lifting the pillow off her face and flinging it back in
Tiffanys direction.
Not as much as this one does.
That was it. Taeyeon scrambled to her knees, reaching for another pillow. Youre dead.
You cant kill me, the fans would totally hate youhey, ow. The pillow had smacked her in the
side of the face. Not the face, you jerk. She dove across the bed, grabbing Taeyeon by the arms
and shoving her into the mattress, hard.
You started it, Taeyeon gasped, trying to free her arms.
Because. Tiffany pinned her left wrist down. You. She pinned the right. Wouldnt. She forced
Taeyeons flailing legs still with her own. Say. She sat down on Taeyeons stomach, forcing the
air out of her. It.
Say what, Taeyeon gasped, grinning.
Say it. You were
Taeyeon looked at her, wide-eyed, silent.
Taeyeon, I will suffocate you with a pillow.
Im calling your bluff.
You think I wont?

Taeyeon looked at her expectantly. Her hair fell around them and there was no light, no distraction,
just Tiffanys face, lined with sleep, cheeks and nose flushed pink, her eyes like the promise of a
storm. Taeyeon held her breath and tried to memorize the space between them.
Tiffany looked at her for a very long moment, touched her face.
Do you have any idea how much you mean to me?
Taeyeon exhaled unsteadily. She could feel her heartbeat in her entire body, throbbing against every
vein, even her blood enraptured by Tiffanys presence.
She cleared her throat, a mess of wrong feelings. Does that mean you wont kill me? she tried to
joke, and Tiffany narrowed her eyes.
All you have to do is admit it.
Admit what, she asked innocently.
Tiffany reached for the pillow.
Okay, okay! she cried. Wrong. I was wrong.
Tiffanys triumphant smile was mirrored in her eyes; it was so sweet one could almost forget that
she had wrestled Taeyeon into submission and threatened to asphyxiate her. Almost.
As Tiffany loosened her grip, she added, I mean, I wasnt really wrong, to be fair, Im just saying
you had a point, I was still right about A hand reached out for her again; she leapt from the bed,
running toward the bathroom, howling even as Tiffany was hot on her heels, I have to shower,
sorry! and slamming the door in her best friend's face.
Im going to dump all your stupid perfume down the sink, Tiffany shouted through the door.
You wouldnt.
Every single bottle.
Ill tell Jessica about that time you had sex in her bed.
There was a long silence from the other side.
Okay, you win.
It was a hollow victory at best.

When she came out of the shower, Tiffany was nowhere to be found. She dried her hair and
neatened up the kitchen. Tiffany came in from the balcony; she let the cold in.
Where did you Taeyeon began and then made a gagging sound when the smell hit her. You
said youd quit.
I am quitting, Tiffany said, frowning. She held out her pack of cigarettes, of which there were

only three left. This lasted me all week.

Taeyeon threw the pack out. Congratulations, youve just quit.
I hope you know youre a bad person. Tiffany narrowed her eyes.
Im aware. She made coffee. We have to record today. I bet your voice sounds terrible.
Okay enough for a demo. We really need to be rehearsing, Taeyeon. The nine of us. Even if theres
nothing to rehearse yet, we need to get back into practicing together regularly.
I know, Taeyeon admitted, and her mind circled restlessly around what Sunkyu had told her the
other day. It was difficult enough finding a good rehearsal schedule for all nine of them, with their
separate and numerous schedules; knowing that they were on a timeline and that the label was ready
to discard them made it even more difficult. She didnt know which managers and executives to talk
to about practice space. Even the names of the most trusted manager oppas had looked sinister in
her phone contacts list. Did they know? How many higher-ups knew that the label wanted to
dissolve the group? She felt sick about talking to anybody who didnt believe in them.
Tiffanys cool, grasping hand circling her wrist alerted her to the fact that she had spaced out,
thinking about it. Tiffanys face was clouded with concern. Are you okay?
Yeah. Taeyeon wet her lips. Should she tell her? They all were going to have to know about it.
Why had she been tasked with doing it? Why hadnt Sunkyu come to all of them and told them,
instead of unloading the burden onto Taeyeon and expecting her to be ableshe had never been
able to talk to them, not in this way. It felt like a supplication, somehow, like she was being
implored to act like a leader do the leader thing Taeyeon I know you hate it I know you think you
cant but thats what we need right now.
She shook her head. Nothing, Im fine. You can use my shower.
Another thing filed away to think about when it seemed less stressful. She was used to it by now.

A can of coffee plonked down on the table in front of Taeyeon. Another can followed, balanced
precariously atop the first. A third wobbled falteringly as it was balanced on top of the second. As
the fourth was being set down, Taeyeon snapped out of her thoughts and looked up at Sooyoung.
What the hell are you doing.
Building you a tower of caffeine.
Taeyeon grabbed the top can before it fell. Thanks, I think.
Im just being cute, tell me Im cute.
Youre cute, Taeyeon said mechanically, opening the can to take a sip.
Sooyoung sat down next to her. The nine of them had arrived at the studio an hour ago but they
hadnt even started yet; they were slow to get back into the swing of things, and the undertaking of
producing it on their own was both burdensome and freeing. It was going to be difficult, obviously,
but on the other hand, they were more or less on their own timeline, if they could make up for the

studio costs and production costs.

Taeyeon thought about that a little, in light of what Sunkyu had told her. She sighed. Anyone would
be better than her at breaking this kind of news.
Whats up, Sooyoung asked.
Dont sigh if its nothing, you only sigh when you want someone to ask.
Taeyeon locked eyes with her and sighed loudly, pointedly. Sooyoung shoved her shoulder. They
drank coffee in silence, waiting for the other girls to come back from bathroom breaks and vending
machine raids.
Silence with Sooyoung was one of the most comfortable silences. She wasnt sure why that was.
Sooyoung was one of the most talkative people she knew, which was good, because Taeyeon was
the opposite. Sooyoung could happily carry an entire conversation by herself and all Taeyeon
needed to do was listen. Yet, the silences were just as comfortable.
Thought you were going to come visit me last night, Sooyoung said finally.
Oh yeah, Taeyeon apologized. Sooyoungs radio show was in the slot directly after hers, so she
often stopped by on her way home, if she had nothing else to do. Sorry.
Its okay, Im sure you were busy with your incredibly taxing schedule of doing nothing,
Sooyoung joked. What is your job again?
Taeyeon laughed. She really did just DJ lately. All the attention she had meant to give to working on
a solo album had fallen away. It had been an uneventful three months.
Sorry. She had really meant to stop by, but Sooyoung had flown out of her head completely when
Tiffany had appeared. She knew that if she said that, Sooyoung would understand, but she also
knew Sooyoung would understand without her having to say it.
No big deal, I only cried about it a little.
Use this tragic experience as inspiration when we record our next ballad.
I think I might. Everything okay?
The way she said it made Taeyeon pause, canned coffee halfway to her lips. She sighed. Man,
Kwon Yuri, she doesnt know how to keep anything between two people, does she?
Hey, Yuri tells me everything, you know that.
Yeah, yeah, Taeyeon grumbled.
I was just worried about you, and you havent been talking to me about stuff. She wasnt blabbing
or anything, she was just trying to tell me I didnt need to worry about anything. Youre fine. Youre

Sooyoung smiled. Taeyeon smiled back.

Yeah, Im me, she said, and drank her coffee. It was another comfortable silence that prodded her
into thought. She set her coffee down. Im sorry, Ive been a bad friend.
No, you havent.
She snorted.
Youve never been a bad friend. You havent. You dont have to be communicative for us to know
how you feel, jackass. Weve known you forever. You think we dont have you figured out?
I dont know. That sounds scary.
If I need advice, I go to Sunkyu, Sooyoung explained. If I need to complain, I go to Yuri. If I
need to laugh, I go to Hyoyeon. If I need to be felt up, I go to Jessica.
Do you often need to be felt up?
I like to feel attractive. Anyway, my point is, everyone has their own role, and not everyone needs
to occupy the same one. If I need reassurance that my life is going somewhere, I go to you.
Taeyeon was surprised. Me? She could scarcely reassure herself that her own life was going
somewhere; how could she be responsible for someone elses reassurance? Why me?
Because, Sooyoung said simply. Even if you dont know what you want, you know that you
want whats best for us. So I dont have to worry. I know you have our best interests at heart.
There was noise and laughter outside; the girls were coming back. Taeyeon stood up to throw out
her coffee. Thanks for the extra weight on my shoulders, she joked, and Sooyoung grinned.
No problem.
Taeyeon opened the door and rushed the rest of the girls in. Lets go, come on, we need to get
started, I want to get this thing finished before I turn thirty.
It was that day, when they pumped out six demo recordings in one afternoon, the recording studio
empty of outsiders, that Taeyeon really thought about it.
It was a thing they had known for a lot of yearsthat there were people you could rely on, people
you could ask for help, people who knew you, butwhen it came down to it, there was really just
the nine of them. They had said it, hushed, in moments of privacy and stupid sentimentality
sometimes they said it to other people, sometimes to make them feel like outsiders, mostly to make
them understand that it wasnt a thing you could put a name or a label on, that it was a feeling and
not a word.
When they broke for dinner, Sooyoung wrapped her arms around her from behind and said, Like a
well-oiled machine, and she was right, because that was what it was. The scary part was knowing
what came next. It was hard to see the surface when you were in this deep, and Taeyeon tried,
pressingly, to imagine ten years into the futureeven just five. It worried her. There was the idea of
living in the present, and then there was being incapable of seeing past the next ten minutes.

It was true; she did want what was best for them, and maybe whatever was best for herself.
Again, she thought about a clean break; again, she thought about loosening the rope.

chapter ten
Kim Taeyeon learns very quickly that being an idol is mostly about not getting enough sleep,
rushing from schedule to schedule and being left at the whim of production rather than output, and
then occasionally, very occasionally, getting to perform onstage and do the thing you love. She
learns that there are hours upon hours of promoting yourself for every three and a half minutes of
performing. There are cameras everywhere, well-meaning senior singers, some less-well-meaning
senior singers, the crushing disappointment of falseness found in people you admire, the burden of
being eighteen years old and shoved into a business made for and by adults, people who are slick
and smart and completely disinterested in the fact that you are a teenager who only wants to sing,
really, thats about it.
She smiles wildly on camera; its not fake, she means it. Shes happy, and the happiness sinks
around the edges of her and at the center theres exhaustion, theres disappointment, theres worry,
but there is genuine happiness there and she thinks, sort of, this is probably the happiest shes been
in her life, the most exhausted shes been in her life, the most afraid shes been in her life. Its not
perfect, but its certainly the most anything shes ever been or felt.
The camera is a fickle, fair-weather friend. It magnifies her flaws, physical and emotional and
mental and creative. It scares her, because she knows theres a disconnect between what she says
and does and what they hear and see and what is shown and dispatched. She knows that. But
sometimes she prefers it to the quiet moments at homenot home, no, the dorm, which isnt home,
home is in Jeonjuwith the girls she grew up with and yet doesnt know.
She looks at the eight of them and they scare her, too. There is a part of them that are like friends,
sort of, people shes trained with for years and likes and enjoys spending time with. But theres a
part of them that she thinks of as sinister, because theyre all idols, too, arent they, theyre all
desperate for success and the raw hunger in their eyes to be more than just rookies terrifies her, even
as she knows its mirrored in her own eyes. They terrify her, because they made her leader, and
theres no pressure, really, but sometimes they look at her expectantly like theyre waiting for her to
know what to do, and the truth is, she never does. They terrify her because she doesnt know what
she wants them to be. Colleagues? Friends? Family? Distant co-workers? What they should be to
her is contingent on what she should be, and she doesnt know what she should be.
StephanieTiffanyTiffany is the exception, though. Theres them and then theres Tiffany. Her
best friend, her Tiffany, nervous and excitable Korean and pretty smile and the entire nation falling
in love with her. She clings to Tiffany as Tiffany hangs on her, but she thinks she probably needs
Tiffany more than Tiffany needs her. Tiffany is outgoing, personable, and has people eating out of
her hand within moments of meeting her. Tiffany is made to be an idol, Taeyeon thinks. Its a reason
not to give up, maybe, because she and Tiffany promised to be together, and this is the only way
they can be.
Its confusing, this business of being an idol, but its less confusing when her best friend is next to

I think I messed that up, Taeyeon mutters. Theyre standing in the waiting room and re-watching
their performance. Taeyeon had been half a beat slow near the end. She sighs heavily; there are no
do-overs. Three and a half minutes and you were done.
She feels Sooyoung wrap an arm around her shoulders. I think we all messed up at least once.
Yeah, but Taeyeon begins and then pauses because theres no way of saying you guys arent me
that doesnt sound selfish. She sighs. Her throat feels raw, inflamed. She thinks shes probably been
pushing her voice way past its limits, but she has to, because theres a lot at stake. She wishes, not
for the first time, that the line-up had been a little different. Then she wouldnt have been shoved in
the lead singer position. Or leader. She could sit back and sing the way she liked, behave the way
she liked, not drag around these heavy responsibilities shackled to her like dead weights.
She feels Tiffany take her hand, lace their fingers together; she can tell its Tiffany without looking.
They watch the performance again, monitoring for more mistakes. It was okay to make a mistake
once, but if you made the same one twice you could forget about sleepyou need more practice
you need more practiceyou need more practice
Isnt it weird, Tiffany says in the van on the way to their next schedule. We wanted so badly to
debut, for years, and now that we have its like wow, we need waaaay more training.
Taeyeon nods vaguely but doesnt respond because the rest of them are listening. She is figuring out
what shes meant to do with this stupid title they gave her. Theres no way shell ever feel
comfortable being the sort of person who tells other people what to do, so she cant do that. Even
their mistakes, she feels hesitant about pointing them out; instead, she hovers vaguely around them,
watching them, hoping they notice themselves so that she doesnt have to say anything.
Boost morale is the only thing she can think to do, so sometimes she goes around to them with a
stiff smile and says good job and she can tell by looking in their eyes that they think shes awkward,
forced, strange. What is their relationship, she wonders. To the cameras, she would say friends, but
truthfully, behind closed doors, she thinks shes really only friends with Tiffany. Theres a distance
even in closeness with the rest of them, and she knows its her fault. They try, repeatedly, to get
closer to her but it makes the hair on her arms raise. She likes them a lot. In a way, she loves them.
She can envision herself working with them for years. But something is telling her not to get too
closedont let them get under your skin, Taeyeon. Dont love love them. If they knew you, they
would run.
So she keeps them at arms-length. She listens to their feelings, their thoughts, their emotions, and
she swallows her own. She thinks of good things to saygood, encouraging things. Sometimes she
looks at them and her heart clenches with how much they are coming to mean to her and thats
when she knows she needs a break, to close off for a few days, weeks.
She spends a lot of time thinking about love and how many forms it appears in.

Thats enough, she tells Tiffany one day, softly, under her breath. The rest of the girls are talking
over the commercials in the radio booth. Her hand finds Tiffanys underneath the table and she
squeezes her fingers gently, briefly, before letting go. Her cheeks are hot. Stop, okay.
Tiffany looks at her. Playing dumb is her new thing. Its cute and has garnered her a lot of fans. Like
most things in this business, theres as much truth to it as there is falseness.

Stop what? she asks, just as soft.

The whole Taeyeon frowns. Embarrassed. The couple thing. The fanservice. Knock it
Tiffany blinks at her. She has pretty eyes. She has pretty everything. Thats really the problem.
Why? Its fun. The fans like it.
I know they like it, Taeyeon hisses, but it makes me uncomfortable.
Uncomfortable? Tiffany rolls her eyes. Its just for fun.
But it isnt fun, Taeyeon wants to say. It isnt really fun when the person you think youre in love
with plays with you like that, for the sake of fans. It isnt fun, really, because that person doesnt
love you back, but theyre still pretending because they think its fun. It isnt fun.
I just, Taeyeon says softly, delicately. Despite the softness of their conversation, the serious tone
of it seems to have attracted spectators. Across the table Sooyoung looks at them, frowning.
Its not even really fanservice, TaeTae, Tiffany points out. I mean, I think its okay if the fans
know that were really close, and obviously were just joking around
Yeah, but. Taeyeon wets her lips. Tiffany hasnt seen the comments on the internet. Isnt it
unprofessional of Taeyeon to show that much favoritism and Couple fanservice is one thing but if
youre the team leader shouldnt you like all members equally, instead of favoring one or the worst
ones, the ones lined with sinister intention, the Doesnt it seem like theres something different about
Taeyeon and the I like her voice but Ive read rumors about her that make me dislike her.
She knows she shouldnt read them; she tells the rest of the girls, repeatedly, not to read the
comments, but she cant listen to her own advice. Its like a sickness. As soon as she steps off stage,
off the camera, back from the microphone, she has to look. Her fingers type in her own name
without her realizing it and she cant help but look, make herself sick with the things people say.
There are nice things, there are supportive things, but they seem so small and pitiful compared to
the gigantic looming words like unprofessional and favoritism and the worst one: rumors, those
rumors, rumors.
I honestly didnt think it would bother you, Tiffany says later, at home. Its been a day-long
argument. Since debut, all conversations and arguments occur like thisin small windows of time
between schedules, stretching out sometimes for days because of lack of time. There was hardly
time to breathe, let alone talk, let alone argue.
You didnt think it would bother me?
Because youre, you know. Tiffany shrugs, looking around to make sure none of the other
members are lurking around the kitchen.
Because Im, you know, Taeyeon repeats wryly. What does
Well, I mean, I wouldnt do it with someone if I thought it would make them uncomfortable,
Tiffany reasons. But I guess maybe youre sensitive.

Taeyeon counts to ten slowly in her head and reminds herself that Tiffanys Korean is awful and
thats why shes sometimes not as tactful as she should be. She sets her jaw. Yeah. Thats why.
Because Im sensitive.
Tiffany sighs. I dont get what the problem is, but if you want me to stop, Ill stop. What am I
supposed to do, stay away from you on camera? Should I pretend youre not my best friend? Ooh,
should I act like were complete strangers? That could be fun.
Taeyeon massages the bridge of her nose. Youre being immature. Im just asking you to stop the
pretend couple thing. I dont care if people know were friends.
You dont seem to have a problem when Jessica does fanservice with you.
Thats different.
It just is. Okay? This makes me uncomfortable.
Tiffany looks at her for a long moment and then her expression softens. Okay. Whatever you
Yeah. Whatever makes you happy, Ill do it. She smiles. Taeyeons entire body feels warm.
Thanks, she says softly.
They stand alone in the kitchen quietly. Tiffany taps her fingers on the counter; she wants to say
something. Taeyeon can tell.
What, she prompts.
Taeyeon. Tiffany looks at her. Her expression is careful. Have you thought about, you know.
Telling the rest of the girls.
Taeyeon scratches her head. I dont think its their business.
I mean its up to you, of course, Tiffany says hastily. I just mean. We live together. We work
together. Were friends. Dont you think they would want to know?
Taeyeon shrugs. Shes thought about it. But truthfully, if Tiffany hadnt figured it out on her own,
Tiffany wouldnt know either. She wouldnt have told her. Its not something she feels capable of
saying, even as much as she realizes its true. Tiffany is the only person in the world, other than
Taeyeons ex-girlfriend, who knows, and that means something, Taeyeon thinks. Maybe.
I just think
I dont want
Theyd understand, Taeyeon, Tiffany says quietly. Theyre really nice kids. Youd know that if

you let yourself get close to them.

Frowning, Taeyeon shakes her head. Is it obvious that she wants to keep them at a distance? Is it
just obvious to Tiffany because Tiffany knows her best, or is it obvious to them as well? I dont
know. Ill think about it.
She fully plans, really, on not thinking about it at allshe says it to appease Tiffany, but truthfully
she has no intentions of telling anyone anything. Thats her plan, anyway, but Jessica ducks her
head in the kitchen. Her face is scrubbed of makeup and her expression is one Taeyeon is not used
to seeing from hershy, hesitant. She knows that Jessica is a shy person, but even around them she
usually attempts some pretense of bravado.
Hey. I was looking for you guys.
You found us, Taeyeon says uncomfortably. We were just, you know, standing quietly in a dark
kitchen, staring at each other. Apparently.
Thats a good way to spend a Saturday night, Jessica jokes but her entire demeanor is awkward,
tense. Had she heard them talking, Taeyeon wonders. Her heart beats fast.
Whats up? Tiffany asks, sensing Jessicas mood as well.
Uh, nothing. I was justum, I want to talk to everyone. So I wanted to make sure everyone was
home. So I could. Talk to everyone. Uh.
Is everything okay? Taeyeon presses.
Yeah! Yeah, uh Its weird seeing Jessica like this. Uncomfortable. Taeyeon feels on edge,
watching her. She doesnt want to see other peoples weaknesses; it makes her feel protective. She
doesnt want to feel like this.
Um, Im going to get the rest of the girls. Can you meet me in the living room?
Taeyeon checks the clock as she and Tiffany make themselves comfortable in the living room. Its a
little after four in the morning. Their schedules had only finished two hours earlier. Jessica is
usually the first in bed after a long day like the one theyve had; whatever is keeping her awake is
important, Taeyeon thinks.
Unni, youre being so cryptic, Yoona whines as the rest of the girls file in, flopping down on the
floor in a loose circle. Somehow its natural for them to gather that way, little to no thought ever put
into formation.
Are you pregnant? Hyoyeon jokes, cleaning her glasses before putting them back on. She looks
like she had been sleeping.
Im not pregnant, Jessica laughs.
Good, that would totally ruin my career.
Dont worry, Kim Hyoyeons Career is pretty much number one on my list of priorities.

What about Choi Sooyoungs Career? Sooyoung demands.

Dead last.
Wow, sleep with one eye open, Jessica.
They laugh lightly and then it dies out, weary with exhaustion. Jessica looks at all of them
fleetingly, but individually. Shes chewing her lower lip so hard Taeyeons surprised it isnt
bleeding. Despite herself, Taeyeon spares a glance to Tiffany, whose expression is serious. Gentle.
Taeyeon can tell she thinks she knows what Jessicas going to tell them.
Uh, I wanted to talk to you guys Jessica begins and then breaks off uncertainly. I mean, we
debuted a few months ago, so I dont know. Its been a really difficult couple of months, and um,
I feel like its moved so fast and I just thought Id let you guys knowuh, how much I like working
with you. And living with you. Andyeah, all that stuff. It seems as embarrassing for her to say as
it is for them to hear. They all shift uncomfortably. Sentimental displays of emotion arent exactly
frowned upon, but all nine of them are somehow all similarly embarrassed by that sort of thing.
They try to avoid it when possible. It isnt that they all dont agreeits just difficult to be eighteen,
seventeen and sixteen years old and tell people you love them without feeling corny.
Yuri laughs. You pulled us out of bed to be gross and cheesy? she asks lightly, breaking the
awkward atmosphere a little. Thanks, Sica.
Yeah. Jessica laughs halfheartedly. Also I feel like weve all become really close. So. I wanted
to tell you. I thought you guys should know, you know, that Im dating someone
They all nod slowly. Jessicas voice is shaking. Sunkyu touches her shoulder gently. A lot of them
had suspected, because she had been sneaking around a lot.
I just want to be upfront about it, Jessica goes on, her voice becoming smaller. The person Im
dating is, um female, so thats what I wanted to tell you
The room is so silent that Taeyeon can hear how hard Jessica swallows once shes said it. Taeyeon
has to hold her breath. She glances at Tiffany, who glances back at her. Her hands shake for some
Sooyoung is the first to break the silence. She and Hyoyeon have known Jessica the longest.
Ah, Sooyoung says lightly. Its that unni, right? She smiles.
Jessica laughs nervously, relief hesitantly crawling across her features. Yeah. Its her. Weve been
dating for a few weeks now.
Thats cool. Shes pretty.
Once Sooyoung says it, the rest of them relax. They agree. Jessica relaxes. Yuri tries to give them a
couple name. Hyoyeon jokes that she didnt realize Jessica could get a girlfriend that pretty.
Taeyeons heart beats so loudly she can barely hear them; it roars in her ears, throbs behind her
Im really glad you told us, Tiffany says, finally.

Relief has washed through Jessicas body so completely she looks boneless. Taeyeons entire body
feels rigid. The more relaxed Jessica becomes, the more she feels herself strung tight. Jessica
exhales heavily, smiling. So its okay with you guys that I, you know, would uh, date a girl?
Yoona laughs. Why wouldnt it be okay? Since thats who you want to date.
No one disagrees. Whether theyre all genuinely okay with it, Taeyeon doesnt know; shes not sure
if they know, really, either, just that they know they love her and wouldnt dare make this harder on
her than it already is. Consolation is first priority, and their instinctive protectiveness gives Taeyeon
goosebumps, unsettles her. She can feel Tiffany looking at her. She breathes evenly.
Jessica looks at the youngest. Juhyun, is this okay with you?
Juhyun frowns thoughtfully. Its a lot less gross than if you dated a boy.
Jessica laughs and then glances at Taeyeon. She fights to keep her expression neutral, but its
difficult, and she knows she must look pained. Jessicas voice is even more careful when she
addresses her.
Is it okay with you, Taeyeon?
Taeyeons tongue feels too heavy to move. Tiffany nudges her. Uh Taeyeon begins,
uncomfortable. She sees the rest of the girls exchange looks. Its okay.
The atmosphere has become uncomfortable. Jessica smiles nervously. Your opinion matters a lot to
me. I dont want you to be freaked out.
Im not, Taeyeon says, and thats all she says.
It has to do for the moment. They go to bed. The weeks stretch forward and teenagers become
seasoned idols and at a certain point, they stop being friends and start being a family. There are
times when Tiffany says you should tell them and there are times, inextinguishable, tense with
desperation, times when Taeyeon thinks I should tell her.
She attempts to keep them at arms-length until her arms give out.


Taeyeon closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the wall. Okay, she began, exhausted,
all yes votes raise your hand.
A quiet moment passed.
Oh, Im going to have to open my eyes to count votes, arent I? Wearily, she lifted her head and
opened her eyes. As expected, four members had raised their hands. Taeyeon cursed under her
breath. She hated being the tie-breaker.

What did you think, Taengoo unni? Juhyun asked.
Uh, well truthfully, my brain leaked out of my ears like an hour ago, so I dont even remember
what it sounded like, Taeyeon mumbled vaguely. So Ill say no, it sucks.
You suck, Tiffany shot back. She had raised her hand the highest.
Okay, Taeyeon agreed. I suck and the song sucks. Neither will be on the album. Next song for
eight-membered Girls Generations album, lets hear it.
Sunkyu loaded up the next demo. Taeyeon shifted in her seat. Her ass had fallen asleep roughly two
hours ago. They had spent the entire morning sifting through the many demos sent to the label from
various and many songwriters, of which there were hundreds. With the new responsibility that the
co-producing title they had all begged for came with was the added burden of having to select
which songs to record. It was mind-numbing; the ones that werent just plain awful were of such
awful production quality it was hard to tell whether they could be good or not. Never again would
Taeyeon complain about the labels ability to pick songs for them; it was a terrible job. She had
started the morning taking diligent notes on which songs she liked; by now her notebook had
devolved into wrathful angry scrawls of BAD MUSIC and EVERYTHING IS BAD and I HOPE MY
EARS FALL OFF which were wholly useless for assembling any sort of album.
Unwillingly, her mind wandered. What would happen after this? Would this be the last album she
ever recorded? Not just the last with the group, butthe last album ever? She couldnt imagine
herself releasing a solo album. She couldnt imagine where she would even release it. She couldnt
imagine anything past this very moment.
Hey, do you guys want to hear some news? Jessica asked when they decided to break for lunch.
They sat on the floor of the office in a tight circle, eating from a pile of food in the middle.
Only if its good news, Sooyoung said just as Hyoyeon said, Only if its bad news, and Yuri
said, Only if its sexy news.
Its horrible news, Tiffany interrupted. Its horrible news from a horrible person.
If Tiffany unni thinks its horrible, I definitely want to hear it, Yoona said.
Its not anything big, Jessica said calmly even as she gave Tiffany a cold look. I just wanted to
let you guys know, Im moving in with unni.
In her apartment? Yuri asked. Thats awesome, her apartment is so much bigger than yours.
Yeah, she makes way more money, Sooyoung agreed.
Jessica frowned. Its not because its bigger, its because I love her.
Love is really cool, unni, Yoona said dismissively, but penthouses are cooler.
Seriously, she has that view of the Han river
Dont listen to them, Taeyeon said. She smiled. Thats great. You guys have been dating

Its a big step, but Im excited, Jessica said. She had become shy. And I dont think itll be
suspicious or anything because, you know, theres been news articles about the two of us being
friends. I mean, Ill ask one of the managers what he thinks.
Im sure itll be fine, Taeyeon said. Im really happy for you. Youow, why She rubbed her
shoulder where Tiffany had punched her.
Youre supposed to be on my side! Tiffany cried.
I dont know what your side is!
She cant move in with her, because then Id have to find a new place to live. I cant pay the rent
on my own.
You can do a bunch of easy commercials to make money, Yuri said. I just did all those CFs and I
made so much money.
But I dont hate myself as much as you apparently do, Tiffany whined. Seriously oh my god a
commercial about raisins
Hey, theyre not just raisins, theyre raisins covered in yogurt
Get another roommate, Juhyun suggested.
Tiffany didnt reply, electing instead to consider it before, it looked, dismissing it outright. Except
suddenly, she brightened, turning a stunning, dizzying smile on Taeyeon.
Hey she began.
No, Taeyeon said.
Tiffany hit her. Why not?
Because you keep hitting me and no, I dont want to live with you.
Eyes narrowed. Yes, you do.
Yes, she did.
No, I dont.
Come on, weve lived together before. Im a very considerate roommate. Ask Jessica.
Jessica shook her head slowly, looking at Taeyeon with wide eyes.
No, Taeyeon said.
Tiffany just looked at her, eyes round as full moons. Taeyeons stomach fell. There was a heavy

feeling of dread working its way through her bloodstream. She was never getting out aliveshe
knew it. The more she tried to pull away, the harder she was yanked back. Saying no to Tiffany had
never been something Taeyeon had done very well and no one knew that better than Tiffany herself.
She sighed.
Ill think about it, she said, but Tiffany smiled.
She knew what Ill think about it meant.

chapter eleven
Many people were lucky if they had one good friend in their lifetime, yet Taeyeon had been blessed
with eight, even if sometimes she felt more burdened than blessed. They had ways of working
themselves into every crack and crevice of her existence. She hadnt known this when she was a
kid, but apparently friendship was being a pest, ingratiating yourself into every aspect of a persons
life, hovering over them when they wanted to be alone the most. It was a thing to complain openly
about and secretly cherish. Taeyeons best friends were like this more than anything else. There was
no slipping into yourself, shutting out the world; they were always there.
Unless, of course, she needed someone to help her move, in which case they were all mysteriously
Youre unnis favorite, do you know that, she told Yoona, the only member that had bothered to
show up. She held the elevator door open as Yoona carried past her two heavy boxes stacked on top
of one another.
I did know, Yoona said deftly, but its nice to hear.
Cant believe even Juhyun betrayed me, Taeyeon grumbled, scratching her head. You expect
betrayal from Choi Sooyoung, but my little Juhyun
Shes working, unni. They're all working. Its not betrayal. Why didnt you call one of the
managers, they might have helped?
I did, I called Kibum oppa. He laughed and hung up on me.
She understood that moving was tiring to help people do because she was still sore from helping
Jessica move into her girlfriends apartment last week. But Kwon Yuri started every morning with
two hundred one-handed push-ups, clearly she was in much better shape than Taeyeon! And Jessica
well, Jessica was generally pretty useless, but since Taeyeon had helped her move, the least she
could have done was show up and provide eye candy.
Anyway, thanks, she said, sighing. She punched Yoona on the shoulder playfully. You couldve
bailed too, but you didnt.
Yoona shrugged and looked at the floor. I didnt want you to do this alone, unni. Her voice was
even. The elevator doors opened.

Thanks, Taeyeon said, light, ignoring the hidden meaning she expected Yoona was attempting to
inject. Youre the best. If Tiffany didnt live here, she probably would have bailed too.
I dont think Tiffany unni would ever bail on you.
Taeyeon frowned, lifting a box with an inelegant grunt. She kicked at the propped open door of
Tiffanys apartment and dropped it on the floor with an exhausted exhale, moving aside quickly to
let Yoona walk in. She strode past effortlessly with her two boxes.
Barely breaking a sweat, Yoona tossed her hair out of her eyes, shifting the boxes in her arms.
Where do you want me to
Sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry! Tiffany squealed, running across the living room in only
a towel. Her hair was wet.
Really! Taeyeon cried in exasperation as Tiffany shut the door to her bedroom quickly. You just
got out of the shower? Yoona and I are halfway done already, youre supposed to be helping.
Im sorry! Tiffany cried through the door. It took forever to wash my hair! Im cutting it all off
as we speak, Ill never keep you waiting again!
Taeyeon sighed.
"Why did unni shower anyway," Yoona muttered, "when she's just going to get sweaty and need to
shower again later..."
"Because she's a moron," Taeyeon suggested helpfully.
"I heard that!"
"That's because I said it loud."
Tiffanys door opened hesitantly. Her head poked out. Uh, Taeyeon?
I left my clothes in the bathroom, could you
Taeyeon accidentally dropped the box she was holding. Are you naked in there?
What kind of a question is th
Yoona set her own boxes down. Ill get them.
Thanks, Yoona.
Taeyeon put her head in her hands and attempted to look away as Yoona handed Tiffany a folded
stack of clothes through the door crack and Tiffanys clean, bare shoulder eased out from behind the
door. It shut quickly. Taeyeon released a breath she didnt even know she was holding.
Yoona gestured helplessly toward the closed door. You have to live with that everyday now, you

Taeyeon laughed, shaking her head. Ive done it before, I guess I can handle it.
When the three of us moved in together, Sooyoung unni and I made Yuri unni sign a contract
saying she wouldnt walk around naked, its worked pretty well so far.
Ill consider that, Taeyeon said dryly, but wondered who in their right mind would think Yuri
walking around naked would be a bad thing.
Tiffany managed to help them get a few more boxes up before she wandered away to buy ice cream
to reward their hard work. Taeyeon felt that the best reward for hard work would be less hard work,
which could certainly be accomplished by Tiffany helping them for more than ten minutes, but she
had really never been the sort of person who could turn down ice cream.
She and Yoona rested on the back of the moving van for a little while. The moving had attracted a
small crowd earlier when bystanders had realized who the people carrying boxes in and out of the
building were, but the crowd had dispersed awhile back. Taeyeon had no doubt that devoted fans
had made the connection of where she was moving and with whom she was moving in with, and
made a note to stay even further away from the internet than usual for the next few days. Histrionic,
excitable articles about Girls Generations Taeyeon and Tiffany moving in together was really more
than she needed right now.
The only fans left were the girls who followed her around regularly. Taeyeon had heard them
talking earlier about having to adjust their schedules so that they could continue to follow her with
her new address in mind. She wondered what they thought about her crawling back to Tiffany like a
dumb spineless moron, and then felt oddly disgusted with herself for caring about what they
You are spineless, though, she told herself, and then snickered.
Yoona nudged her. What are you laughing at.
Nothing. Hey, thanks for showing up.
Youve said that like, a thousand times now, I get it, unni. Im just less employed than everyone
else, I guess. Yoona grinned at her. Honestly, Im a little happy that no one else showed up, its
been awhile since it was just the two of us.
Cant it be just the two of us in a situation less taxing for my muscles.
Come on, I carried four times what you carried.
Taeyeon made a pitiful whining noise anyway.
Yoona stretched her legs out and leaned back on her elbows. Unni, can I ask you something?
Taeyeon mirrored her. She nodded.
Do you think youre doing the right thing? Moving in with Tiffany unni?
She had been expecting this. She smiled a little. She forgot sometimes, because Yoona was so

mature and pretty, that she really was like a little sister.
She tried to look cheerful. I dont know if its the right thing. I definitely dont think its the wrong
thing, if thats what you mean.
I just mean Yoona frowned. I worry about you.
I know.
I know you can take care of yourself, but I cant help but worry, Yoona admitted. Yoona had
always been bad with serious discussions. For as long as Taeyeon had known her, she had carefully
dodged the grave and somber moments in favor of lightheartedness. It was a thing she had always
liked about Yoona. Yoona didnt need to be taken care of, and in a way she was just as reticent about
opening up as Taeyeon was; consequently, Taeyeon had never felt burdened around her, pressured
into being more open with emotions. Yoona was the laid-back person Taeyeon wished she could be.
It was weird to look up to someone younger than you, but there it was.
Its okay, was all Taeyeon would say, but she meant it. It would be a good challenge. It wasnt
really in her nature to be hopefully optimistic, but she would give it a try. It was the exact opposite,
maybe, of what she was hoping to doextricate herself from Tiffanys life a bit, and vice versa
but maybe the physical proximity would make her stronger for it.
More and more the futility of basing her entire notion of contentment around a stupid feeling shed
had since she was fifteen years old was becoming ridiculous. It wasnt fair to anyone. She kept
telling herself that. It wasnt fair to herself, it wasnt fair to Tiffany. It wasnt fair to anyone.
Can I tell you someth
Stop asking me for permission, Taeyeon said softly. Im not that fragile. You can say anything
you want.
Yoona looked at her, long and measured. I really look up to you, unni.
Taeyeon frowned. Anything except that.
I know you hate hearing stuff like that, but I really do. I wouldnt be able to handle everything you
I think its arguable whether Im handling it or not, Taeyeon admitted.
You are.
A shadow fell over them. Taeyeon looked up to see Tiffany standing over them, backed by the sun.
I rushed because I figured you guys were hard at work, she said with a frown. She handed them
ice creams. Little did I know you were slacking on the job.
Look whos talking, Taeyeon commented, unwrapping her ice cream.
Ill do the rest all by myself, Tiffany declared, squeezing in between them.

That would be entertaining to watch. She sat up a little to check her phone. Hyoyeon had sent a
How do I block Kim Hyoyeons number, she asked idly, typing out a sarcastic reply, and how
does she think she can just invite everyone to a party at our place without asking permission?
It was my idea, Tiffany said, leaning her chin on Taeyeons shoulder to peek at the reply she was
typing out. Its just going to be the nine of us so Iwhoa, did you hit reply all, magnaes going
to scold you for using that word.
Oh yeah. She deleted the insult and tried to think of a more polite way of telling Hyoyeon she was
the worst person alive. She hit send. So theyre too busy to help me move but not too busy to come
over and get drunk, is that it.
Well, are you ever too busy to get drunk?
Good point. She checked the rest of her messages. Her thumb hovered for a moment over a text
shed received last night without noticing. She glanced toward Tiffany, now leaning on Taeyeons
arm and reading over her shoulder, out of the side of her eyes.
Do you mind?
Tiffany grinned. Why, are you hiding something?
Uh, no, I just
You want to read that text from Kang Hyejin, dont you?
I would like to read all my texts without an audience.
Does she send you dirty texts, is that why, is it going to be like Taengoo, what are you wearing?
Is thathey
Yoona had yanked her by the arm and pulled her away. Taeyeon shot her a grateful look.
Are you still seeing her, unni? Yoona asked, putting Tiffany in a headlock.
Uh, not really, Taeyeon said vaguely, too distracted to point out that they hadnt been seeing each
other in the first place. She looked quietly at her phone. Hyejin had gone to Japan with f(x) for a
concert; it was her first time in Tokyo. She had sent a selca, with Tokyo Tower in the background
and a short message: Like you said, it looks pretty at night!
She saved the picture because it was cute. Her phone background had been the same picture of her
and Tiffany for almost a year. She didnt really have the heart to change it, but thought if she ever
did, Kang Hyejin at Tokyo Tower might be an okay replacement. She typed a reply.
Were just friends, I guess, she finally told Yoona.
Friends who sleep together? Tiffany joked, trying to wrestle out of Yoonas grasp. She caught
Taeyeons eye and her expression was serious, tensely curious despite the flippancy in her tone.

Taeyeon shrugged. On the one hand, Tiffanys interest was disconcerting; on the other hand, she
guessed it was a normal thing for friends to talk about. She had no idea what the correct path was
toward trying to normalize their friendship.
I dont know.
Shes really pretty, Yoona commented. To Tiffany, she asked, Have you seen her, unni?
They lapsed into an awkward silence. Taeyeon suddenly wished she had never looked at her text
She stretched. Her arms felt sore already; she couldnt imagine how theyd feel tomorrow. She was
more than a little out of shape. Maybe they could promote a ballad, she thought ruefully.
It took a few hours, but they managed to get the last of Taeyeons things upstairs. True to her word,
Tiffany had done most of the workmostly, Taeyeon suspected, because she felt guilty about
leaving her and Yoona to do so much of it themselves and it was just in her nature, but she also felt
distinctly as though she had sent Tiffany into a poor mood and her new roommate was hoping to
avoid her.
It really didnt bode well for the future, Taeyeon thought, that they were already victims of one
anothers moodiness after living together for mere hours, but she tried to think positively anyway.
She walked Yoona to the door so the younger girl could go home and shower before returning later
for the party.
Thanks again for coming.
Youre welcome again. Are you going to be okay? Ill be back in, she checked her watch, three
Taeyeon shrugged, amused. Im going to be living here now, so if I cant survive three hours alone
with her, that would be pretty bad, wouldnt it? Ill be fine. I promise not to jump out any windows,
Yoona just looked at her with big, sad eyes. A part of Taeyeon was touched at her concern, but it
made her skin crawl somehow. The last thing she needed now was everyone around her feeling even
more sorry for her.
Im serious, she said softly. Everythings fine.
Yoona took her hand, lacing their fingers together. She didnt say anything, only looked pensively at
the floor as she swung their joined hands distractedly. Taeyeon could tell she wanted to say
something, but they werent that different. The words refused to come out; it was a familiar feeling
to Taeyeon.
She squeezed Yoonas hand. Get out of here. See you later.
Yoona nodded, smiled. Okay, unni.

The apartment was deathly silent once Yoona had left. She could hear Tiffany, helpfully unpacking
Taeyeons things into her bedroom, but the air was restless with silence. She wasnt sure why the
idea of being alone with Tiffany was suddenly so terrifying to herthey were alone together often
enough already. Yet it was like being walled in now. If she needed to get away, if she needed air,
where would she go?
Tiffany looked up when Taeyeon came in. She was setting up her computer. Sorry about the party
thing, she said, her eyes apologetic. I didnt think it would bother you.
It doesnt, I was just kidding around." Taeyeon smiled. Its good, I have something to tell
everyone anyway.
She tasted metal in her mouth. Tiffany looked at her, frowning.
Everything okay?
Yeah. Just some stuff we need to talk about.
You know whats best, Tiffany said reflexively. Taeyeon bit her tongue, willing herself not to
respond. She began unpacking her clothes first.
She didnt turn. Hmm.
Do you think its a good idea, us living together?
No, Taeyeon said calmly. I think its a terrible idea.
Do you think I manipulated you into agreeing?
Yes, she replied honestly. She began hanging up clothes. But I could have said no.
Are you angry?
No. She turned and caught Tiffanys eye. I just wish youd stop feeling like you need to tie me
down. Im not going anywhere.
Tiffany looked at the floor, ghosting the edge of a box corner with her foot. After what you did,
she began delicately, dont you think I have the right to worry about you leaving me?
Taeyeon winced. She hadn't expected Tiffany to ever bring it up again. Youre the one who left, not
me. She tried to mask the harshness of her words in a pleasant tone, but Tiffanys sad smile was
evidence enough that shed caught Taeyeons meaning.
Thats true, she said. Taeyeon had expected her to try and argue the point; the lack of fight in her
tone made her feel worse. She felt as if their roles had suddenly reversed. Tiffany was usually the
aggressive one who said things she didnt mean while Taeyeon passively allowed it. She wondered
how they had ever gotten to this point, how they had ever managed to become so close to one
another when their personalities were so antagonistic.

Sorry, she said quietly. She looked at the floor, too. Come here.
Tiffany did. She hugged her, tight. She felt Tiffanys arms circle around her shoulders, felt her
pressing close. She breathed her in for a moment. She wanted to say, then, that she wished they
would stop trying to hurt each other, and that she remembered the promise they made, once, and
that was why it was so hardthat she didnt know what to do, because it was going to be painful
either way, wasnt itwith her, without herand she didnt know what to doshe didnt know
what to do. She wanted to say it, but couldnt.
Instead, she hugged her, because loving Tiffany was a difficult thing, but it was also the easiest

Jessica and Tiffanys apartment had always been their default place for gathering, partly because it
was one of the biggest ones, and mostly because out of the nine of them, Tiffany was easily the best
and most considerate host. The one time theyd gathered at Yuri, Sooyoung and Yoonas apartment
had been like being left to fend for themselves in the wild. Because she had spent the past two years
of her life living alone, Taeyeon hadnt really considered that living with Tiffany would disrupt her
very dedicated lifestyle of being alone; the rest of the group was one thing, but Tiffany was an
exceptionally social person.
Although, she thought, watching Tiffany from across the apartment, she hadnt been very social
since coming back to Seoul. She wondered if it was just because she was so busy getting back into
the swing of working, or if shed cleared her head that much while in Los Angeles.
Maybe it made sense. They were twenty-six years old. They had crested the mid-twenties; they
were closer to thirty than twenty, which was a sobering thought. At a certain age, she guessed, you
became less interested in casual socializing and more interested in family. For Tiffany, the eight of
them were her family.
And hadnt she chosen them, Taeyeon thought.
She sighed and checked the clock. It was getting toward midnight. Some members had early
schedules tomorrow and as much as Taeyeon wanted to put this off, it was probably a good idea to
drop the news while everyone was still lucid enough to understand. She had been nursing one drink
all night, feeling far too anxious about what she knew she had to tell them to even think about
getting drunkwhich was something she needed to stop doing so much of anyway.
Hey kids, she called into the kitchen. Can you turn down the music a little, I have to tell you
guys something.
You look serious, unni, Yoona said, frowning. They turned the music down and gathered in the
living room.
Seriously, last time you looked this serious you tried to step down as leader, Sooyoung joked,
sitting down on the floor next to the couch.
Taeyeon smiled wryly. It was hard to look at them like this. She was reminded, irrepressibly, of the
five-minute talks they used to have regularly before theyd moved out of the dorm. It had been
difficult, then, tootheir expectant stares, silent attention. She felt put on the spot, even if she had
instigated it.

Whats up Taengoo?
So, um. Taeyeon laced her fingers together and set them formally in her lap. She glanced at
Sunkyu, who gave her a slight smile. I was thinking this week, we should probably set out a
timeline for finishing this album. Since we want to use all original material, instead of previouslyrecorded stuff, its going to take awhile, but since its the first album weve ever attempted to
produce, I think its fine if we take our time.
The other girls murmured in agreement. She steeled herself.
Um, the other thing is something Sunkyu brought to my attention the other day, after she met with
her uncle. She paused for a moment and considered, very briefly, coaxing Sunkyu into breaking
the news but she knew she had to. It had to be her.
Soso sunsaengnim mentioned that this would probablybe our last album together. You know,
as a group.
She wasnt sure what she had expected their reactions to be, but the hushed, stunned silence wasnt
nearly as unnerving as the way they continued looking at herstill, expectant, waiting.
Hyoyeon shook her head. Waitwhat?
They all began talking at once. Taeyeons head ached.
What about our contracts, though?
I dont understand whywere still at the top, that seems so stupid
Are you sure about this?
Taengoo, what do you think we should do?
Um, she said softly. Her instinct, when cornered, was to look at Tiffany, but Tiffany was staring
quietly at her lap and wouldnt meet her eyes. She looked at Sunkyu instead, but despite being the
one to break the news to her, Sunkyus expression was just as expectant as the rest of them, waiting
for Taeyeon to tell them what to do.
Taeyeon didnt know what to do. She had never known what to do.
She cleared her throat, more out of habit than anything, but it did the trick of quieting them. Look
we have time to think about this. I mean, sunsaengnim said they would allow us to finish this
album, right? She glanced at Sunkyu, who nodded. I guess their intention was to blindside us with
this, but we have a heads up, and we canyou know. Figure out what we want to do She
trailed off. What did they want to do? Could anyone say?
She explained the rest of the situationabout the possibility of separate contracts, the intention to
promote them as soloists, her personal opinion that the unwillingness to officially disband them
would probably be the best way of making sure they actually did disband. Her voice became

smaller with each word; she remembered being eighteen years old and burdened with her
designation, terrified to talk to them.
Unni, what do you think we should do? Juhyun asked and they all looked at her. They kept
looking. She had never felt so many eyes on her before. She had performed in gigantic arenas,
surrounded by thousands of wide-eyed, watching fans, but this was much more. At least on stage,
she knew what to do.
Itsthis is a nine-membered group, Taeyeon said, vaguely, uncomfortably. What I thinkit
should be what all of us think, not what I think, she rambled. Quiet.
Yeah, but, Tiffany spoke for the first time, looking at Taeyeon pointedly, of the nine of us, who
do you think could have the most successful solo career? I think your decision makes a big
Taeyeon looked at her, confused. Theres no way of knowing who. Thats not the point. We need to
come to an agreement that were all happy with.
She was met with only silencea suspenseful, guarded silence, waiting for her to say something.
Always looking to her for the right answer.
But she had no ideashe didnt want to think about it. No one would want to be the first to say lets
do what we can to make sure we stay together because what if not everyone felt that way? Just as no
one could be the first to say maybe disbanding is the right thing because what if no one else was on
the same page? Coming up with a solution was like picking a side, and Taeyeon had no idea what
side she should want.
We have time to talk about it, she kept saying to the members as she walked them to the door,
making sure they all had arrangements of getting home safe. She said it to each of them and felt she
had to because they kept looking at her, waiting for to say something. It was making her sick. For
every we can talk about it were ten more what should we do Taeyeon what should we do unni what
should we do.
Once they were gone, she found Tiffany in the kitchen, cleaning up. Her face was drawn tight.
Taeyeon felt winded. Maybe, she thought, she should have told Tiffany first, alone. Maybe it was
favoritism, she thought with hollow amusement, the old guilt rearing its ugly head, but maybe
Tiffany had deserved that muchshe had chosen them. She had chosen Korea, the group, the nine
of them.
Miyoungie, she said softly, affectionately. Are you okay?
Tiffany nodded. She piled glasses in the sink. She was not okay. Taeyeon touched her elbow,
hesitantly, and tried to pull her close but she stayed rooted to her spot.
Do you want to talk about it? she pressed, but Tiffany shook her head. She looked up, finally,
meeting Taeyeons eyes.
What do you think we should do
Please dont ask me that, Taeyeon whispered.
Tiffany looked at her for a long moment. Are you going to fight for this group, Taeyeon?

She didnt know what to say to that.

You arent, are you?
She wet her lips. II dont know.
Tiffanys eyelashes fell along her cheekbones. She looked down, exhaled quietly.
She took Taeyeons hand briefly, and squeezed it. Good night, she said, and walked past her. The
air went out of the room.
Taeyeons first night in her new apartment was sleepless.

chapter twelve
Taeyeons nights are sleepless.
If she closes her eyes, this room has just four bare walls, floor and ceiling, empty; she is lying on
the floor, in clean air.
If she opens her eyes, there are three beds and she is in the one closest to the wall; there is a window
with the shade clumsily drawn, hanging crooked against the windowsill; a closet stuffed with
clothes; a minefield of a floor with things to trip over every few feet.
She takes a breath, breathes in the same air she breathes in every night as she lies here and cannot
There is movement at the door, but Taeyeon keeps her gaze on the ceiling, breathes in and out
evenly. Yoona is filming late into the night. It could be Sooyoung, coming in to sleep. It could be
any one of the girls coming in to talk, unload their worries on her ever-patient ears. She hopes it is,
and hopes it isnt.
The bed dips; her stomach clenches. Tiffanys face comes into view, looming over her, hair falling
like a crashing wave.
Hey, Tiffany says. The room is dark. I didnt know you came home.
Just a little while ago.
Did I wake you?
Taeyeon laughs, lightly. She hasnt slept properly in weeks. She would love to be woken up
abruptly from sleep, because itll mean she has managed to drift off properly for once.
How was your date?

It wasnt a date, Taeyeon grunts. She closes her eyes as Tiffany combs long fingers through her
hair, neatening up the messy bangs on her forehead.
Since this is like, the tenth not-a-date youve gone on with her, isnt it time you admit its a
Taeyeon smiles a little. She feels Tiffany drag a finger between her eyebrows, gently, then down her
nose. Okay, I guess were dating.
Tiffany shoves her shoulder. When she opens her eyes, her best friend is grinning down at her.
What are you so happy about, she wonders, stretching.
Nothing. Im happy for you. Shes pretty. And shes always really nice to us backstage at music
Taeyeon lifts a shoulder casually. Yeah, shes pretty.
Tiffany hits her, again. Stop trying to be cool.
Im not trying, I just happen to be really cool, Taeyeon laughs. She rests her hand on her stomach
and feels Tiffany take it, lace their fingers together. They look at each other a long time. Its
moments like this, really, when Taeyeon is unable to think, and can only get lost in the depths of
Tiffanys eyes, wonder if anyone has ever looked this deeply into them. She wonders if anyone has
ever looked at her the way Tiffany does, and she wonders if Tiffany looks at anyone else the way
she looks at her. Its an agonizing thought, but it gives her hope, sometimes.
Hope is dangerous, though, hope is self-conscious.
Its been a while since shes heard the nickname. She slides her fingers through Tiffanys, locking
them tighter together.
Dont you think you should tell the other girls? Tiffany says quietly. I mean, especially now. If
youre dating.
Taeyeon shifts uncomfortably.
I mean, Tiffany goes on. They tell you when theyre dating, and
Yeah, but its not like I ask.
I just, I mean, its up to you, of course. I just dont understand why you dont want to be honest
with them. I mean, like, obviously no one is going to have a problem with it, you know.
She doesnt know how to answer. She doesnt know how to tell Tiffany how desperate she is to
make sure no one gets too close, how she, Tiffany, is the only person shes let get this close and
sometimes she worries its a mistake, that its unnatural to love someone this muchnot just
romantic love, not just the way she feels when Tiffany comes out of the shower and she wonders

what the wet skin at the hollow of her throat tastes likebut the way she feels, sometimes violently,
desperately, that Tiffany is the best thing to ever happen to her; she is the best friend Taeyeon will
never deserve.
Im sorry, she says simply, I dont think I can.
They hear the front door open and close. Taeyeon checks the clock.
That must be Yoona, she says, groaning as she tries to sit up. Lets have a five-minute talk.
The five-minute talk had been her idea. As she sits in a disorderly circle with her eight group
members, a throbbing pain in her head from days of no sleep, she is fully aware of the irony of
convincing them of a good idea to make them closer to each other, when its the last thing she
wants. She is unable to make her professional and emotional selves reconcile, but convinces herself
its in the interest of better teamwork, and not because they mean more to her than she wants to
Its your career, she tells herself day after day. The only thing that matters. The reason you came
here. You didnt come here for companionship, you came here to sing.
She wants to believe it more than she can make herself believe it. She takes steps to ensure
longevity, to make sure they can last as a group; she tells herself theyre steps to make sure she can
do this work for as long as she needs to. When she says Id like to be in Girls Generation forever
she tells herself it has nothing to do with them as people, its a need to cling to the work and the
sweat and the addiction to success. She gets lost in their words and touched by their sincerity
toward her, their earnest emotion, but she will not love them.
It has been a tiring hiatus filled with false starts and numerous stops and the frustration builds in her
like a storm. She thinks back to their debut and what they could have done better, more efficiently,
less controversially, so they wouldnt have to be in this position of potential worry that the label will
decide there isnt much use to them.
She is not a leader; shes selfish. She wants their teamwork to be perfect because the groups
improvement benefits her, solidifies her future, ensures her that she will reach the top and be happy.
The talk draws to a close. She feels the need to wrap up, because tomorrow they go into the studio
again to record a song that will hopefully be releasedfinally, something, after months of waiting,
of feeling like they were set to debut againand they can try again, maybe, group together and be a
stronger group. Shes desperate for it.
I just want to make one thing clear, she says, and they all quiet. Maybe just to hear her, because
her voice is soft, or maybe because she speaks so scarcely that when she does, theyre stunned into
We debuted over a year ago, andI think we can all agree there were a lot of problems, and
hiccups along the way. But. She clasps her fingers together and looks at her lap; their eyes make
her nervous. I would like to do this, this job with you guys, for the rest of my life.
She is anxious to meet their eyes, but they look at her warmly and she feels it build in her stomach,
like a pleasurable sense of dread.
I know it sounds stupid, she says softly. But I mean that. So I thinkif we work hard now, and

do things bit by bit, then we canwe can be a strong group that will last a very long time.
They agree. That night, she cannot sleep at first, as she usually cannot sleep. But beneath the
anxiety and worry and fear is an unfamiliar sense of security, safety, and it lulls her to sleep like a
boat rocking gently on a lake.


Taeyeon thought, broodingly, that attempting to erect a wall around herself had somehow had the
opposite effect than anticipated. As time wore on, she thoughtpressing Hyejin to the wall and
meeting her lipsshe became more and more vulnerable, impossibly vulnerable. Experience should
have taught her that the more she attempted to distance herself from something or someone, the
more attached she would grow, and yet she had somehow allowed this to happen.
Im sorry, she breathed, and her mouth found the pulse at Hyejins throat.
Sorry for what? The air dropped around them. Taeyeon clung to her, put her mouth next to
inviting lips. She wanted her mouth to be everywhere at once. She felt Hyejins arms tighten around
her neck and block out the memories.
She wasnt sure for what or whywhat memories. She kissed her. Hyejin had barely made it two
steps into the apartment, halfway out of her shoes, halfway out of her coat. It had been awhile since
Taeyeon had seen her, she admitted, but she had not expected to feel this eager when she saw her.
Hey, she greeted finally, kissing her one last time. Welcome back to Korea.
Good to be back. Her flight had come in the night before, and Taeyeon had invited her over for
breakfast. Sorry Im a little early, I gave myself extra time in case I couldnt find the place, but it
was really easy to find. She looked around, finally getting her other shoe off. The rest of her coat
followed. Its really nice.
Yeah, its not bad, Taeyeon said. She couldnt stop looking at her.
Its bigger.
Youre still in your pajamas. Im sorry, Im early.
Taeyeon looked down at herself in distraction. No, its okay. I was just going to take a shower
while I waited for youdo you mind waiting?
Not at all.
Or, she teased, you could join me.
I could, but Id prefer breakfast.

Taeyeon laughed. My poor pride.

What pride You have company?
She turned, following Hyejins gaze over her shoulder. Tiffany had come out of her bedroom, eyes
bleary with sleep. She blinked at the two of them in the entrance; Taeyeon waved half-heartedly. In
a drowsy daze, Tiffany shuffled over to meet them.
Not company, thatthats Tiffany, you know Tiffany.
It was at this point, when Hyejin and Tiffany looked at each other with equal measurements of
confusion, that Taeyeon began to feel awkwardshe wasnt entirely sure why, though. It was the
first time they had met, but she had no idea why that should matter. Certainly there were more than
a few girls Taeyeon had slept with that had never met Tiffanymost, she would surmise. Or hope.
It was possibly, she reasoned, the weird feeling of standing between the person you loved most in
the world and someone you very much wanted to take to bed at that very momentor it was that
they were both looking at her with the same emotional concoction of uncertainty and the barest hint
of betrayal, as though she should understand. She introduced them, uncomfortably, feeling strangely
admonished by both.
Ive heard a lot about you, Tiffany said, polite. She seemed suddenly self-conscious, adjusting her
pajamas in a gesture so singularly endearing Taeyeon had to bite her lip.
Good things, I hope, Hyejin said vaguely, and seemed to not know how to react. So youdid
you sleep over, or
Taeyeon looked at her, surprised. Whno. This is Tiffanys apartment. Our. Wereroommates.
A heavy silence fell over them. Tiffany ran an anxious hand through her hair and excused herself to
use the bathroom. Taeyeon fidgeted from foot to foot.
You didnt mention you were moving in with her.
She looked up quickly. Didnt I? I thought I did.
I can review my text messages
All right, let me talk to a lawyer before you start presenting evidence, Taeyeon muttered. Sorry, I
thought I did.
You didnt.
Okay, sorry? The hair on her arms stood up. She couldnt help but feel defensive. I cant live
with my best friend?
Of course you can, I just dont understand why you didnt mention it.
Well, Taeyeon said, frowning. Youre not my girlfriend, are you. You said it yourself. I dont

need to tell you anything.

As soon as shed said it, an apology leapt to her lips, but Hyejin didnt look upset. She smiled in
understanding, concession. This didnt make Taeyeon feel any less admonishedin fact, it was
worse. It was exasperating to want to lash out and be only met with a condescending sort of
sympathy. The whole thing left her with a bitterness that was hard to erase, and her initial elation at
seeing Hyejin again was giving away to frustration, defeat.
Thats true, Hyejin said simply.
Im sorry, I mean
I know what you mean. I didnt think it would upset you this much. Does it feel like I rejected
Now she wished she had never opened the door. She looked down, adjusted her gaze somewhere
near Hyejins collarbone, anything to avoid looking her in the eyes.
A little bit.
Hyejin laughed. Dont feel that way. She took Taeyeons hand. Id love to date you, Taeyeon. Its
just that you dont want to date me.
Taeyeon stiffened. I asked you, didnt I?
You did, but its not what you want. I know its not what you want.
That almost made her laugh. Imagine someone who had known her for less than a year knowing
what she wanted when she herself had no idea. She nodded, slowly.
So thats it? Thatsthe last word? Were just, what, friends with benefits?
We could be friends without the benefits, Hyejin joked.
No thank you, Taeyeon said delicately. She knew, objectively, that Hyejin was right, that she
didnt want a relationship, but knowing what she didnt want didnt make it any easier to figure out
what she did want. She sighed. When she finally raised her head again to meet Hyejins eyes, she
could only hope that she didnt look as vulnerable as she felt.
She tried to smile, ease the tension, but it was difficult. It was difficult to want someone this badly
and not know why, and difficult to feel this open and exposed, and difficult, maybe, to pick apart
the millions strings of different types of love that coursed through her like wind.
Hyejin looked at her for a long time before kissing her. Taeyeon, she sighed. I wish I knew what
you were thinking.
Taeyeon let her eyes fall to the floor. Her eyelashes felt wet. I wish I knew, too.

Of the in-house composers at the label, he was not necessarily her favorite, but he was easy to work
with and readily available; when she had asked him to meet with her at the studio, he had been
willing to do it the next day, and he had even brought coffee.

Hows the album coming along? he asked, sitting and stretching his legs out on the coffee table in
front of them.
Not bad. Because they were doing so much of the work themselves, Taeyeon found she had
become strangely reticent about discussing their progress. They were feeling their way as they went
along and it felt stressful to have the eyes of executives and artists who knew better. No matter what
happened, Taeyeon thought, this would be their project and no one elses.
I heard youre still tracking.
Mostly, and song selection, she explained. I think we want to write most of the material on our
own but were collecting a lot of demos in case we need backup, or cant come up with a title
We? he repeated. Oh, I was talking about your album, but its good to hear the group album is
going well.
Oh. Taeyeons ears felt warm. That. Ive kind of shelved that indefinitely, Im really just
focusing on the group album for now.
Well, theres no reason you cant work on both.
I guess, she said uncomfortably. But Im not very motivated. I had a few months and I only
managed to finish one song.
But its a great song, one of the best Ive heard all year. I mean, I heard it before it was mastered,
but His smile was so friendly, so effortless. Inwardly, Taeyeon tensed. She sat up straighter.
Thank you, she said hurriedly. Thats the song, actually, that I wanted to talk to you about. Since
Im not going to use it for my album, I wanted you to help me work on a new arrangement for it so
I can give it to the group.
He paused, blinking at her over his coffee cup. You want to put that song on the group album?
But why? Its a great song. If you released it, it would top the charts for sure. It wont work for the
group, it couldnt possibly be promoted as a group
I know, I think it would make good filler, though.
Filler? Taeyeon, come on. His tone was scolding. What are you even thinking? Dont you think
about the future at all?
Of course I do, she said. He sighed impatiently. Taeyeon felt again admonished, for what must
have been the millionth time that day.
Look. Its your decision, of course. But that song could catapult your solo career. Why waste it on
a group album when you could be kickstarting the next phase of your career? If you ask me, thats
what you need to focus on at this point.

Taeyeon looked at him carefully. He was nothing but a songwriter employed by the company. He
wasnt a high-ranking executive. She wondered if there was any way he could know about the
labels plans to dissolve the group after this albumher instinct told her no, that it was a decision
made and kept among the highest echelon of board members.
That was it, though. He was just a random songwriter with no real stake in her career, or the groups
career, and yet even he felt that there was a next phase to move onto.
She exhaled briefly. I get what youre saying, she said, straining to be polite, but my solo album
isnt something I can focus on right now.
Its entirely your decision, of course, he explained carefully. His tone had become softer, gentler,
as though he sensed her defensiveness. Its your life, Taeyeon. Its your career. I justits
something to think about, you know? The other girls are, arent they?
Taeyeon laced her fingers together, set them tensely in her lap. Are they?
Arent they? Juhyunnie released hers already, I heard Jessicas working on one, I know Yuri started
production a couple months ago before she became too busy, and Tiffany, too
Still, Taeyeon interrupted. We want to release this group album next year, sostillthats what
were focusing on.
He seemed like he could tell he had hit a nerve. Okay, he said softly, smiling. Ill help you with
the arrangement, if thats what you want. Justremember what I said.
Yeah, said Taeyeon.
She thought it would be near impossible to forget.

Do you think its going to snow?

The air stood still. Taeyeon breathed on the window, then watched her breath vanish on the glass.
Weather report said maybe. It feels cold enough to.
I think all of December will be cold. What are you doing for Christmas?
She turned and was startled by how close Tiffany was standing to her. The cold crept in from the
window and they had huddled together unconsciously. Taeyeon took a small step back, trying to put
a little space between them.
Are you going home?
I cant. I have a regular radio schedule, so it would be too much trouble to make the trip home.
What about you, are you going to visit your dad?
Tiffany pursed her lips together. No, I dont think so.

Why? You dont have any regular schedule, you could go.
Tiffany looked at her, at the space between them. Do you want hot cocoa?
When she turned around to head into the kitchen, Taeyeon shivered. It was cold.
Okay, she said, following her once she had picked up a blanket from the couch. She leaned
against the doorframe and watched Tiffany put the water on to boil. She bit back a joke about
Tiffanys ability to heat water being the extent of her culinary capability mostly because her best
friend seemed so suddenly preoccupied.
Is there something wrong? she pressed. You dont want to go home for the holiday?
I told you, Tiffany said distractedly, looking for mugs. This is home.
Okay, but still, your dad
Since youll be in Seoul, Ill be in Seoul. The decisiveness in her tone gave Taeyeon pause. She
distracted herself by wrapping the blanket around her shivering shoulders. Was it really that simple
for her?
You dont have to, she said at last, and when she looked up she found Tiffany in her space again,
adjusting the blanket around her shoulders.
She met her eyes. I know. I want to.
Taeyeon smiled. Okay. You and me for Christmas.
Like old times.
Unless Tiffany fiddled with the edges of her blanket. When she looked down her eyelashes
seemed so long, it was hard not to study them. Unless you have, you know, plans. Here. Dont
cancel them on my account.
Taeyeon shrugged. I dont have plans.
Not with Hyejin?
Taeyeon took a small step backwards. I dont think we wouldIm sure she has other plans.
But are you two Tiffany trailed off, pressed her lips together tightly; Taeyeon recognized it as
the face she made when she couldnt bring herself to say something.
She laughed lightly. Was that what all this was leading to? What was the point of beating around the
bush like that? Why dont you just ask? Were not dating.
Youre not?
No. I dont know how many times I need to say it. She couldnt read Tiffanys expression, so she
continued. And before you lecture meI was open to it. I asked her. She said no.

She said no?

Yes. Taeyeon swallowed, smiled bitterly. Why are you so surprisedIve been rejected before.
She looked at Tiffany meaningfully, but Tiffany had gone back to the stove and was studying the
water in the pot, bubbles dotting the surface lazily.
So you two are just
Friends. Like I said, friends.
Friends whoI mean, she spent the night?
Huh? No. No, I invited her for breakfast.
You thought she spent the night?
Well, I assumed, I mean She waved her hands around erratically, unable to explain, and then
turned to finish making the hot cocoa. Taeyeon watched her and tried to figure out what
conversation Tiffany wanted to have, and which one they were having. She waited. Tiffany wasnt
like her. Tiffany couldnt keep things inside for very long.
I think we should like, have rules. And stuff, she said finally. She shook her hair out of her eyes
and carried both mugs of cocoa past Taeyeon and into the living room. Like about dating and, um,
like, people staying over. And stuff. She set the mugs on the table and sat down on the couch.
Taeyeon joined her. Well, what were yours and Jessicas rules?
We didnt have any.
Then, why do we need She flailed helplessly, attempting to extricate one arm from the blanket
cocoon she had wrapped herself in.
Well, to be fair, Jessicas been with the same person for like, a million years, and you havent been
with the same person for more than like, a week, sooh my god, you big baby, she sighed
impatiently, yanking Taeyeons arm out from the tangled blanket and shoving the mug of hot cocoa
into her now free hand, what would you do without me?
I have no idea. What kind of rules? Dont bring anyone home?
Well, or, you know, ask firstokay, maybe not ask, just give a heads up, or
Taeyeon shifted uncomfortably. She could think of about ten million other topics she would rather
discuss with Tiffany. Thats okay, I dont bring anyone home if I can avoid it anywayuh what
about you?
What about me? Im not seeing anyone.
Youre the one who was all TaeTae, Im open to a relationship and all

Yeah, but Im not in one. Im focusing on work right now.

What about that guy back in L.A.?
What guy back in L.A.?
Taeyeon frowned deeply. You said there was some guy back in Califor
Oh, that. WeI meanwe live in different countries, so its not really
But was it serious? she pressed, holding her mug so tightly it began to shake in her hand.
Tiffany shrugged. Not really?
Are you still in touch?
Whats with the interrogation? Yeah, we talk sometimes.
Taeyeon set her cup down before she dropped it. She put her arms back into the blanket and brought
her knees up to her chest. The idea of Tiffany dating had, frankly, not occurred to her. All she had
thought about when moving in had been the difficulty of Tiffanys constant proximityshe hadnt
even considered the emotional stress of dealing with Tiffany dating someone while they lived
together. It had been bad enough years ago, when they dormed together, but at least then there was a
strict rule of no boys allowed in the dorm, so it had never become a physical problem.
This was entirely different. Maybe it would be a good thing. Maybe if she saw Tiffany with
someone, it would help. Alternately, it could kill her. She hoped for the former. She tightened an
arm around her knees.
Lets just try not to bring anyone home. At all. She hadnt meant for her voice to sound so weak,
but it did.
Tiffany nodded. Thats fine with me.
That was that. She turned on the TV while Tiffany took the cups into the kitchen to wash. She could
feel a weight lifting but couldnt place why. When Tiffany came back and nudged in close to her,
she wrapped the blanket around them both and turned off the lamp. The light from the TV made a
slideshow on the glass coffee table.
Tiffany held Taeyeon tight around the waist. Taeyeon wanted to turn the TV off and go work on
some music, but Tiffanys breathing was even, relaxed.
She rested her head on Taeyeons shoulder. Yoona was right.
She usually is, Taeyeon replied sleepily, eyes glazed as she watched TV. About what?
Hyejin. Shes really pretty.
Taeyeon was not sure how to reply, so she murmured an agreement.
Like, really pretty.

And I think you really like her.
She felt Tiffany shift, slide closer to her.
Yeah, she admitted. I do.
And I think she really cares about you.
I think you really think too much, she said with a hint of reproach, and drew an arm around
Tiffanys shoulders, hoping to quiet her. For her part, Tiffany seemed to get the hint.
She thought she must have drifted off to sleep, because the next time she looked at the clock, an
hour had passed and there was mindless late night television on the screen. She looked down,
expecting Tiffany to be asleep, but she was watching the TV attentively, her head against Taeyeons
shoulder. Taeyeon stirred, trying to stretch.
Should go to bed, she mumbled, but her head was too filled with sleep to be sure she had said it at
Tiffanys voice was close; Taeyeon could feel her breath against her neck.
You talk in your sleep.
Thats really not new information. Sorry. What did I say?
Tiffany didnt reply. Taeyeon thought it might be very bad for her back, but if Tiffany wasnt going
to get up, she would fall asleep here. She tried to get comfortable, at least, sliding down onto her
back and bringing Tiffany with her.
You asked me a question.
Did I?
You asked me if I think about the future.
She opened her eyes. Tiffany was looking at her. Taeyeons mind was drowsy; in the half-light of
the moon-bathed room, the television flickering like lights along her features, Tiffany was beautiful,
but she was more than that. She was thoughtful. She was sad.
Taeyeon wet her lips. Do you?
I dont think I do, Tiffany admitted. Any more. Does that make sense?

Maybe. Her mind was clouding.

I used to, all the time. When we debuted, I thought about the future a lot. You know? Like, I could
vividly imagine where wed be in ten years. But. She paused. Her voice was a low whisper, hardly
audible over the low hum of the TV.
But what.
I dont know. The futures the present now, I guess. I mean next year will be nine years since we
debuted. And now I cant think any further thanyou know, next week, next month. Maybe next
year. Thats as far as I get. I dont know what happens next. Does that make sense?
Taeyeon swallowed. She wondered if Tiffany could feel how fast her heart was beating. She
wondered if that was her heart at all, if it wasnt Tiffanys instead. She tightened her arm around
Tiffanys shoulders.
It makes sense. Its the same for me.
Is it?
I just thinkit used to be really easy to imagine what was going to happen next. And now, like
whats next? Whats the next phase? I try not to think about it, because I dont know.
Taeyeon closed her eyes. The next phase. He was right, she guessed. It was something they had to
think about.
She had believed, once, with her whole heart, that this was something she could do for the rest of
her life. It had been so clear, then. She had expected age and time to bring only more clarity, but
instead it had become muddled. She wasnt sure if she still believed that. She really didnt know
what she believed.
Tiffanys breathing was even. Taeyeon stretched her hand out toward the coffee table, trying not to
disturb her, her fingers groping blindly for the remote control to turn the TV off. The room
swallowed itself in darkness. She held her breath, wrapped the blanket around them securely, tried
to get comfortable, safe. There was only Tiffanys breathing, the ticking of the clock, the rustle of
their clothes as Tiffany tightened her arms around Taeyeons waist, pressed her nose to the collar of
Taeyeons shirt, her cheek against Taeyeons shoulder.
Taeyeon. Her voice was thick with sleep.
I dont know what Id do without you.
She laughed; it was soft but it echoed in the quiet room. Go to sleep.
I mean it, she murmured, her words slurred. When I try to think about the future I just see

Taeyeon was silent. Tiffany yawned, mumbled.

Like we promised, right?
Taeyeon closed her eyes. She shivered; the cold had slipped in through the blanket.

chapter thirteen
There was very little Taeyeon disliked more than third-rate equipment, and she found that this was
more true with the greater control she had over what she used. A lack of caffeine and a few weeks
of relentless doubt and unease seemingly exacerbated this fact. The headphones scraped across the
table as she picked them up and put them on again, re-listening to the sample she had just recorded.
I dont like it, she said to Juhyun for the tenth time that morning. Theres something about the
bass, like the low-end frequencies are cut, but if I keep boosting them, then
Unni, I think it sounds fine now, Juhyun said.
Not with the headphones on, theres no tone. Im going to record it again, but I think its this
synthesizer, I think this synthesizer was created by the devil.
Maybe its just those headphones, Yuri suggested from the couch in the corner, where she had
flopped down in exhaustion the minute Taeyeon had started complaining.
Maybe, but if it sounds flat on all headphones, then what? Working on bass was really the last
thing she needed to be doing with this headache. She rubbed her forehead, opening up a new
playlist on her laptop. Okay, lets put this one aside for now.
Juhyun glanced up as the door opened and Taeyeon turned, nodding to Jessica and Sooyoung as
they came in.
Hey, did you bring coffee? she demanded.
Sooyoung rolled her eyes. Yes, I got all thirty-seven of your texts.
I needed coffee, she explained weakly, taking the cup Sooyoung handed her.
I know, the seven-hundred and forty combined exclamation points made that pretty clear.
Wow, youre so good at math.
Unnis a little grouchy, Juhyun explained sadly, and as though Taeyeon could not hear.
She felt Jessica put her hands on her shoulders and massage the back of her neck. Whats the
matter, old lady.
Well, its Taengoo, Sooyoung pointed out, also as if Taeyeon was deaf, so its either faulty
equipment or Tiffany.

Or she hasnt gotten laid.

Maybe its all three, Yuri chipped in. Taeyeon, is it all three?
Taeyeon glowered. I dont like any of you.
It must be all three then.
Jessica stroked her hair. Where is Tiffany by the way?
Shes filming something, shell be here later, Taeyeon mumbled around the rim of her coffee. She
fiddled uncomfortably with the headphones in her lap. Shes been a little weird lately.
How so? Sooyoung asked.
I dont know. Shes been avoiding me for the past few weeks? I mean, we see each other everyday,
but she doesnt seem to want to talk.
What a weird thing to complain about considering you never want to talk.
Sometimes I want to talk, Taeyeon said defensively. Anyway, its not that, its justher behavior
is so hot and cold. One minute were really close, and then shes pushing me away. She took a
breath. A few years ago there was no way she wouldve shared her feelings with them like this. It
was difficult, though, feeling like you didnt understand your best friend in the world. The other
members, at least, knew Tiffany as well as she did, so it couldnt hurt to talk to them about it.
Sooyoung paused for a long, thoughtful moment. I actually think Fany has been really weird ever
since she came back from L.A.
Taeyeon practically sighed in relief. She has been, right? Shes been weird.
I dont think its fair to talk about unni when shes not here, Juhyun said somewhat
Get real, Juhyun, when are we going to talk about her, thenwhen she is here? Sooyoung said.
Shes been a littledifferent. Im worried about her.
Well. Jessicas hands stilled against the back of Taeyeons neck before settling comfortably on her
shoulders. I think the news about the group probably shook her up a lot.
I think it shook us all up? Sooyoung pointed out.
Yeah, but FanyI mean, her whole life is in this group.
Taeyeon bit her tongue.
Where do you think my whole life is? Sooyoung shot back.
Oh my god, youre just picking fights all day, Yuri complained, getting up to strangle her.
Its not a competition, Taeyeon murmured in reprimand. I think we know that we all love this

I think, Jessica began delicately, that since Tiffany came back, shes been a little clingy. And I
thought about it, and its really the longest shes been away from any of us. I tried to put myself in
her place, and figure out how Id be if I spent three months away from you guys.
Youre always clingy, Yuri pointed out.
I am, because youre so cute.
I didnt think shed come back, Taeyeon said suddenly, staring off into space. They stopped and
looked at her. The longer she stayed there, the less likely I thought it was shed come back. After a
month I thought, thats it, shes not coming back.
Maybe she thought she wouldnt, either, Juhyun said. Taeyeon was caught off-guard.
She thought about it. It was baffling. It wasnt just that she was utterly, wholly, earth-shatteringly in
love with Tiffany, but Tiffany had also been her best friend for ten years. She sometimes liked to
pretend she knew Tiffany better than anyone elsewasnt that the privilege of the best friend title,
after all. Yet, really, she found Tiffanys mind nearly impenetrable most of the time. So much of her
was on the surface that anything underneath became impossible to fathom.
When she thought about it, really, she thought that maybe once upon a time a teenaged girl had left
her family behind to move to a different country, all on her own, and that it was a risk, and would
always be a risk. The rest of them had a safety net. Even she, Taeyeon, could go home to Jeonju if
the end came. Tiffanys life was here, or it wasnt. The group was her safety net; she had built her
entire life here.
Taeyeon closed her eyes. Jessica scratched gently at the base of her scalp.
No wonder Tiffany was so determined to hold onto her. How could she deny her? What sort of best
friend would she be if she didnt protect her from that? She forgot, sometimes, because Tiffany was
stupidly strong and independent and smartand maybe she was a little biasedthat Tiffany could
need protection too.
She sighed. The girls were looking at her.
Well have to figure out what to do.
She studied them. She still had no idea where they stood, and she was terrified to ask. She knew
where Tiffany stoodTiffany wanted the group to stay together, at all costs. Tiffany had been the
only one of them to come to her and explicitly say so. Taeyeon wasnt sure what to make of the
apparent silence of the rest of the members. Did some of them think the dissolution of the group
was somehow for the best? Or were they like her, only silent because it was too difficult to wrap her
mind around, too complicated in scope to really know what she wanted?
Because the truth was, there was a part of her that needed to be with them so badly she didnt know
what she would do otherwisethat was the loudest part. But behind that, small and soft with
whispering hesitance, was a feeling she could only label relief. Maybe it would be painful, but
maybe letting go would mean freedom from the stress and the constant headache and the burden of

loving people too much. Maybe that would be the best thing.
She frowned and cleared her throat, effectively ending the conversation. She put the headphones
back on and replayed the basslinedespite her earlier assertion, she knew she wouldnt put it aside
until she got it correct, got it perfect.

Sorry for making you come to Apgujeong on Christmas, Jooyoung laughed as he held the door
open for her. Itll be quick, I hope the traffic isnt too bad.
Its no problem, she assured him, I can actually walk to my new apartment from here.
Oh, thats right, you moved in with Fany, he said. Hows that working out?
Its working.
All right, I wont pry. Im just glad youre living in an apartment with better security now, I was so
worried for you in your old place. Are those kids still following you around?
Yeah, of course. They dont take a day off for Christmas. She smiled wryly. Whats up?
Straight to business, right? Okay, well, Im just the messenger, Taeyeon, remember that. They
thought it would make more sense coming from a manager you know and trust than someone in the
legal department who youve never met, right?
Taeyeons stomach dropped. Wwhat?
She must have looked stunned because Jooyoung touched her shoulder gently, eyes widening.
Whoa, take it easy, Taeyeon. Im sorry. I shouldnt have made it sound so dramatic. Come on, lets
sit down.
Taeyeons mind raced as she took a seat. Being caught off-guard was up there on the same list as
third-rate equipmentthere wasnt much she hated more. Once again she had to wonder who was
aware of their current situation. She often thought of their managers as trusted older brothers, some
even close to father figures, and much on the same emotional plane as she and the girls. The idea of
any of them knowing, but keeping it from her, from them, made her sick. It was business, sure, and
they weren't saints; they had families to feed and take care of and this was a job, plain and simple,
to make money. Still, she didn't like to think about it.
Jooyoung had fetched a bottle of water for her from his mini-fridge. He handed it over wordlessly,
looking contrite as he sat beside her on the couch. Taeyeon took a halfhearted sip but capped the
bottle almost immediately; anything in her stomach at this very moment would make her sick.
Sorry, that was dumb, Jooyoung said at last, soft. He smiled. I shouldve figured out a better way
to say it. Dont worry. Take it easy.
Its not anything big, Taeyeon, its just about that song you wrote.
She rolled the water bottle anxiously between her palms. All right?

Well, a lot of peoplewhen I say people, I mean board membersthink you should keep that
song for yourself. For your solo album.
Board members? It was just a stupid pop song, she thought, her heart constricting. Oppa, I dont
want to release a solo album anytime soon.
Taeyeon, I know you dont. Butyou know, that if they wanted you, too, youd be contractually
obligated to. Im not saying anyone would make you do that, but you know that, right?
Of course I know that.
So, while they could make you save that song for your solo album and then in turn they could
make you release one, theyre saying the choice is up to you. If you want to put it on the group
album, you can.
Then, if the choice is up to me, I dont really understand the point of this conversation. No
None taken, he laughed. Another smile. Open, friendly. Again, Im just the messenger, Taeyeon.
Their point is that the terms of your contract right now state that the song is intellectual property of
the label, and not you. So technically, they could do whatever they wanted with that song, even
though youre the one who composed and wrote it. They could give it to another group, if they
wanted, or they could sell it. You know that, right?
Of course. This wasnt new information. She was more than well aware that all of the songs shed
written over the past few years were owned 100% by the label. It hadnt bothered her too much in
the past, really, because they had made her jump through so many hoops just to get her material
produced that every song felt like a victory. She had written them under the tacit agreement that
although the label did officially own them, they would never have any reason to do anything with
the songs without her permission. She knew logically that this sort of agreement was far from
legally binding, but she had never had to worry about it in the past.
Let me make sure I understand what youre talking about here. She kept her eyes on her lap and
hoped her voice didnt shake. The thoughts made sense in her head, but it was nerve-wracking to
talk about something this serious, even with someone she trusted and liked. This is just, what, a
simple reminder that they own everything Ive ever had creative input in and theyre not going to
make me do anythingtheyre just reminding me that they could, if they wanted to?
Uh, Jooyoung began but Taeyeon cut him off.
Thats a little manipulative, dont you think?
I told them you were too sharp, Jooyoung said, grinning. I said you dont know Taeyeon like I
know Taeyeon, you dont have a wool thick enough to pull over her eyes.
Thank you, I guess.
But thats not really everything. Its not really just a reminder, its an offer.

Yes. They want to offer a contract revision that would give you ownership of the songs youve
written. Obviously something would be worked out with royalties, but the terms would stipulate full
ownership of your own songs.
Taeyeon frowned. And?
And? What do you mean?
Oppa, you know I have a low tolerance for duplicity.
Youre in the wrong business, Taeyeon.
So Ive been told. Theyre telling me theyre not going to make me do anything and theyre just
innocently offering a contract revision that gives me even more power? And the rest of the girls?
What about the rest of the girls?
Im not the only one whos written songs over the years. Are they being offered the same contract
I have no idea. They only asked me to talk to you.
Taeyeon closed her eyes, briefly. That meant no; she knew it. She had anticipated this, somewhat
legal games. She hadnt known it would start this early, though. She wasnt sure what to say.
Taeyeon. She opened her eyes. Jooyoung was looking at her gently. He bit his lip, worrying it for
a moment or two as though he was trying to decide whether to say something. Im telling you
everything I know. Oppas just the messenger, okay? Youll get the contract revision in the mail, I
assume, and the smartest thing to do would be to have a lawyer look at it, right? But can I offer my
Of course.
I think, he bit his lip again and then released it along with a beleaguered exhale, they probably
think of you as a very safe investment. I think theyre probably willing to grant a lot of concessions
in exchange for your loyalty.
But what about everyone else?
I dont know, he said honestly, and then: But remember, youre an individual, Taeyeon. Youre
allowed to think of yourself.
Right. She felt dizzy. The inside of her head buzzed.
Well. Jooyoung checked his watch. Im going to go home. You should do the same. Okay?
They stood. He put an awkward arm around her shoulders. Merry Christmas, Taengoo.
Thanks, oppa.

It seemed later than it really was when she emerged from the building; clouds had covered the sky
and were threatening rain, maybe snow. It felt cold enough for the latter, Taeyeon thought,

tightening her coat. She pulled her hat down, too. The streets were crowded. The people usually
chained to desks at midday found the cold and open air bright and clear, even with the threatening
clouds overhead.
She knew they were following her. They werent directly behind her, or anything, not on her heels
like sometimes. But she could feel eyes on the back of her neck, the practiced precision of lowprofile watching. She could feel, rather than hear, the click of cell phone cameras. Their hushed
mumbling did not reach her ears but it buzzed around her like a swarm of insects, as indistinct as it
was damning.
They stopped when she stopped, followed her into the coffee shop, stood behind her on line as she
ordered. Some of them ordered, too. She checked her phone. Tiffany had left church. She texted
On my way home and then pocketed her phone, turning.
You should be wearing a scarf, she said critically. Its cold out.
I will, next time, unni.
She felt oddly safe, surrounded by people brushing past them for their coffee orders, jostling them
slightly with bags or elbows. It was a weird sort of security that made her brave; on most days, she
hated them, they were nuisances. Today, she felt sorry for them.
She stepped toward the warmth of the counter, tapping her fingers on its edge. Its a holiday. You
kids should be with your families.
Its okay, one of them said, since its a day like any other.
Its not, Taeyeon disagreed. Even if you dont celebrate it, isnt it a day off? If I didnt have to
work, Id be with my family.
But youll be with Tiffany unni, the same girl pointed out. Isnt that almost the same?
That, Taeyeon began, and then could think of no way to finish. She fell into a frustrated silence,
not sure if she was more angry that they knew who she was spending her Christmas with, or that
they felt entitled to anticipate her feelings toward it. Now it felt like they were closing in. She
shouldnt have spoken to them, or validated them, or acknowledged them. She should have told the
barista she was a Girls Generation member; maybe they would hurry up her order.
Lookyou She frowned deeply, bitterly. Do you know youre following around a dead-end?
They shook their heads. They protested.
You are. In five years, I wont even be relevant anymore. Maybe even a year from now. Do you
ever think about that? One day Ill be all washed-up, and youll have wasted your time. What will
you even have to show for it?
She wasnt sure why she was talking to them. They were crazy. Anyone who would talk to them,
willingly talk to them, was crazy too.
I think unni will always be relevant.
No, I wont, she shot back, soft, dangerous. In ten years, Ill be worthless. No one will even

remember my name.
Except me, the girl returned, and they all agreed. Except us. Well remember. And in ten years,
well remember the time you spoke to us in a coffee shop.
Her coffee order was rattled off, then, and the cup dropped by her fingers on the counter. She picked
it up and looked down at the floor, willing her feet to move off and disengage.
Then youll be worthless, too, she told them on her way out.

She had spent countless Christmases with Tiffany, to the point where it was difficult for her to
remember how she had celebrated it before. Tiffany was excitable about Christmas, the way she
was excitable about most things. There were a lot of weird western customs Taeyeon didnt
completely understand but felt must have been important, because Tiffany was so adamant about
them. A lot of this had to do with western food that never really did very well in Taeyeons stomach,
so they had made a lot of compromises over the years.
One was that in exchange for allowing Taeyeon to eat Korean food, Tiffany was allowed to decorate
her stupid Christmas tree as stupidly as she wanted, which was exactly what she was doing when
Taeyeon came home.
Merry Christmas, Tiffany said, not looking up from the tree she was diligently draping in ribbon.
Its going to rain, Taeyeon replied.
Merry Christmas, I guess, Tiffany said again, wryly, and Taeyeon laughed.
The japchae she had made wasnt nearly as good as her mothers, but she thought it was okay, and
even Tiffany, who was quiet during most of dinner, gave it a thumbs up. Taeyeon thought about
calling her mother, briefly, and then tried to think of the last time shed seen her, and when shed
see her again. She wondered, too, if she would have even gone back to Jeonju if her schedule had
permitted it. Maybe not. Maybe it would be too hard to come back.
She had heard Tiffany, earlier, on the phone with her father, and her tone had been too low for
Taeyeon to decipher any words, even if she had wanted to. Still, it had made her pause in her
dishwashing, shut the water off for a moment so she could hear the dull, comfortable hum. The way
Tiffany called home had always been different from the way she, Taeyeon, called home. She had
felt that way since she was a teenager. Their closeness, she thought, had come from their shared
experience of being so far away from home and having no one else to rely on, but they had never
approached it in the same way. When she called home, Taeyeon always thought she sounded
desperate, longinga tepid attempt at sounding reserved, maybe, in an effort to not upset her
mother, but stillher voice would shake and words would hang in the air.
Tiffany always sounded resolute when she called home, like she had practiced the words in her head
beforehand, and she rattled them off like a monologue. Tiffany had a way of forcing cheerfulness so
convincingly that maybe even she didnt realize it was forced. They both faked it, Taeyeon thought,
but she faked it to convince her mother she was okay, and Tiffany faked it to convince herself she
was okay.
She glanced at Tiffany, next to her on the couch. They were watching a Christmas movie. It was
difficult to follow the plot, partly because it was dubbed in Korean and the mismatch of lips and

words always distracted her, mostly because she was sitting next to Tiffany and the air felt thick and
heavy with unease.
Tiffany had been watching the movie with a serious frown as though it were a legal proceeding, but
she flicked her eyes briefly toward Taeyeon before glancing back at the TV.
Whats up.
She looked at her carefully. She pulled the sleeves of her sweater down over her hands and wrapped
her arms around herself.
Are we okay?
Tiffany turned to her and smiled. Her eyes disappeared. That was a cool trick, Taeyeon thought; it
hid how sad her eyes looked sometimes.
Why wouldnt we be?
You tell me.
Tiffany spent a long time looking at her. She smiled again, briefly.
Well always be okay, you and me.
Her hand found Taeyeons, pulled it out of her lap, and she hooked their pinkies together. Tiffany
turned back to the movie, and their hands fell between them, linked. Taeyeon looked at the space
between them, her smallest finger curled under Tiffanys. Her grip slackened; Tiffanys tightened.
The skin turned white from pressure. The rain picked up, beat against the windows so loudly it
drowned out the TV.
Taeyeon wet her lips. Tiffany reached for the remote to turn the volume up.
Im scared, Taeyeon told her.
Tiffany didnt reply; her gaze remained focused on the TV, but Taeyeon watched her draw her lower
lip between her teeth, lower her eyes. Her thumb hesitated above the volume button. For some
reason, Taeyeon held her breath, as though this was the first time she was seeing Tiffany since she
came back to Seoul. She had looked at her a million times, by now, at least. Had to be. She had
never noticed how much her hair had grown out, though, how it fell heavy and brooding over her
forehead, swept behind her ear. There was a new helix piercing in her right ear. Her shoulders
looked narrower, tenser. They were little things, but she wasnt sure how she could not have
noticed. She spent so much time looking at Tiffany, running her image over in her mind,
memorizing every inch of her.
Maybe that was it. She had memorized Tiffany so expertly she didnt need to look at her to see her.
How old was the image of Tiffany in her minds eye?
The volume lowered. Tiffany set the remote aside and turned, smiling at Taeyeon. Scared of
what? she asked lightly. Of the rain? Her tone was teasing but her smile was painted on.

No, Taeyeon said simply. She felt Tiffanys hand slip away from hers and she grabbed it tightly,
pinning it to the couch. Of letting you down.
Ofall of you, she said. She averted her eyes.
If she had been expecting Tiffany to subdue her worries, she would have been left disappointed, but
as it was, she wasnt sure what she had expected. She didnt want false reassurances or wide-eyed
confidence in her abilities. She just wanted her to know.
Tiffany nodded, looking at her lap. Arent there nine people in this group? she asked.
Yes. She pressed Tiffanys hand to the couch cushion, curled her fingers around it. But
everybodys looking at me. Everybodyeverybody wants something from me. You guys can say
were in this together, but you keep looking at me. She pressed her palm tight against the top of
Tiffanys hand, locked their fingers together. You want me to be a hero. I cant be that.
Tiffanys eyebrows drew together in a frown. She shook her head. No. No, I just want you to be
And whos that, Taeyeon asked flatly.
My best friend, Tiffany shot back. A little stupid and a little selfish and stubbornly obsessed with
doing the right thing. No one is asking you to save the group, Taeyeon, were just asking you to
I care, Taeyeon said. You have no idea how much I care.
Tiffany shrugged. Then, she said, you wont let us down.
With an exhale, Taeyeon released Tiffanys hand. It didnt make her feel any better; in fact,
Tiffanys faith in her only left her more scared.
Like most Christmases, they spent it together, quiet and reflective, and Taeyeon fell asleep early,
curled on the couch. When she awoke later, the room was dark except for the tree lights. Tiffany
had covered her with a blanket. Like most Christmases, she woke up alone and felt like she had
missed something.

chapter fourteen
In the dark, Taeyeon invents.
Theres a small sliver of light stealing out from underneath the curtains and Taeyeon follows it.
Theres a streetlamp right outside the window and its searingly bright; whenever Taeyeon stays
over, it creates spots behind her eyes, even when the curtains are drawn. She sits near it now,
beneath the window, and slides the curtain aside to look out.
Its three in the morning. The streets are still wet. She thinks about leaving, because the rain has

stopped, but the first thought she conjures up of the dorm makes her insides tense, cold. She looks
for her clothes anyway.
In the bed, Unni stirs.
Taeyeon is looking for her clothes. Its too dark to see properly.
Are you leaving, Unni mumbles from the bed and Taeyeon pauses. Maybe not.
Maybe not, she says.
Come stay. Do you have any schedules in the morning?
Me either. Come back to bed.
She doesnt need to be convinced; she only needs to be asked. Her eyes adjust to the dark. She
presses against Unnis back, puts her lips to the spot between her shoulder blades. Every time she
sees her, she falls more in love. Or, it could be loveshe thinks it could be love, although its
different, so maybe it isnt. Maybe its that her unni is an idol, too, and understands the fear and the
burden, or maybe its just the flimsy euphoria of dating someone smart and pretty, but she feels sick
in love, sometimes so passionately that she cant help herself. It always feels like love, usually, until
she goes back to the dorm and thinks otherwise, puts the two feelings together side-by-side and
realizes one cannot compare to the other.
It feels a little dishonest, sometimes, to make love to one person and think about another. It isnt
that shes pretending Unni is someone else, or thinking about her purposely, or anything, really, its
just that she is hard to remove from Taeyeons mind. She tends to linger there, behind her eyes, like
the spots from the bright lights. Sometimes the name comes to her lips, Tiffany, but she doesnt ever
say it aloud, only silently, and the wet mouth open beneath hers swallows it without knowing.
Unni has said it, I love you, a lot of times, actually. She signs all her texts with it and ends all phone
calls with it and mumbles it breathless at the touch of Taeyeons hand and she doesnt seem
bothered by Taeyeons inability to say it back. Taeyeon is a physical person, she says, not a verbal
person, and actions speak louder than words. What that means, Taeyeon doesnt know; she is
sometimes wracked with ardor beyond words, the need to be close, feel another heart race besides
her own. Thats just how she is. She craves physical contact as much as it makes her uncomfortable.
Unni, she murmurs into her shoulder, trying to hold her tighter even though its physically
impossible. Are you awake?
Dont you think itll get tiring eventually?
What will?
Taeyeon yawns and kisses the nape of her neck. I dont know. Shes not sure why she brought it
up. This whole thing. This job, I guess, maybe.
By the time it gets tiring, itll probably be over, Unni says. This isnt a job many people do

Thats true.
I wont do this when Im forty.
Whatll you do then?
Unni is quiet. When Taeyeon runs a hand down her arm, she feels goosebumps rising against the
pads of her fingers.
Move to the country and die, she says finally. Just live there until I die.
With me? Taeyeon asks sleepily. She receives a laugh in response.
Sure. Would you like to come with me?
Yeah. They have been dating for just over five months. At five months, there are no delusions of
longevity or ten years from now, or even ten months. Still, she feels obliged.
Okay. Well both retire and move to the country.
Thatd be nice. Maybe we could be ourselves.
Unni laughs again. Maybe well know who we are, by then.
Taeyeon thinks that maybe thats true, that you really cant know who you are until youre finished
being an idol. Theres no use trying to figure yourself out at this stage, because you can only be one
thing when youre an idol, she thinks. A fraud, she thinks. Maybe it was like that for real people,
too, for non-idols.
Maybe first you figured out who you were, then you became that person.
Taeyeon slips out of bed when dawn first starts to break on the horizon; she feels it before she sees
it, poking its head up through the hastily-drawn curtains. She dresses and kisses the sleeping mouth
In the air, Taeyeon breathes.
When her feet hit the pavement, its still dark, and the sunlight is only rousing itself lazily. She can
see well but feels covered in shadow. When she ducks into a convenience store and buys hobbang
from a sleepy-looking cashier, she catches the kids standing outside the store and looking in.
They follow her home.
It makes the hair on her arms stand up in agitation and fear, but theyre harmless, she thinks. There
are more dangerous fans who show up at the dorms sometimes, fans who approach them and try to
get in sometimes, so in comparison, these kids are harmless. They have seen her go back and forth
between Unnis place and the dorm over and over, and Taeyeon suspects theyve connected the
dots, but shes only a little worried. Keeping her secrets makes them feel closer to her, so maybe
thats okay.

Its weird, sort of, for a group of fans who stalk her to know something about her that most of her
members dont even know, but maybe its appropriate. They make her uncomfortable, but she
smiles tightly at them before slipping into the building; its a relief, somehow, having people out
there who know, but who wont talk to her about it.
In the dorm, Taeyeon imagines.
She can picture and count the moments all of their heartbeats slow, their breathing deepens, and
they fall asleep. Sooyoung, half on Taeyeons bed and half on her own, head flat on the mattress and
her long body wrapped around a pillow, mumbles something, drifts in and out of sleep. Her hand
flexes outward as Taeyeon walks by, reaches for her; she takes the hand for a second, sets it down.
Sunkyu has fallen asleep on her stomach, one hand stretched toward her laptop, which has gone to
screensaver. Taeyeon shuts it down and stores it under the bed. Yuri mumbles something as she
walks past.
Jessica has fallen asleep reading. Hyoyeon is sleeping on her side. Juhyuns glasses are placed on
top of the neat stack of homework on the nightstand.
Miyoung, pretty Miyoung, has half her limbs on the bed, half off. An arm, a leg, both hanging
preciously off of the bed, the thin pink sheets tangled around the other half of her body. She wears
shorts to bed; the window is open and Taeyeon imagines the skin of her leg is smooth and cold,
warmer the higher up you went, sweet and hot between her thighs. She imagines. She wants to tug
the sheet over the rest of her, fix the loose t-shirt around the collar where its gone askew, where the
skin of her shoulder lies bare.
She thinks that if she goes over and touches a little, she will be unable to stop touching.
She thinks that if she climbs into bed with her, she wont be able to sleep, but it wont matterat
least shell feel rested.
Theres a soft click in the front hall and she hurriedly closes the door to Tiffany and Juhyuns room,
turning and padding toward the front door.
Hello, she greets, leaning against the wall.
Unni. Yoona sounds more tired than she looks. Taeyeon wonders how she manages that. What
are you doing up still?
Taeyeon purses her lips quietly. She doesnt want to tell Yoona she only just came home. A wave of
guilt settles around her shoulders as Yoona smiles at her, clear and youthful.
Couldnt sleep, huh?
Hmm, Taeyeon acknowledges. It isnt a lie. How are you?
Fine, Yoona says brightly, pulling off her shoes. As she drops them on the floor, she smiles,
sheepish, as though the compulsion to be honest has made her feel guilty. Ive had a headache, all
day, really, she admits.
Taeyeon frowns. Did you eat?

I told you I ate, unni.

Have you been drinking water? she demands.
Yeah. Have you?
Taeyeon pauses, chuckles. Then, No. Not really.
Yoonas gaze sweeps over her and she releases a long sigh. Disappointed, maybe. Maybe its
frustrating to have an unni who demands you take care of yourself, but refuses to do the same. She
bites her lip. Im going to shower, she says, soft, with a hint of reproach.
After, Taeyeon sits next to her on the bed and rubs her temples for her; she watches her fall asleep,
her eyes flutter closed, and makes sure her alarm is set for a few hours later. Come home at dawn
and leave home at dawn, Taeyeon thinks, and feels guilty all over again. Not just to Yoona, but to all
of them. She feels so sorry she could cry.

They date for eight months, and Unni cheats on her, Taeyeon suspects, for just as long. By the time
she figures it out, she assumes it was probably going on the entire time, but she is too drained to
care. Its exhaustingher job, keeping her relationship secret, and mostly, the burden of constantly
stressing over whether shes doing the right thing.
She has been physically faithful but emotionally unfaithful for eight months. Its hard to be too
It still hurts, though, and its hardly the best thing for her ego. The other girls give her a wide berth;
they dont know why shes upset, just that its best to steer clear of her when shes moody.
No one has ever given Tiffany this memo, though, or Tiffany just feels it doesnt apply to her
because shes clingy, overbearing, hovering over Taeyeon backstage in the waiting room, wringing
her hands and making simpering, pitiful Taeyeonnie are you okay sort of noises.
Do you want to talk about it? she keeps asking, but Taeyeon just wants to work, get this stupid
album finished so that they can be onstage again. The feeling of limbo is worse than anything, and
looking at Tiffany, thinking about Tiffany, everything about Tiffany just makes it worse.
She is hurt and a little angry, but mostly she feels guilty. She knows it isnt her fault, and that people
who cheat are people who cheat no matter what, but when she closes her eyes she sees the careful,
hesitant way Unni would look at her, sometimes, like she knew something but didnt want to know
it. How sometimes she would ask about the members, but she would ask about Tiffany separately,
like she was waiting for a reaction, or a confession. She thinks about it and feels guilty. Guilt is a
powerful force, lately; she feels like shes running on it.
When theyre home, Tiffany pulls Taeyeon into her arms and squeezes her. Its the first real hug
shes had in a long time, the first hug where she doesnt attempt to put a foot of physical or
emotional distance between herself and another warm body. She clings to Tiffany and cries without
meaning to, just like she had two, three years ago, and she feels even stupider because shes older
now and she knew what she was getting into, and she feels even worse because she knows theres
nothing to cry over, that she hadnt loved her anyway, that it had been eight months of attempting to
transfer her feelings to someone else and being unable to.

Im sorry, she sniffs, knowing shes soaked the shoulder of Tiffanys t-shirt, and she tries to let go
but she cant. I need her, she thinks, and its comforting and alienating all at once.
Dont be sorry, Tiffany says softly.
Im fine, Taeyeon mumbles, clutching her. Really, Im fine.
Youre not fine, youre crying. Tiffanys voice is low, soft against her ear. Its okay. You can cry
in front of me.
It builds heavily in her chest, this feeling, this guilty feeling, this guilty and inescapable feeling. She
thinks that no matter how hard she tries to get away from it, it catches up to her every time, slams
hard against her and leaves her breathless, that maybe it was a stupid crush once, and maybe it
should have never happened, but she is painfully and powerfully in love with Tiffany and no
amount of running will let her escape.
She tries to pull away, but shes locked into position.
She hiccups and rubs her eye and feels stupid, like a dumb kid. When she looks at Tiffany, shes
heartbreakingly prettyshes gentle and understanding and her eyes are a place Taeyeon feels safe.
The room is swathed in darkness but she can make out Tiffanys features; shes memorized them.
She knows the place between her nose and upper lip by heart, she could sketch the fullness of her
lower lip from memory and she runs her thumb over it, reverently, feels Tiffanys cheek lean into
her palm.
In the dark of the room, Taeyeon comes apart. She shakes, she closes her eyes, she kisses Tiffany.
She kisses her with her mouth, with her sadness and guilt; she sucks in their shared breath and her
mouth trembles as it covers Tiffanys, as her lips ghost hesitantly along her lips before pressing
harder. She presses against her, needy, and prods Tiffanys lips open with her tongue and Tiffany
leans in, presses backshe kisses her back.
Taeyeon will remember it for years, she will turn it over in her mind over and over until it turns her
inside outthat Tiffany kisses her back.
She pulls away. Tiffanys lips are wet, glistening, and she opens her eyes drowsily, smiles,
apprehensive, lethargic. Her expression terrifies Taeyeon because she isnt surprised. Shes
What was that for? Tiffany asks, softly.
She swallows around a painful lump in her throat, almost chokes on it.
Tiffany, she breathes. I love you.
Tiffanys eyes dart away anxiously before they meet hers once again and she smiles again, with a
charming sort of hesitance that makes Taeyeon feel like she could die.
I love you too, Tiffany says off-handedly, and moves a hand to brush Taeyeons hair out of her
eyes but Taeyeon grasps it in her own, holds it to her. She feels as though shes moved outside of
her own body, like shes dreaming while knowing its a dream, testing the limits of her imagination.

Taeyeon wets her lips.
No. I mean, Im in love with you, Tiffany. Miyoung. Tiffany. I lo
Tiffanys smile falters. Taeyeon, she says gently, but its like a reprimand. Like shes said
something obscene and shes being politely admonished. She shakes her head. Taeyeon, no.
Im sorry, Taeyeon says weakly. Ive tried not to. I really have. Miyoung
Youre confused, Tiffany says softly. She squeezes her hand. Her eyes are filled with something
that Taeyeon cannot place but makes her sick. Youreyoure my best friend, TaeTae.
Im not confused, she says, hoarse. Its the only thing Ive ever been sure of. I She feels like
crying again. Tiffany looks sad, guilty. Shes ruined everything.
Im sorry, she mumbles, looking down.
You have nothing to be sorry for, Tiffany says, carefully, like she might break. But I cantI
mean I dont feel that way. Taeyeon.
Shes not sure what she looks like at that moment when her heart breaks, but maybe its terrible, it
must be awful, because Tiffany suddenly looks at her with so much pity and contriteness it knocks
the air out of her lungs. She takes her hand away, lets it fall to her lap. She hides her face. Tiffany is
the only person she has let see her cry in years, and suddenly she feels she cant let her see it.
Taeyeon, Im sorry, Tiffany begins, but Taeyeon waves her off.
You have nothing to be sorry for, she says, lifeless, and walks out of the room.

Her arm was asleep and her head was aching. The ear-splitting strains of a little-known 80s
synthpop song forced her eyes open and it was nearly a full minute before she recognized it as her
ringtone. She twisted her upper body off of the bed and her lower body tumbled right after, landing
in a heap of limbs on the floor. Hurriedly, she found her jeans, although any hope of making a quiet
unseen exit was trashed to hell at this point.
Taeyeon bit her lip at the name on the display screen and answered reflexively.
Hello? she whispered. Out of the corner of her eye, a head lifted from the bed and blinked blearily
at her. She smiled in apology.
Hey! Tiffany yelled. Where are you?
Uh. Taeyeon kept her voice low. Out?
A glance at the alarm clock on the nightstand confirmed that it was just after nine in the morning.

Where? I was so worried when you didnt come home last night. Didnt you get my texts?
Taeyeon paused. I was busy.
Oh. Why are you whispering?
Um. She looked awkwardly at the girl, now fully awake, and smiled, embarrassed.
Tiffany was silent for a moment. Oh, are you with someone?
Oh. Her tone instinctively dropped lower, too, although she wasnt in the room. Sorry.
Its okay, uh, did you need something?
No, I just wanted to know if you were okay, and if you wanted to get breakfast with me. But I
guess youre busy. Her tone was stiff and hard to read, but Taeyeon imagined she was
Yeah, a little.
Sorry to bother you, Tiffany said in that same stiff tone, and then, more cheerfully: See you later,
okay? She hung up before Taeyeon could reply.
Taeyeon looked down at her phone and then smiled weakly at whoever that was in bed. She
assumed they had a name. Sorry, she said.
Its okay, the girl mumbled sleepily. She closed her eyes. Arent you cold? Come back to bed.
It was tempting, but there was really no going back to bed when Tiffanys voice was ringing in her
ears like that, to sleep or otherwise. She sighed. Sorry, I have to get going.
The girl laughed, burying her face in the pillow. I forgot, youre a super cool important idol, she
said, as if that wasnt the entire reason she had found Taeyeon interesting enough to bring home. It
was a little mocking, but affectionate.
I guess so, Taeyeon said, getting dressed.
One eye opened to look at her. Youre prettier in real life, you know, she yawned.
Taeyeon laughed. Thank you.
You probably get that a lot.
I guess.
Prettier, but sadder.
Taeyeon paused. She pulled on her shirt. Yeah?

I didnt mean it in a bad way. I bet you get a lot of girls with that whole She yawned
tortured, suffering artist stuffright?
No comment.
I used to like your group when I was in high school, she murmured into her pillow. I thought you
seemed melancholy back then but its more intense in person.
Taeyeon knelt by the bed, put her chin on the mattress, and blinked at her. The girl stroked her hair.
Its cute, though.
She snorted. Thanks.
Can I ask you a question?
Taeyeon blinked slowly at her. So many people who wanted permission to ask her questions.
No, I havent had plastic surgery, she joked lightly.
The girl smiled and ran her finger down the line of Taeyeons nose.
Are you very sad? Or do you just look that way?
Taeyeon smiled. Maybe everyones a little sad and my face just doesnt hide it properly.
Was I your favorite?
In high school.
Oh. The girl closed her eyes, yawned. Nope. I liked one of the tall ones.
Youre my favorite now, she replied with a sleepy, flirtatious grin. Are you sure you dont want
to come back to bed?
Cant. She stood. Thanks. I had fun.
There was a mirror above the dresser. Taeyeon peeked into it and ran her fingers through her hair,
attempting to comb it into something presentable. She took a moment to look at herself a bit longer.
She thought maybe she looked a little tired, but she had looked that way for years.
Lock the door on your way out.
Its okay to be sad, unni. Its worse to pretend you arent.

Thanks, Taeyeon said, and smiled, whether it could be seen or not.

When she came home Tiffany was on the couch, working on her laptop. Her ears were plugged and
the music blared out from it like a muted, static rebuke. She didnt look up when Taeyeon came in,
but Taeyeon could hear the music lower considerably.
I brought you coffee.
Tiffany didnt lift her eyes from her laptop screen. I had coffee already.
Okay. Did you have breakfast?
She stood quietly, looking down at Tiffanys face, feeling her stomach twist anxiously.
At last, Tiffany looked up, yanking the earphones out of her ears. What do you want?
Taeyeon frowned. What am I in trouble for? she asked softly.
Tiffany swallowed and looked away. She looked at her lap. Nothing. Im sorry I interrupted your
whatever. Im just a littleyou know. Its awkward, I didnt expect you to bewith someone, I
guessI mean, you didnt answer my texts after you ditched me last night, so
Wait, hold on, I didnt ditch you. Taeyeon frowned. She knew there couldnt have been gaps in
her memory; although they were at a club the previous night in a half-hearted celebration of the
solar New Year, she hadnt had a drop to drink. I specifically recall asking if you minded me going
home with She broke off feebly, not willing to admit that she didnt really know the name of the
girl shed gone home with. Tiffany rolled her eyes knowingly.
Fine. Youre right.
Inhale. Count to ten. Exhale. Taeyeon flexed her fingers at her sides. There was no energy left in her
body anymore; the fight was gone. She looked down at Tiffany, exhausted, sad.
I dont get it, she said softly. I dont know what you want from me. I did everything right, didnt
I? I didnt bring her home. I followed the rules. Why am I the bad guy here?
Tiffany shrugged, sullen. I just didnt realize youd be out the whole night. I mean, Taeyeon, you
dont even know her name, but you went home with her, she could have been some like, deranged
stalker who wanted to chop you up into pieces, or like
Im going to be twenty-seven years old, Taeyeon pointed out. She didnt raise her voice. It wasnt
an argument. She was too tired for this. I can take care of myself. ImI mean, its none of your
Tiffany stood abruptly and tried to push past her. Yeah, youre right. Your life is none of my

Thats not what I said, Taeyeon protested softly. She grabbed Tiffanys elbow, pulled her back.
She looked into her eyes. She loved her very much, but she was tired of being hurt. It was
Im sorry for being worried, Tiffany said sourly. It wont happen again.
Tiffany. Taeyeon closed her eyes. What do you want from me, she pleaded. What do you want?
You dont want me, right, because youve made that pretty clear, but you also dont seem to want
me with anyone else. I mean, you say you do, and then the second you dont have my undivided,
devoted attention, you cant handle it. What do you want me to do? I cant go back and forth with
you forever, Im only human.
Tiffany looked at her, stricken. Taeyeon knew her own anger was justified and yet, seeing that look
on Tiffanys face broke her heart. She didnt want to hurt her. She loosened her grip and Tiffany
retreated within herself, wrapping her arms tightly across her chest and stepping backward. Taeyeon
gazed at her.
They locked eyes for a brief moment and then Tiffany looked at the floor. She shrugged stiffly.
Dont look at me like that, Taeyeon, I dont know what you want from me either.
You do, Taeyeon pressed, quiet. You know what I want. What Ive always wanted. You know.
Tiffany shook her head, refusing to meet her gaze.
Youre not my girlfriend, Taeyeon told her evenly. You cant act like you own me when you
dont even want me, when all Ive wanted for the past ten years of my life is you, and you dont
even Her throat closed up. I cant get over you unless you let me go, a little.
Tiffany looked at her. Her eyes were like memories. Taeyeon felt fifteen years old every time she
looked into them and she didnt want it anymore. It was an awful, sickening feeling, like falling.
Helpless as a teenager.
I dont want to lose you, Tiffany said, so quietly Taeyeon wasnt sure she hadnt just imagined
breathing into words. Her stomach fell.
Youre not going to lose me. Tiffany shook her head but Taeyeon pressed on, seizing her by the
wrist. Even if you push me away, theres nowhere I can go.
Thats not what I mean. You dont get it.
She released Tiffanys arm roughly and shook her head. No, I dont. Youyou figure it out,
okay? She ran a hand through her hair, combed through her bangs, felt her temple throb beneath
her fingertips. You figure it out. Ill be back when I can stand to see you again.
She didnt look back when she walked out the door. Endlessly, she hoped to be released, but the
further she walked away, the more she felt the rope tighten.

chapter fifteen

The walls swam and the floor dodged her eyes. The palm of Taeyeons hand had gone numb from
the steady, rhythmic thumping she had treated the door to. On strike twenty-threeshe had counted
the door fell away and she leaned against the doorjamb unsteadily.
Sica, she said, hopefully articulate.
Taengoo? Jessica grabbed her arm and held her steady, pulling her into the apartment. Are you
I am not, Taeyeon admitted, stumbling in after her and tripping out of her shoes. I am
fantastically, ridiculously drunk.
Thats pretty obvious, Jessica said, holding her tightly. Taeyeon wished she could see her properly
but there had been a lot of wine and she had maybe lost a contact in the cab on the way over. Or
both contacts? Had she worn contacts? Had she lost her glasses
Hmm? She felt Jessica hoist her up by the waist and pull her into the living room, dragging her
toward the couch. It really was a very nice apartment, all spacious and pretty and no wonder Jessica
would want to live here, because Tiffany was not here, and Tiffany was terrible, she was awful, she
was the worst. Wheres your girlfriend, she wondered stupidly and felt Jessica taking off her coat.
Shes working.
Oh. So late
Dont move, Im going to get you some water.
Youre the best person, Taeyeon cried, putting her head against the couch pillows. She couldnt
even remember which bar shed gotten drunk at, or how many hours had passed, or how many
meals she might have missed, or how she had ended up at Jessicas. She knew those girls, those
clingy, shadowing girls, had helped her into a cab but had she asked for Jessicas apartment or had
they suggested it? It seemed a weird choice, although she certainly loved Jessica quite a lot. Sunkyu
was generally the person who shouldered the burden of her occasional wine-fueled stupidity.
Anyone was okay, she guessed.
She couldnt go home, that was all she knew.
Jessica brought her a bottle of water and she drank gratefully; her mouth and nose felt numb. Jessica
sat down beside her and combed the messy hair away from her face.
Im sorry, Taeyeon said, near tears. Sorry to come here, sorry. Sorry, sorry.
No, Im glad you came, Jessica said softly, putting an arm around her. I dont want you
wandering around in this condition. Why didnt you go home? When Taeyeon neglected to answer,
she kissed her just above her temple, squeezed her shoulder. Did something happen with Tiffany?
Nothing happened, nothing ever happens, Taeyeon said pitifully, holding the bottle of water so
tightly she was surprised she hadnt squeezed it all over her lap. I dont know why I even bother
with her, she isnt worth it.

Even as she said it, she knew it was a lie, and Jessica knew that she knew because she just held her
tightly and sighed. Because. Shes Tiffany. And youre Taeyeon.
Taeyeon snorted. She put a hand up to her eyes and rubbed. I cant do this anymore.
No, I really cant. I cant. This is too hard for me. Am I supposed to do this for the rest of my life?
She knows how I feel about her and she still
She exhaled. She felt dizzy. Most of all, and most obviously, she regretted drinking this much,
because it didnt help, it just brought all her emotions to the surface, painfully pricking against her
Jessica smoothed her hair again, sat quietly for a moment. Baby, I know this is hard for you, she
began, delicately. But. Have you even thought about how hard it must be for Tiffany, too? Have
you looked at it from her point-of-view?
Taeyeon inhaled shakily.
How am I supposed to do that, she said, trying to stamp down the frustration. Shes so
inconsistent. She tells me to get over her and when I stray too far she yanks the leash and Im back
to square one.
But look at it from her perspective.
I dont know her perspective, Jessica.
You dont know what to do, but how is she supposed to know? Do you have any idea how much
she loves you? What did you expect to happen when you confessed to her?
I dont know what I expected, Taeyeon admitted. But if I knew it was going to be seven or eight
years of being led on and sent mixed signals, I wouldnt have done it at all.
Youre not some random person on the street, Taeyeon, youre her best friend. She cant reject you
and then act like you dont exist. Even if you didnt work together, youd be together.
Believe me, I know that.
So you dumped this burden of a confession in her lap and expected her to be able to deal with it,
when you know very well it would kill her to hurt you.
Taeyeon blinked at her. So Im the bad guy? I didnt ask to feel this way.
And neither did she. I know its hard for you. But imagine having to watch your best friend in the
world have her heart broken and you cant even make it better because youre the one who did it.
Do you think that feels nice?
Taeyeon stood, angrily. Then why cant she make up her mind? If she doesnt want me, then just

let me go, and if she does

Let you go? Jessica repeated, incredulous. Youre her best friend, Taeyeon, how is she supposed
to do that?
So she needs to treat me like a friend. I cant get over her if she keeps giving me hope that we
could be more
But you already are more. Jessicas voice was soft, kind. You know shell never just be your
friend. And she knows that, too. Youre not normal people, and you dont have a normal friendship,
and its a little too late for you to fix that.
Taeyeons shoulders sank. What am I supposed to do, then.
Jessica paused thoughtfully, and then took Taeyeons hand. She pulled her down to sit next to her.
Taeyeons head spun. She felt unraveled.
Okay, um, Jessica began, and then paused for another moment as though trying to figure out how
to say what she wanted. The thing is, I liked unni for a really long time before I confessed to her. A
few years, maybe? And it was really difficult, you know, not just because I was dealing with the fact
that I had feelings for another girlwhich, you know, I had always known, but to be hit with it like
that was like well, you probably know what I mean.
Taeyeon nodded. It was weird, that they had known each other this long and had never been able to
talk to one another about it; ostensibly, it was something they had both gone through, but Taeyeon
supposed they were both the same kind of person. When faced with the option of not talking about
something or talking about it, both of them would invariably choose the former.
Mostly it was also difficult because, you know, we were really close and she took care of me really
well, and I didnt want to mess that up? I mean, I thought, you know, I can live with this, as long as
I have herbeing friends or whatever. But at a certain point, I realized that I I loved her, she
blushed, like this was some sort of deep, dark confession despite Taeyeon having known they were
together for going on eight years now, and that I was eighteen years old and beginning my career,
and it was too much, I guess. I realizedunless I told her how I felt, I couldnt have her in my life
anymore. I mean, just like that, I knew, you knoweither our relationship needs to become more,
or it needs to end. So when I confessed, I knew that our relationship was going to change, no matter
what. Whether she accepted me or rejected me, there was no way we could go back to what we
were before. Does that make sense?
It does, but
So I confessed to her knowing that, and I made the decision to change our relationship. I was
lucky, and she felt the same way, and, you know, the rest is history more or less. She waved her
hands around, embarrassed, casting a glance around the expansive apartment. Taeyeon thought,
suddenly, about how beautiful happiness looked on other people; happy people didnt need to be
smiling or laughing for you to know they were happy. They just were.
Anyway, what Im saying is, I think thats what you want now. You want her to either accept you,
or your relationship needs to change, and you need to let go of each other. But its too late for that.
The time for that was years ago, when you told her how you felt. You guys just tried to pick up your
friendship where it left off, keep yourself in the same place, even with all this hanging between you.
You cant ask her to let you go now. Its too late.

Taeyeon laughed painfully. Youre telling me thats it, its too late? Theres nothing I can do, I just
have to be miserable forever? Cool, thats
Im saying maybe you need to look at yours and Tiffanys relationship and ask yourself why you
were unable to let go of each other when you should have.
Taeyeon frowned and tried to focus. Were teammates, she pointed out. Jessica squeezed her
You and I both know that lots of idol groups survive for many years with members who arent
even friends. Its something else.
Taeyeon looked at her, quietly, pensively. Im too drunk for this.
Jessica laughed. She ran her thumb over the top of Taeyeons hand. Whats new.
Taeyeon smiled, tight, apprehensive, and stood. She looked around, blinked at the dim lights, the
long stretch of the apartmentit looked like an ad or a photograph in an interior design magazine,
except lived-in, tangibly occupied by two people who were living a life together. Taeyeons heart
ached. She could tell herself over and over that she was a loner and didnt need anyone, but she
knew, really, she wanted that. It was hard to be anyone with a secret, and it was harder to be an idol
with a secret, but Jessica had proven that it was possible, that you could fall in love, build a career;
you could have both and be happy. Jessica was happy.
Taeyeon wanted that. She smiled down at Jessica, ruffled the top of her head, grinned at the
indignant whine her old friend let out as she tried to squirm away, and said, Thank you.
Of course, Jessica said dismissively, fixing her hair. She grabbed Taeyeons hand suddenly, as
though sensing that she was ready to leave. Hey, stay here, okay? I dont want you wandering
around drunk like this. You can sleep on the couch; unni wont mind.
Taeyeon squeezed her hand, gave her a lightheaded smile. She was unsteady on her feet, but shed
be fine.
No, its okay. I have some place to go.

Hyejin blinked sleepily at her. In the dark of the hallway, she looked bright and golden to Taeyeon,
pretty and warm and familiar. Its three in the morning, Taeyeon.
Yeah. Taeyeon traced the doors frame with one finger. Sorryuh, were you sleeping?
Okay. She sighed, putting her hands in her pockets. Sorry. Ill go.
With a sigh, Hyejin grabbed her shirt, dragged her across the threshold. Come in.
Sorry, I Taeyeon moved clumsily inside.

You smell like you took a shower in wine.

Its very good for the skin, she joked, following Hyejin into her apartment.
Youre drunk.
I thought you said you quit drinking.
I did, Taeyeon admitted, but this is a special occasion. Im celebrating.
Hyejins hair was a mess from sleeping and she yawned, trying to smooth it out with half-hearted
movements. She was pretty. It was the same thing every time Taeyeon saw her, whether she was
drunk or drypretty, she was pretty, she looked pretty.
Celebrating what?
Eyebrows rose as Taeyeon stepped closer and breathed in. Her hands were graceless, awkward as
they attempted to smooth Hyejins hair down for her. She smiled.
Uh, not sure, actually.
Oh, good, Hyejin said dryly, but she smiled back.
You can stop apologizing. Whats up?
Taeyeon looked at the floor, studied it quietly. I just wanted to see you.
At three in the morning, while youre drunk.
I thought we were friends.
We are. I havent kicked you out. She smiled. Taeyeon stepped closer. It was hard to get any
closer than she was.
I justI missed you.
Yeah. She meant it. She wasnt sure in what way. There really wasnt a feeling to compare it to,
just that she found herself standing in Hyejins personal space and aching, yearning to be closer.
Even now, when her vision was blurry and her entire body felt flimsy, she felt at ease, looking at
her, feeling her skin cool and soft against her own.
Hyejin only nodded, made a soft, satisfied sound that only made Taeyeon want her more.
Did you miss me? she pressed, earnest, quiet.

In place of an answer she received only a smile, a casual shrug. Taeyeon frowned sourly. She didn't
care if Hyejin was just teasing, the lack of confirmation made her feel powerless, vulnerable. She
Did you? she asked again, soft. She swallowed hard. Miss me?
Maybe a little.
Say it. She wet her lips. Please.
Hyejin went to turn on a light but Taeyeon took her hand, pulled it to her.
Leave it off.
Why? Hyejin asked lightly. Dont want to see me with the lights on? Easier to pretend Im
someone else?
Taeyeon looked at her carefully. What do you mean?
Nothing. Not tonight. Youre drunk. You dont want me.
How do you know what I want?
How do you know what you want?
I want you, she insisted, feeling a bit of control slip away.
Just for right now, though, Hyejin said gently. I care about you a lot, Taeyeon. If I thought you
were capable of feeling the same, Id let myself fall in love with you. I would. Thats how much I
like you. But you dont want me. You want her.
Taeyeon looked at her silently.
You and I both know that. Look, I dont mind, orI didnt mind. I know what this has been for
you, since the beginning. But dont come here and make me feel like Im being used, Taeyeon. Im
not going to compete with her, because I know I wont win.
Taeyeon stepped closer. Just when she thought she couldnt, there was more space to move into. Her
breath caught. Her mouth pressed against the corner of Hyejins lips and she sighed, feeling the
tension melt out of her body and her limbs weaken.
Okay, was all she could say.
Hyejin touched her face, kissed her cheek. Go home. Come back to me when you feel better.
When would that be, Taeyeon wondered. It was cold outside; it was Seoul in January. It had been an
endless season of cold, of loneliness. She put her hands in her pockets.
We called a taxi for you.
She looked, unhinged, at the fan talking to her, and then nodded, slow, empty.

Its so late, she said. Why are you still up?

Because youre still up, the fan returned simply.
Because we want to take care of you. Because you need us. Because we love you.
The taxi came. Taeyeon looked down at the ground.
Love is very suffocating, she said, and got in the taxi.

She dropped her keys on the floor three times before she managed to get the door open.
The front hall was dark. Taeyeon took her shoes off, flipped her hair out of her eyes. The living
room was awash in moonlight, stretching, fatigued, across the carpeted floor, spineless and
whispering along the couch where Tiffany sat quietly, legs folded beneath her.
Their eyes locked. Taeyeon considered just walking past to her room and going to sleep, but she
thought maybe, in the muted light, that Tiffanys eyes were red, maybe, and her heart ached a little.
Hello, she said.
Hi, Tiffany returned.
What are you doing up?
Waiting for you. Jessica called when you left her apartment, but that was an hour ago.
Taeyeon sighed.
Where were you?
Are you drunk?
A little. She shook her head, looked at the floor. I dont want to fight with you.
Tiffany stood. I dont want to fight either.
Look, um. Taeyeon raked a hand through her hair. She had felt like shed sobered up on the taxi
ride home, but now, standing in Tiffanys presence, breathing her in, she was unsteady on her feet
once again. She was undone. She was fifteen years old, painfully in love, drowning in want,
suffocating in love. She shook, little by little.
I think you know, we thought this would work out, this whole living together thing, andI
dont think it is. Solets not fight about it, okay? Ill look for a new place. Maybe I can still get
my old place. I dont know. I just
Taeyeon, Tiffany said softly. She stepped closer. She smelled like clean air, and her skin was

white porcelain in the moonlight. Thats not what I want.

Its just not going to work.
Tiffany looked at her, sadly. Taeyeon gazed into her eyes, willed herself to look away, and thought,
maybe this is impossible, maybe no matter what you do youll just be pulled tighter and tighter to
her until it gets so tight that you choke. She swallowed hard.
What do you want from me? she asked weakly, her voice breaking.
Tiffanys eyes were questions without answers and she smoothed her hand along Taeyeons
shoulder, clutched her collar, kissed her forcefully on the mouth.
Taeyeon could not move. She had been on the receiving end of what felt like a dozen lips, dozens of
kisses in desperation and need and intoxication and yet her mouth could only ever recall the first
one, the hard and wet fullness of Stephanie Hwang against her waiting mouth, the solid heat of her,
the hot breath and the slippery place where their lips met and she sighed, groaned with longing.
Tiffanys hand, fisting her collar, shook and trembled and she slid her hand along Taeyeons neck,
tangling her fingers in her hair, pressing her thumb against her throat like she could choke her; her
lips made captive slaves of Taeyeons, held her to her by the curve of her lips and swallowed her
breath, swallowed her whole.
Fany, Taeyeon breathed, and her teeth scraped Tiffanys lower lip, feeling Tiffanys entire body
press against her and shake with warmth and want and Taeyeon realized this was all she had
yearned for, this was the warmth and darkness she couldnt replace. She pressed closer, wishing she
could climb inside Tiffanys clothes, climb inside her and share her breath. Her hands grasped
Tiffanys hips and she pushed her backwards, nudged her onto the couch and fell against her and
thought she would die if she stopped touching her for a second.
Tiffany murmured against her lips, quiet and desperate, Please, and Taeyeon could only swallow
each and every word, breathe her in like oxygen, drag her lips down the curve of her jaw and hear,
feel Tiffanys breath hitch and her blood rush and her body respond and she could have died like
this, in the moonlight, in Tiffanys arms, in that resting place between wonder and fantasy.

chapter sixteen
It is shaping up to be the most exhausting and bleak year of Taeyeons life, but the history books
wont paint it that way. The industry is dishonest and she is dishonest; it cheats and she cheats. She
doesnt remember what her voice is meant to sound like, but there isnt a part of her that doesnt
feel split apart and bloody with open wounds.
She terrifies herself. The further they get to the top, the longer the fall to the bottom, and she starts
to yearn for it. She has the power, she knows, to allow the group to go up in flames. In fact, the
lifespan of an idol is unpredictable, their status precarious; she can pretend she has no control, but
in fact, if she wanted to ruin everything, she could.
This is a consistent thought, sometimes, when she is tired and she has another two hours ago,
repeated recordings of a song she cant stand, watching, from yards away, the way Tiffanys mouth
moves when she talks. She is angry. She doesnt know whyit courses through her veins, and it

makes her taste desire like blood in the back of her throat. She could pin Tiffany to the wall and tear
her apart, put her mouth to every part of her, and maybe it would make her love her, and maybe the
thousands of eyes watching would understand that they created a false idol, that shes not someone
to be worshiped or respected or even looked at. She is a person with a dark shadow ready to
swallow her; she has made an entire country love her, and she cannot make one person love her.
Her head throbs. They are filming late into the night. Every time she puts her head down to rest,
there is another person at her elbow who says Taeyeon are you okay.
Im okay, she says several times and when she catches Tiffanys eye across the studio, she looks
Tiffany tries at least once a week, to fix things. Taeyeon knows shes trying to fix things. She comes
to her, eyes sad and wet like morning, mouth fixed into a frown, hands tense. She says, Can we
Taeyeon says, We dont have anything to talk about, usually, but sometimes she says, Sure, lets
talk, but then Tiffany wants to talk about that and when Taeyeon meets her eyes honestly, Tiffany
cant think of anything to say, so Taeyeon thinksthats itshe cant even talk about itthats
how shameful it is, she wants to talk about it, and she cant.
Lately, she can feel eyes on her at all times. Its not really unusualits rare that eyes arent locked
on her, scrutinizing her every move, whether theyre fans or staff or the unflinching publicbut
lately its the members, mostly, who look at her warily, confused and worried. She knows they sense
the rift between Tiffany and herits hard to missbut they dont handle Tiffany with kid gloves
suddenly. Its just her.
It is tiring, being a person that is looked at. They say its because they care about her, that shes their
friend, but occasionally she feels the crushing weight of an arbitrary title they saddled her with.
Leader. It eats away at her, keeps the wall up indefinitely. Thats where the eyes are the most
intense, when it comes down to decisions and questions and answers, their eyes shift to her.
They dont know you, she thinks sometimes, morosely, because if they did, theyd stop looking.
You can talk to us, you know, they say. Its clear somethings bothering you, but were always
here. Were a team, Taeyeon. Talk to us.
She smiles, tight and false, through her exhaustion and anger and incongruity. Thats what it is. She
feels out-of-place. There are eight girls, excited and exhilarated with the way their careers are taking
off, and then theres her, clinging to anything bolted to the ground; the higher they go, the more
desperate she is to stay grounded. She is two years into the game and already hates herself, the
falseness shes painted herself with, the duplicitous nature of the business. She looks at the eight of
them and can no longer convince herself that she doesnt love them, but wonders who they are,
because they must be fake, too.
She sees Tiffanys eyes and thinks theyre not like Stephanies eyes. Theyre haunted and sad and
lonely. She feels her best friend slipping away from her and knows its her fault, but she pins the
blame on everything else. Theyre surrounded by dishonest people in a dishonest world; how can
they possibly be honest with each other?
You can talk to us, Taeyeon. We want you to open up to us. We want you to talk to us. We want to
know you, Taeyeon, because we care about you.

It is a five minute talk, nominally, but it hasnt been five minutes since the first night she proposed
it; sometimes it stretches for close to an hour. Taeyeon is exhausted but sometimes just listening to
them talk makes her feel better. She can rarely say much, but if she could, she might tell them that
their voices and thoughts are dizzyingly beautiful; she loves them that much. She has tried not to,
but she loves them very much. When they tell her they wish she would talk, she thinks theyre lucky
she doesnt, because if she opened her mouth they would be embarrassed by all the love and
devotion she has stored up.
If she were to talk to them as much as she thinks about them, she would lose her voice.

So theres that, she says. Theyre winding down. Since its a full-scale concert, we should be
prepared to have enough energy for it. I know thatll be hard, because we have a lot of schedules,
and not enough time to rest, but since its a solo concertjust remember that, keep your energy up.
They nod. Their eyes all have the same restless exhaustion in them. She smiles tightly, wanting to
go to bed. She feels like shes done all the talking and she wonders if its intentional; sometimes
they stay silent just to force her to talk more, but she wonders what they get out of it.
So, uh, I guess thats it. Does anybody else have anything to say?
Tiffany looks into her eyes so long and hard she feels a little bruised from it. She blinks at her,
startled, and addresses her directly for the first time in awhile.
Tiffany? Did you have something to say?
Tiffany continues to look at her, wounded but firm. The moment stretches for so long that the other
members start to shift uncomfortably, looking between them.
Finally Taeyeon averts her eyes uneasily and Tiffany sighs, looking into her lap.
I guess not.
Okay, then.
All right, thats enough, Sooyoung says, frowning. What the hell is going on with you two?
Seriously, Ive been quiet about this for too long.
I dont know what youre talking about, Taeyeon replies quickly.
No? You guys are joined at the hip for as long as I can remember and then for the past year its like
you can hardly stand to be in one anothers presence? You dont know what Im talking about?
Yoona grabs her arm, glancing between both Tiffany and Taeyeon with concern. Unni, maybe its
none of our business
You said you agreed with me, Sooyoung says.
I do, I just think
Whats this, you guys are talking about us behind our backs? Tiffany asks.

Well, someone has to talk about it, Sooyoung argues. I dont get you guys. Whats the deal?
Taeyeon frowns deeply. Its nothing and you should mind your own business.
Hey, thats not fair, Yuri speaks up. Were a team, Taengoo, and Sooyoungs not the only one
whos worried about you guys.
Now theyve all been emboldened into speaking up. Taeyeon feels her hands tense in her lap, a vein
in her temple throb.
If theres problems between two members, that affects the group, Jessica points out.
Well, theres no problem, Taeyeon insists, shaking her head. I dont know where you guys are
getting that idea
If theres no problem then why wont you talk to me? Tiffanys voice is hollow and quiet, but it
shoves the room into silence. Taeyeon looks at her, surprised; Tiffanys eyes are trained on her lap.
Taeyeon can only look at her for a brief moment, because the eyes of the rest of the girls are
I she begins and then can say nothing else. She rubs her forehead tiredly. Do we have to talk
Well, how long did you think we were going to go on like this, Taeyeon? She looks up at last,
meeting Taeyeons gaze with an apprehensive, anxious look. I mean, if the rest of the group is
Theres nothing going on, Taeyeon says, stressing the words. Ive been tired, weve all been
tired, this has been a long year, and
Thats not it and you know it.
and I also think, she said, raising her voice a little, theres no reason for us to talk about this in
front of
She trails off because theyre all looking at her. Being looked at. She cant stand it.
In front of us? Sunkyu asks, stunned. So all that were a team, we should share each others
happiness and sadness, all that stuff, you just said that for effect, huh?
No, Taeyeon protests. She feels ganged up on, and embarrassingly, tears start to come to her eyes.
She tenses, trying to force herself to stay calm. She has spent the better part of an entire year trying
to keep her emotions at bay and even a fuse as long as hers will burn up if it keeps being lit. I
this is a private thing, between me and Tiffany, and its not
But you wont talk to me about it, Tiffany says in disapproval.
Because theres nothing to talk about.
Taeyeon, you

It was a mistake, okay?

Tiffanys eyes widen; she pushes on.
It was a misunderstanding and its my fault, okay, and I think we should both get over it. I was
Now Im confused, Hyoyeon says.
Tiffany shakes her head. You say that like it was an accident.
Maybe it was.
But if thats all it was, why wont you speak to me? Do you have any idea how hurtful
How hurtful? Taeyeon explodes. How hurtful, really? For you? For you? Youre hurt?
Well, how did you expect me to react
I dont know. She feels her blood racing. Just forget about it, okay.
Tiffany looks at her, full of pity, and suddenly Taeyeon hates her, violently hates everything about
her sad, sorry face. Shes sick of it.
But Taeyeon youre
In love with you, she finishes, losing her temper at last. Thats my problem, its not yours.
She hadnt meant to say it, and yet once she has, she feels better. It hangs in the air awkwardly, but
she has held it in for too long, and even the defeated slump of Tiffanys shoulders is a good enough
Im sorry, okay, she breathes. I shouldnt have kissed you, but you shouldnt have kissed me
back. You shouldnt have Im so confused, she admits softly and the way Tiffany looks at her, so
sad and sorry, like Taeyeon is a child throwing a tantrum, makes something inside of her break.
The room is silent. She isnt sure for how long.
Surprisingly, or maybe not surprisingly, its Juhyun who breaks the silence, and she addresses
Unni, this is what we mean, she says softly. All these things are going on, and yet you dont tell
us anything. You never talk to us, you keep secrets, you refuse to open up, and then youre the first
one to say were a team, were a family, we should all share with each other. Thats not fair.
Taeyeon squeezes her eyes shut. She can tell theyre all stunned and she doesnt want to look at
them. This is your leader, she thinks, she is a mess, she is one screw-up after another.
Its Sunkyu, beside her, taking her hand. She keeps her eyes closed.

Taengoo, come on. When are you going to realize how much we care about you? You have to open
up to us, otherwise the group will fall apart.
She wrenches her hand out of Sunkyus grasp and stands, rushing off to her bedroom with her head
bowed. She can hear their cries behind her but cant look back; shes afraid to look at them, to see
them, to see Tiffany, mostly, to look at her sad face and her pretty eyes.
She doesnt realize Sooyoung is hot on her heels until she tries to slam the door closed behind her
and it sticks as Sooyoung pushes herself in bodily. Taeyeon looks down, fighting back tears. The
door closes quietly and she feels Sooyoung step into her personal space, take her arm, pull her
close; she isnt sure whats happening until Sooyoungs arms are tight around her.
She does not return the hug but unconsciously sinks into it, sighing. Her body feels fatigued, weak,
like shes been running a marathon for years.
Hey, Taeyeon, you have to go back out there and talk to them.
She shakes her head. Theres no way Sooyoung will understand.
Yes, you do. Youre our leader.
Her words only make Taeyeon feel worse. She is so far from a leader its almost a joke. She hasnt
been a leader to these girls for even five seconds, and she knows it; all shes done is hold the group
back, worry them, push them away. She shakes her head again.
Yes, Sooyoung insists. You jackass. You idiot. What is it going to take for you to get how much
we love you? YouTaeyeonyou
She loosens the grip she has Taeyeon in, sliding her arms around her shoulders and looking down at
Taeyeons teary, confused face. This is the worst way to be looked at, Taeyeon thinks.
That you and Tiffany was that for real? Sooyoung asks. Whispers.
Taeyeon looks down. There is no me and Tiffany.
But you wanted there to be. You want there to be.
She nods, too drained to pretend otherwise. Sooyoung releases a breath and squeezes her tighter.
You jerk. Why didnt you tell me? Tell us?
Because its none of your business.
She doesnt mean it harshly but Sooyoung is taken aback. She lets go of Taeyeon, stepping
backward and putting her hands in her pockets. She looks hurt. Maybe thats an understatement.
Taeyeon purses her lips, digging her feet into the floor to keep herself upright.
Why not? Sooyoung asks softly. She shakes her head. I try so hard, Taeyeon, to get close to you,
and you keep pushing me away. I dont get it. Taeyeon remains silent, and she continues. Why
would you carry all this by yourself? Did you think we wouldnt understand?
You dont. You cant.

What, that you like girls? Big deal, moron, did it bother us when Jessica told us? What kind of
people do you think we are? We love you.
Taeyeon shakes her head again. She cannot stop shaking it, cannot stop shaking all over.
Im in love with her, she tells Sooyoung, her voice hoarse.
Sooyoung nods, looking at her sorrowfully. It makes Taeyeon feel bad.
For how long?
Ive always loved her.
It feels strangely refreshing to say it. Confessing to Tiffany a year ago was the only time she had
admitted it, and yet, it still feels freeing to have the words out there. She feels like she can breathe.
Sooyoung looks at her as though she doesnt know what to say, as though shes sorry for her. She
hugs her again. Taeyeon sniffles, pulling herself together.
You need to go out there, Sooyoung says. You need to talk to them. And you need to you
and Tiffany have to figure something out, because you cant go on the way you have.
The guilt makes Taeyeons head hurt. There is a loud chorus of voices telling them at every turn that
theyre the best idol group the industry has seen in years, and here she is, holding them back.
When she drags herself back out to the living room, the girls havent even moved. Theyre still
seated in the same positions, and even their expressions, mannerisms are like before. Tiffanys head
is bowed, her eyes fixed on her lap, like shes frozen.
Taeyeon clears her throat, and theymost of themlook up at her. She fidgets under their stares.
Sorry about before, she says softly.
They look at her, wide-eyed, expectant, like they need more. Always more. She has nothing left to
She exhales. Then, mustering up the courage, she says, Look, guys. I think I think we should do
away with the whole leader position. Since, you knowI think maybe it would be better if we just
didnt have a leader. Its not working, so maybe we would be better off without it.
Shock registers on their faces but she only glimpses it briefly before she feels the need to look
away. There is a long, silent beat before Sunkyu speaks up.
Of course, she says, cheerfully. I think it was always like that, wasnt it?
There is an awkward pause before the rest of the girls chime in.
Yeah, Hyoyeon adds, I always thought we didnt really have a leader, so thats fine.
The sense of relief Taeyeon is hoping for doesnt come. Instead she feels empty, lost. She nods
absently. What did she expect? Strangled cries of objection, protest? Clearly they felt as she did,

that she had let them down. She cant bear to think too long about how they must view her now
not just a failure, but a quitter, too, and somehow they expected it. A liar. Maybe her feelings for
Tiffany are no ones business but her own, but she hadnt missed their looks of betrayal.
The talk ends, then, abrupt and anticlimactic, and as they file off to bed she keeps her head down,
tidies up the living room. It is a few minutes before she realizes that Tiffany has stayed behind, that
they are alone in the dark of the living room. Her head is bowed, but when Taeyeon notices her, she
lifts her eyes up to her. They're red.
Will you please talk to me? she asks softly.
Taeyeon sighs. She is so exhausted. She twists a pillow in her hands anxiously before setting it
down on the floor.
Theres nothing really to talk about, is there?
Im sorry. I messed everything up. I should have never
You didnt mess everything up.
But you looked soand I cant help butlook we should forget about it because, you know, I
was confused that night and, um, I dont think I was in the right frame of mind, and
We cant forget about it. I dont want you to think that IIm not angry, and Im not upset with
you. Please understand that. I care about you so much.
Taeyeon looks at her carefully. You knew how I felt about you, didnt you?
Tiffanys eyes widen, as though caught and she looks down, nodding. Her cheeks flush. Taeyeon
How long have you known?
I dont know, Tiffany says, hesitant. Awhile, I guess?
How long, Taeyeon presses, feeling her heart beat fast.
I guess I suspected uh, pretty much as long as weve known each other
Taeyeon exhales in a short burst of surprise. Thatthat long? You
I mean, Taeyeon, I didnt know for sure, I just kind of suspected for a long time. I kept thinking,
you know, its probably just a crush, shell probably get over it
Taeyeon wets her lips. So all this time, all these years, you knew how I felt, and you didnt She
trails off. Didnt what? What did she expect?
What was I supposed to do? Or say? I didnt want to hurt you. I dont want to hurt you.
Taeyeon looks at the floor, frustrated. That was it, then. If Tiffany had known for that long, then she

clearly didnt feel the samethere was no chance of it. If she had, she wouldve come to her about
it. Wouldnt she? Suddenly she burns with shame and sadness, thinking back. How long Tiffany
must have known. How long she must have pitied her, felt bad for her. Stayed friends with her,
maybe, out of some misguided sympathy. I must have looked so pathetic, thinks Taeyeon, I must
look really pathetic to her.
Taeyeon. She feels Tiffany take her hand; its strangely cold, and their fingers lace together
instinctively. Im sorry. I wish I couldI mean, the last thing I would ever want to do is hurt you. I
love you, its just not
The same, Taeyeon finishes for her. She shrugs. I guess thats it, then.
Tiffany frowns. But what about us? Youre my best friend. I mean, we I dont want us to grow
apart, Taeyeon.
Taeyeon keeps her head bowed. All she wants, really, is to stay here, with their hands locked,
standing in Tiffanys radiating warmth. She had wished for a reset button so many times over the
past year and longs for it now more than ever, to have never told her, or maybe to reset years back
and have never fallen for her. She wants, more than anything, a best friend who is just a best friend,
who doesnt make her heart beat so fast she worries it will stop.
Im sorry, she says softly. Its too hard for me.
Before she leaves, Tiffany calls out to her.
Even if you try to push us away, youll always be our leader, she says. Her eyes are bright. And
even if you try to push me away, youll always be my best friend.
She can feel Tiffanys eyes on her even as she turns to leave, even as she slumps down the hall
toward her room; even when the door is closed, she thinks she can feel Tiffanys eyes on her. Its
terrifying, exhausting, painfully self-conscious, being a person who is looked at.

January had closed in. Somehow, even without opening her eyes, Taeyeon knew that it had snowed
the night before. The light coming from the window was impossibly bright behind her eyelids and
she could sense it before she saw it, the full expanse of white like a sheet draped over her. She could
feel, on the outside, as though surrounding her, how cold it was, but she felt only warmth.
There was a reason for that and the reason forced her eyes open, startled her unhurried rousing into
waking with a start. Her head throbbed and her mouth felt dry and she was pinned to the couch,
Stephanie Hwang draped over her. It was not, she admitted with some sheepishness, the first time
she had woken up with a hangover after spending the night with a girl, but it was, to the best of her
recollection, one of very few times she had woken up with her clothes still on, which she supposed
was a small victory.
The presence of clothes was the second thing she noticedafter the snowand if she hadnt been
so very hungover and dumbfounded with terror she might have thought to congratulate herself for
her willpower. As it was, the part of her brain that hadnt devoted itself to viciously hating the

painful hammering in her skull was preoccupied with a blank, dawning sort of dread that intensified
like a supernova the longer she let it sit in her head. Tiffany stirred; her arms clutched Taeyeon
tighter around the waist, her nose brushed against Taeyeons collarbone, and Taeyeon could only
hold her breath and hope, sort of dimly and stupidly, that she would never wake up. Or that, more
realistically, she, Taeyeon, could figure out a way to extricate herself from the couch without
waking Tiffany; if she escaped, maybe Tiffany would awake and assume it had all been a dream.
Because truthfully, if it wasn't for the insanely uncomfortable position she had woken up in and the
numb, oddly bruised feeling of her lips, she would assume it was a dream. It was certainly a
common enough dream, and waking up from it was easier the more she did it, but she hadnt been
so drunk last night that she couldnt remember what had happened. She prayed that she wasnt
remembering it wrong, that it hadnt been one more in a string of confusing attempts to look for
something that wasnt there. She hadnt initiated it. She pressed her memory so hard it made her
head ache more. She hadnt. She hadnt. Tiffany had. Tiffany had kissed her.
The breath left her lungs, then, in a strange and ecstatic rush. She had to get away. This was too
much to think about, and it would be impossible enough if the pounding headache was all she had
to worry about, but she had Tiffanys warmth and the softness of her skin and the scent of her hair
to strangle her thoughts.
She slid, experimentally, out from underneath Tiffany the barest of inches. It would be difficult, but
she could do this, and it wasnt the first time she had made an exit without being noticed and
Tiffany was a fairly heavy sleeper and if she could just be slightly less terrified and stop trembling
she knew it would be a million times easiershe nudged herself out a bit further
Good morning.
She froze.
Tiffany blinked sleepily at her and then yawned, lifting her head. Taeyeon stared at her, terrified.
Good morning, she attempted, but her voice broke halfway through. She cleared her throat.
Going somewhere? Tiffany asked through a yawn, dropping her head back down on Taeyeons
Taeyeons mind raced. She suddenly felt very aware of her hands, which were weird things to
suddenly be aware of, but where in the world was she supposed to put them? She felt Tiffany
huddle closer, tighten her arms around Taeyeons waist, and Taeyeon, very uselessly and stupidly,
wondered about where she should put her hands.
Oh, um, she said vaguely, her mind circling around the question. My head hurts. I was going to
get medicine.
Youre hungover, Tiffany mumbled.
Its true, Taeyeon agreed. She pressed her hands tight against her sides.
You were drunk, Tiffany added.
Also true.

You said you quit drinking.

Extenuating circumstances, Taeyeon admitted. Tiffany
It snowed, she explained. Her muscles felt tense. This was a bad place to fall asleep. Tiffany
Tiffany laughed a little and then lifted her head, again. Her eyes were bleary with sleep but they
were eyes you could look into forever, until you were blind. She smiled a little. Maybe it was the
hangover, maybe it was the exhaustion, maybe it was the dizzying feeling of constant confusion, or
maybe it was just because it was Tiffany and Tiffany was smiling, but the sight of it stunned
Taeyeon into submission.
Tiffany kissed her. Taeyeon clutched her forearm tightly, feeling the world turn. This was something
she was going to have to wake up from, and in a way, she hoped she would and hoped she wouldnt.
This was too confusing. Tiffanys lips were soft, deliberate, dragging down her jawline, pressing
underneath her chin.
Tiffany, she said, hesitant, and her voice sounded hollow in the room.
What arewhat arewhat is this?
She didnt want to stop her, really, for anything in the world, but she had to know. She was about to
drive herself crazy. Thoughts were suddenly incapable of staying with her for very long. Her mind
did not deal with the unknown very well. She felt herself grip Tiffanys forearm tighter.
Tiffany paused, her lips still, and then resumed, now pressing a kiss behind Taeyeons ear.
Isnt this what you want, she breathed.
Is it what you want?
Tiffany lifted her head. Her eyes were dark. Would I be doing this if it wasnt what I wanted?
You tell me.
Tiffany looked at her for a long time. She smiled. Youre hurting me, she said gently.
Taeyeon blinked at her. What?
My arm.
Oh. She hadnt realized how tightly, desperately, she had been clutching Tiffanys arm. She let go.
Sorry, I
Taeyeon. Tiffany laced their fingers together. Her hands were cold, but the action wasnt. You
mean so much to me.
She felt warm beneath her skin. That Thats not an answer.

Tiffany shook her head. Her smile didnt waver. You think too much.
So Ive been told. But still
Taeyeon, Tiffany pressed her into the couch. Stop talking.
That was easy, sort of, even if she had reservations, because when the girl youve been in love with
since you were fifteen years old wants you to shut up and kiss her, thats pretty much the only thing
you do. Even if her head hurt so much she thought she would go blind and her back ached from the
uncomfortable position on the couch, she felt suddenly numb with warmth, humming and buzzing
like maybe she was drunk again, like Tiffany pressed against her with her skin and her mouth and
the scent of her hair had made her drunk.
Maybe she was still asleep and maybe she would never wake up.
Im vibrating, Tiffany mumbled against her lips.
Oh, Taeyeon replied, thats, um, a weird feature.
Its my phone, hold on. She used her arm to lift herself up and fished her phone out of her
sweatshirt pocket.
She sat up, suddenly backlit. The window behind her, the blinding white snow, and her hair mussed
with sleep, her lips red and swollenTaeyeon swallowed hard. Had to wake up.
Tiffany cursed under her breath, holding her phone to her ear. I forgot, Im sorry. Can we
reschedule? The absence of her warmth made Taeyeon shiver as she watched Tiffany frown, run a
hand through her hair.
Im really sorry, but it was so short notice anyway, she told whoever was on the phone. Any
time, like, later todayno, not now, ImIm busy. She locked eyes with Taeyeon briefly and
Taeyeon felt her body flush, there in the cold, still air. Okay. Okay. Sorry, oppa. Yes, bye.
She dropped her phone carelessly on the floor and within seconds she was back in Taeyeons space,
filling her arms and smelling like sleep and heat; Sorry about that, she murmured dismissively,
and covered Taeyeons mouth with her own once again. Taeyeon stiffened, feeling Tiffanys hand
cupping her face, her lips warm.
Tiffany, she tried to say in the space between their lips, can weTiffanycan we talk?
Her fingers were cold as they brushed her neck and then collarbone. She kissed the shell of
Taeyeons ear. About?
Um, what She had to break away, attempting to put a little distance between them; otherwise,
she would never get this out. Tiffany sighed, impatiently, but shifted to move off of her anyway. The
distance helped Taeyeon to think better almost immediately. She stood, feeling dizzy; it made the
blood rush to her head immediately, but at least that meant her blood was moving.

Tiffany was looking up at her expectantly from the couch.

You said you wanted to talk.
Right, Taeyeon said, dazed, and wondering why she was trying so hard to be level-headed and
responsible when Tiffany was there, five feet away, and Tiffany was willing, and Tiffany's mouth
was willing, and she had only wanted this for as long as she could remember. What, um what
arehey, who was that on the phone?
Jooyoung oppa.
Oh. Did you have a schedule this morning?
I was supposed to go to a meeting? Tiffany said absently. But I forgot to set my alarm last night.
I was distracted.
Ah, Taeyeon said, embarrassed. Meeting? What for?
Tiffany shrugged. He just said be ready, and I forgot. Someone in product development, I think?
Oh. Taeyeon wrapped her arms around herself, shivering in the cold. Choi Junghee?
I think thats who it was, Tiffany agreed, standing. She was back in Taeyeons space, Taeyeon
noted with trepidation, and the ability to think would disappear in no time, she was sure of it. She
put her arms around Taeyeons shoulders, lowered her head. Cold?
Yes. Hes the head of that department. Weve never had to work with him individually so you
probably havent met him.
Do you know him? Tiffany asked, not seeming overly interested. She was too close, but at least
Taeyeon felt warmer.
I met him a few months ago, she replied. She had met with Choi Junghee when she had first been
encouraged to begin production on a solo album. He was in charge of artist development and the
meeting had mostly been about how Taeyeon could differentiate herself as a solo artist, marketingwise. They want you to release a solo album.
Thats news to me, Tiffany said, raising her eyebrows. She clasped her hands behind Taeyeons
neck. They were cold, cold, the only part of her that was cold.
Taeyeon felt strangely unsettled, but wasnt sure why. It made sense for Tiffany to release a solo
album. Juhyun had. It was smart. It didnt change anything. Its a good idea, she told Tiffany.
Good luck.
Tiffany nodded, as though she had stopped listening. Her eyes were so dark. Taeyeon had never
seen them that dark, although she supposed it was possible she had just never seen them this close.
The hair on the back of her neck stood up as Tiffanys head dipped down and her eyes closed and
her lips were firm and they took their time. Each time, she felt undone, stupid, like she had never
kissed anyone before; each time, her mind became fuzzy and her hands shook.
Tiffany, she tried again, with great difficulty. The part of her brain that was fifteen years old asked

her why she kept stopping. Tiffany.

What, um, whatwhat is thisI meanwhat are we
Well, Im Tiffany, she replied languidly, brushing her lips against Taeyeons jaw. And youre
And this is kissing.
But Tiffany had pulled back far enough to look into her eyes and Taeyeon caught them
searchingly. It didn't make sense. She had spent so long looking at Tiffany, being looked at by
Tiffany felt somehow wrong. Why? SuddenlyI justI dontdo you even The patience in
Tiffany's expression surprised her, and the surprise made her blunt: Please dont play with my
Tiffany looked at her for a long moment. Her eyes had become very sad. I wouldnt do that.
Why did you kiss me?
Because, I wanted to.
Because I thought that if I didnt, I would miss my chance.
Taeyeon narrowed her eyes. Your your chance.
Look. Tiffany looked at the floor. This isnt easy for me, okay.
Yeah, its totally simple for me, Taeyeon shot back sarcastically.
I mean, I know thatI justI could spend the rest of my life trying to understand how I feel about
you, and by the time I figure it out, it could be too late. Taeyeon could hear how hard she
swallowed. And its not fair to you.
And how do you feel?
Tiffany wouldnt meet her eyes. She shifted uncomfortably. I dont know. I just want to be with
you, all the time. I dont want other people to have you because I want you to belong to me. I want
to make you happy. I dont think I can, but its what I want for you.
Taeyeon only looked at her silently, trying to understand. Her brain felt blocked off from her heart
suddenly, like it didnt want to believe what it was feeling. Tiffany squirmed under her gaze.
You make me happy, Taeyeon, she admitted quietly. You make me feela lot of things. Its
Confusing? Taeyeon repeated.

When I think of you with other people, I get angry. Not angrysad. Orfrustrated. I know I keep
telling you to get over me, and I know youre going to say its selfish of me, butbut youre
supposed to belong to me. She met Taeyeons eyes. Even if I cant ever be good enough, youre
supposed to be mine.
Taeyeons tongue felt heavy. Yours? Youryour what? Your best friend? Your
Just mine, Tiffany said quietly. She rested her forehead against Taeyeons and closed her eyes.
Her eyelashes, even without makeup, were long and graceful against her skin. Taeyeons breath
caught. Mine, Tiffany murmured again.
At long last her eyes fluttered open and Taeyeon nearly shut her own in response because looking
into them this close up was like looking into the eye of the storm. She watched with careful, hesitant
fascination as Tiffany wet her lips. They were shaking.
Im sorry I dont have a better explanation for you, Tiffany said softly, and the words whispered
along Taeyeons lips. Ive lain awake in bed at night trying to figure it out. Maybe it would be
easier for me if I let you go, but I cant do that. You belong to me.
Taeyeons heart beat quickly. She felt Tiffanys lips and nose brush against hers like warm air and
her eyes closed again, she inhaled raggedly.
It wasnt anything she didnt know already, she reminded herself. She had belonged to Tiffany, heart
and soul, since the moment she had met her. She had tried, tirelessly, to give herself to others, but it
was impossible. Every part of her belonged to Tiffany, would always belong to Tiffany.
Did Tiffany belong to her, though, was the question she was afraid to ask.
Okay, she said, simply. She felt off-balance, as though leaping into something very dangerous,
and her mind protested reflexively. Still, her body angled inward, could not keep itself away from
Tiffany, and every part of her ached to be closer. Her mind blanked and the hair on her arms stood
up. Okay, she said again, more in an effort to occupy her mouth.
But Tiffany had other thoughts in mind and pressed her lips against Taeyeons sweetly, warm but
restrained. Okay, she agreed. Butslow, Taeyeon. Okay?
Okay, Taeyeon repeated robotically, her mouth feeling numb. Slow. Right.
I have to go, Tiffany said apologetically. She held the back of Taeyeons neck with one hand and
held her close, kept their foreheads pressed together. At last, she released her, stepping backward
with a heavy sigh. Sorry. This meeting.
Right, Taeyeon said, trying to pull herself together. She had never felt this out of control before.
To want someone as badly as she had wanted Tiffany for what felt like her entire life, and then to
have her within arms reachit was maddening. She was surprised her head hadnt exploded, even
as the throbbing intensified against her skull. Right. Were scheduled for studio time at 2:00,
though, dont forget.
She straightened and tried to climb clumsily back into her professional skin. Idol group leader,
perfectionist lead singer, responsible teammateanything that wasnt a teenager aching with desire.
She swallowed hard. Dont forget, she repeated.

Tiffany smiled, all straight white teeth and glowing skin and stupid, pretty eyelashes. I wont. Her
face fell suddenly as she looked Taeyeon over. Are you okay? Youre shaking.
Huh? Yes. No. Yes, Im fine, its cold, you should goyou should go nowand I will take a cold
shower andsee you in a few hoursso please goplease
Tiffany laughed, taking another step backward. It was amazing how one full step back was enough
to allow Taeyeon to think straight again.
She watched Tiffany disappear into her bedroom to get dressed and then wandered into the kitchen,
dazed. She took medicine for her headache and washed it down with water. Once she started
drinking, she couldnt stop. She refilled her glass over and over, drinking each one down until she
ran out of breath, then gulping in enough air before drinking more. She felt painfully weak, but
reasoned that she hadnt eaten in quite awhile. She put her head against the cool surface of the
refrigerator; freezing as she was, her head felt warm, feverish. She stood for several moments,
dragging her mind through it second by second.
By the time she had recovered and came out of the kitchen, Tiffany had already left, her bag and
coat gone from the front hall. She had brought in the mail as well. Taeyeons hands went to the large
pocket envelope instinctively, because she knew what it was.
Her hands still felt numb, and her fingers felt cold as she tore the envelope open and held the
contract in her hands. The throbbing in her head was suddenly so painful she felt as though she
could hear it, could feel it in her entire body.

chapter seventeen
Of the many dance routines she had perfected over the years, Taeyeon found this one the most
When she was eighteen years old, broadcast network headquarters were like mazeswhat seemed
like hundreds of interlocking corridors stuffed with people, all of whom you had to greet lest you
develop a reputation. It had taken her forever to find her way around any of them without a manager
or another member present, but now she could maneuver most of them with her eyes closed, just as
most of the choreography she had memorized was instinctual now, her muscles mechanical. She
didnt need to think; she just did.
Instinct didnt solve puzzles, though, and it was a maze of puzzles; in place of loops and traps were
young juniors who had debuted after her, all of whom wanted to show the proper respect by
showering her with attention. She remembered being newly debuted, when everyone was her senior,
and she remembered the enthusiasm well. Now, on any given day, she was one of the most senior
idols in the backstage corridors, and this was a responsibility and burden all by itself. This was
difficult choreography as well, juggling the business of getting where you wanted without being
noticed and the business of not being noticed without looking like that was what you wanted. It was
easy to develop a reputation of being unfriendly, and sometimes the pressure of being a good senior
was one of the most burdensome aspects of the job.
Singing was easy. Performing was easy. Concerts were lifeblood. But the industry was a social
community all its own, with its own societal expectations, and that had maybe been the most

difficult thing all along.

She had hoped that wearing no make-up and pulling her cap low over her face would at least ensure
that few people recognized her, and it seemed to work. As she piloted the corridors quickly, she
could feel eyes on her, a series of quick second glanceswas it herit cant be her, shes not
promoting anythingwhy would she be here without a managerwhy would she be here at all
but the itchy feeling of eyes on her was a feeling more familiar to Taeyeon than breathing in and
She stopped at the door she had been looking for, double-checking the name printed on the sheet.
The last time she had been this unfamiliar with rookie idol groups had been because theyd spent
most of the year in Japan. She really had no such excuse this timeshe was a radio DJ, in all
fairnessexcept that she was still trying to shake off the apathy that Tiffanys three-month long
absence had wrapped her in. The name was only vaguely familiar and she had made Jinri repeat it
several times to make sure she wouldnt get it wrong.
She knocked twice and then stepped in; it took the occupants a moment to recognize her and then
three teenage girls flung themselves into ninety-degree bows. She responded, uncomfortably,
having hoped they would have gone onstage by now. The average age among them was probably
sixteen. When they had straightened she realized that she did, in fact, recognize one of them, as her
picture had come alongside Taeyeons own in a recent news articleThe Next Taeyeon, the
headline had said. Well, okay, thenyoung talent was something that had always interested
Taeyeon, but the article had left a sour taste in her mouth, somehow. It had straddled the line
between flattering and presumptuous, maybe; the idea of being a standard to be held to was nice,
the idea of becoming obsolete and needing a replacement was less nice.
It wasnt ego, or maybe it was. It just wasnt something she had thought herself capable of.
Whatever it was, it hadnt made her want to hear their song, at the time.
Luckily, the group seemed so nervous about their upcoming performance that their initial
excitement over seeing her had worn off quickly. The three of them stood out like glittering
diamonds among rocks, their flashy stage costumes a startling contrast to the swarm of staff milling
around the waiting room. She felt sorry, for her presence seemed to have distracted them all, and the
girls had made their backs straight like sharp rods, as though she would scold them for bad posture
or something. At any rate, she had not come to visit them, and they certainly knew that, so she tried
to be polite without being approachable.
The prettiest one had sat back down to get her hair done and Taeyeons stomach felt strange as she
Hello, she said.
Hyejin didnt look up from the work she was doing with a curling iron. Whats up, she asked
around a mouth full of hairpins. Taeyeon twisted her hands awkwardly, watching her work. She
could see the shaking of the teenage girls shoulders beneath the spill of her glossy hair. Her
presence was a burden, Taeyeon realized.
Nothing. Just stopping by.
She watched Hyejin work. She was reminded, all at once, of the first time they had met, and how
weird, how singularly expectant she had felt then. She put her hands in her pockets, finding nothing
else to do.

Hyejin finally glanced up at her, making brief eye contact. Youll have to give me a minute.
Yeah, no problem. Sorry.
How did you know I was here?
Oh. I called Jinri, she said you picked up some extra work, so I asked her where youd be. I didnt
know they filmed a music show this early, she said vaguely, trailing off.
All that for me? Hyejin asked wryly. You couldve just texted me and asked where I was.
Yeah, but I Taeyeon shrugged. She had thought Hyejin might not want to see her after she had
been so stupid the night before. But the hair Hyejin was combing was attached to a head
(obviously), and the head had ears and a mouth. Rookies talked, maybe more than anyone. No one
needed to hear about it. I had to stop by the building anyway, she lied.
Hyejin shrugged and nodded. She picked up a bottle of hairspray. Close your eyes.
Taeyeon obeyed, her spine feeling rigid in anticipation.
Not you. A laugh. Taeyeon.
Her eyes shot open. A cloud of hairspray came up between them. She blushed.
Oh. Right. Ill let you work.
She stood aside. She thought maybe these girls had debuted only a few weeks ago. They kept
eyeing her. She wondered what she would have thought if a senior singer had hung around her
dressing room conspicuously back during the first few weeks of her career. She wondered what a
group of young girls thought about her, about all nine of them, at all. Did they think they were all
washed up? Too old to be idols, still? Beyond idols? It had been many years and they were arguably
still on top; did this garner respect? Fear? Weariness? Did they think they were overstaying their
welcome? Was it that middling feeling, that feeling of undeniable respect mixed with impatience,
when will they just give up and just let the whole thing go.
Oddly, that was what she worried about the most, not waning popularity. They were no longer at
their peak, really, but their peak had been so high that she knew, somehow, it would never dip very
low. She didnt worry very much about their popularity declining so much as she worried about
their image if they stayed in one place too long. To still be an idol group at their age was silly, but it
was a self-conscious, tongue-in-cheek sort of silly, at least. What she really worried, though, was
that maybe the public wanted them to move on. Maybe it was what they expected. Maybe they
would release this album in a few months and the reaction would be Ah still, huh? Well, Ill buy
it, but this is verging on excessive.
She liked the energy in the room. It was electric, charged. She remembered that well. It wasnt just
the first few weeks. It was the first few months, years. Less as time went on, but she could
remember it, even up to four years into the business, standing in waiting rooms and feeling alive,
the blood rushing. They called it adrenaline but it was more than that, it was like waking up from a
deep sleep to find yourself right where you belonged. Even when you were exhausted, it was like
being awake for the first time.

When Hyejin was finished she beckoned Taeyeon over. They were silent for some time. The rookies
chattered in flush excitement. Taeyeon sat down and spun in the chair idly. The girls were rushed
out of the room and a decent amount of staff followed; the exit settled like a damp silence. She felt
Hyejin removing her cap and then her fingers were in Taeyeons hair, running down the length of it.
Her comb pressed gently against her scalp and she slid it all the way down, examined the ends.
You need to use more conditioner, she said, idly, seriously. What are you using?
The stuff I advertise.
But that stuffs terrible. You dont have to, its not like people will know you dont really use it.
Yeah, but I got like, ten bottles for free, Taeyeon said, frowning. Hyejin had searched the table for
a bottle of something; she put some in her hands and was working it into Taeyeons hair. They were
silent for awhile. The room wasnt empty, but they were as good as alone here in the corner, the
music show loudly blaring through the closed-circuit television. Taeyeon watched Hyejins hands
through the mirror. She realized how good she had become at staring into mirrors without really
looking at herself. There was a whole world in there and she was just one forgettable person.
Hyejin cleared her throat after some time. It almost made Taeyeon laugh; the action was so similar
to her own.
You seem like you want to break up with me, Hyejin said casually, combing her fingers through
Taeyeons hair. Which is weird, because Im not your girlfriend.
Taeyeon tried to relax. What?
Your whole vibe, Hyejin explained. Its like you came all the way here to tell me something
important. Either that or you found the lack of volume in your hair depressing and knew only one
person could help you.
Itsno, itsneitherII have volume in my hair
If you say so, Hyejin replied with a note of disbelief. She ruffled the top of her head and then
worked more product in.
I just, uh, wanted to apologize for the other night.
Hyejin made eye contact with her in the mirror. Apologize?
Why? Her voice was calm. Its not the first time you came over drunk, or looking for sex, or
Taeyeon flushed. She cleared her throat. Either way, sorry.
Let me trim off your split ends and Ill accept your apology.
Hyejin looked for scissors. Taeyeon clasped her hands in her lap and watched her. Why had she

come here? Maybe an apology through text was too impersonal, but she knew that wasnt it. She
had wanted to see her. She wasnt sure why. This morning with Tiffany had left her disoriented
which was understating it a bit. It felt weird to look at people when her heart felt this strangely light
and heavy, her mind this strangely clear and clouded. Even her fathers voice had sounded strange
to her when shed called him and asked for his regular lawyers phone number. Brand new eyes,
brand new ears, brand new skin; the back of her neck felt sensitive where Hyejins fingers brushed
as she combed her hair. She remembered Tiffanys hands, her fingers so cold and soft, the scratch of
her nails.
You seem different, Hyejin said. She combed Taeyeons hair out thoroughly. Her tone was
restrained, cautious.
Taeyeon held her breath. Differenthow?
Hyejin shrugged. She put a towel around Taeyeons shoulders. You tell me.
She bit her lip. She wasnt sure how to say it. What was there to say? It wasnt like she could even
understand what was going on. She sighed. More and more this morning was feeling like a lengthy
dream, the kind you had while lying in bed in the glare of mornings sunlight, drifting in and out of
sleep, knowing it was just a dream but trying to hold onto the scraps of it. Just like a dream, the
more she thought about it, the more the specifics fell apart. The more she tried to recall the
roughness of Tiffanys voice or the glittering strands of her hair, the more they became indistinct.
When you tried too hard to commit something to memory, you distorted it, she thought. If you held
on too tight, you lost it.
I dont know, she said finally.
Were not actually dating, so you cant be breaking up with me, Hyejin murmured idly, as though
discussing the weather. She focused on Taeyeons hair. But it feels that way to you, too, doesnt it?
I She glanced at Hyejins reflection in the mirror. She was too focused on her work to meet her
gaze and so Taeyeon just studied her for a long moment. She wished, regretfully, that she had never
gotten involved with Hyejin. She got too attached to people. It was always going to be a weakness
and it wasnt going to get better. If she had taught herself early on to not get attached to people,
things would be easier.
I think I get it, Hyejin said softly. She had begun trimming. Her hands were steady as the scissors
slid cleanly through the ends of Taeyeons hair. Well, like I said. Were friends. If youre in a
relationship with someone else, I dont mind.
Its notIm not really in a relationship, Taeyeon tried to explain, but Hyejin smiled, laughed
Its okay. She took Taeyeons earlobe between her thumb and forefinger and pulled gently,
stroking it. Her hands were warm. I get it.
I just wanted to apologize, Taeyeon said. She tried to remind herself why she had come here.
There had been a lot of girls over the years, and maybe she owed all of them something, but Hyejin,
she knewHyejin, she really owed Hyejin.

For the other night, she went on. Embarrassed. Really. I know you said I dont have to butIm
sorry. I dont want you to feel likeI wasnt using you. I wouldnt use you. She tried to inject her
words with as much sincerity as she felt. She had never meant anything as genuinely as she meant
that. Maybe that was what it was, maybe that was why she owed Hyejin more than anything. She
had used a lot of people, she thought. Over and over again, different people, in an attempt to dull
the achebut they had used her, too, she knew. That was being an idol. An ideal. Something for
people to project their hopes and wants on; they could say they had spent the night with Kim
Taeyeon, but they didnt know Kim Taeyeon. They knew what they wanted Kim Taeyeon to be. So
they used her just as she used them.
Hyejin combed through the ends of her hair. I dont think she used me, Taeyeon thought suddenly,
and felt very sad.
All done, Hyejin said. She took the towel off Taeyeons shoulders and inspected her hair once
more. Much better. Should be even.
She wondered if Hyejin had heard her. I just want you to know, she repeated. I would never use
I know.
Why are you so understanding? Taeyeon blurted. She couldnt stand to look at herself in the
mirror, not even to examine her hair. She looked down at her lap. I mean, why do you Im such
a mess, and no matter what I do, youre fine with it.
Youre not a mess. Taeyeon snorted in disbelief. All right, youre a little bit of a mess, but youre
a cute mess.
An attempt at levity. Taeyeon couldnt understand why she now felt so sad. She had to wake up
from this. She looked at her hands clasped tensely in her lap, and felt Hyejins fingers run through
her hair.
Come on, Taeyeon said at last, softly, looking up in the mirror to meet Hyejins eyes.
Hyejin smiled. It was a sad smile. For the first time, Taeyeon noticed how guarded she was, like she
was fighting to remain casual. Hyejin looked around the waiting room and made sure they were
alone, and then she wrapped her arms around Taeyeons shoulders from behind, kissed her temple.
I think you ask too much of yourself, she murmured into Taeyeons hair. And you think the rest
of the world is asking the same. Theyre not. Its all in your head. I want you to realize that. I would
never ask you for anything, Taeyeon.
You could, Taeyeon said earnestly, looking at her in the mirror. If you needed something, you
could ask me.
I know I could, Hyejin replied. So I wont. I care about you too much.
Taeyeon looked at her and then laughed shortly. Hyejin straightened, let go. The sudden lack of
warmth was painful.
I just Taeyeon exhaled. I do want to stay friends. But I dont want you to feel obligated. You
know? If you dont want to I mean, Id understand if you dont want to be friends. Dont pretend

just because you feel obligated, you know?

Hyejin shook her head and smiled. She had a pretty smile, when it was genuine. Taeyeon, she
sighed, soaked in reproof. She ran her fingers through Taeyeons hair again. Dont be an idiot.
Love isnt an obligation.
Taeyeon frowned, not sure what to make of her statement.
People do a lot of things out of obligation, but this isnt one of them. Its a stupidly honest
emotion. The way people feel about other people. Okay? Remember that, okay?
Taeyeon thought maybe that was true, maybe partly. It wasnt something you could control. She
knew that better than anyone. But wasnt love a form of obligation, anyway, she thought. Wasnt it a
responsibility to bear, a burden you couldnt lift?
Thats what she thought, but she didnt say so. It made you weak. Carrying something so heavy, for
so longeventually it would make you weak.

Bad moods were contagious.

She supposed this was true with most people, but it was especially true of the group of people she
had spent the better part of her adult life with. Good teamwork had a price, she guessed, and the
synergy that made it easy for them to work together also meant they subsumed each others worst
emotions along with the best ones.
Maybe it was the snow, which made travel in the congested city difficult, or the fact that the studio
time had been scheduled last minute and some members had needed to cancel other engagements to
make it. She suspected it was more of the latter, since they all seemed to be indirectly pushing their
ire onto her, the one who had scheduled the studio time. It wasnt necessarily her fault; the studio
engineer they wanted to work with was busy and her schedule was tight. At notice that she had a
free afternoon, Taeyeon had jumped on it.
Whatever the reason, the atmosphere of the studio was gloomy.
Wheres Miyoung, Hyoyeon muttered impatiently, checking the clock for the tenth time.
Taeyeon checked her phone to see if Tiffany had sent another text. She has a meeting, she
explained, and shes running late.
Its fine, the studio engineer said. One of the reasons they had wanted to work with Jihae at all
was that she was laid-back and easy to work with, besides being one of the best. Shell miss a
little, but I dont need you to start laying down vocal parts until later.
Glad to see youre alive, Jessica remarked, glancing up from her phone to give Taeyeon a
disapproving glare.
Taengoo cant be killed, Sunkyu said gravely, putting an arm around Taeyeons shoulders.

Its true, Taeyeon agreed. Youll never understand the burden of being immortal.
Do you have any idea how worried I was when you left my apartment last night, Jessica snapped,
pouting dramatically.
Im sorry, Taeyeon said honestly. From now on Ill text you every hour, on the hour, Still alive,
for now.
Okay, joke about my sincerity and concern, Jessica whined.
I will.
Youre in a good mood, Sunkyu commented, wrapping her other arm around Taeyeon and looking
at her curiously.
Everything okay? Jessica asked meaningfully. A look passed between them. She could trust
Jessica to not tell everyone. It wasnt a secretsurely Taeyeons ability to be a gigantic mess was
no secret, she thoughtbut it was a kindness all the same.
Taeyeon smiled briefly. Yeah, actually.
Did you and Tiffany kiss and make-up?
Taeyeon looked at her, wide-eyed.
Jessica frowned at her look. What? Are you still fighting?
No, Taeyeon said. She scratched the back of her neck. Were not fighting.
Good, Jessica said with a sigh of relief. Everyone else is already so grumpy, I dont think I could
stand having you two give each other the cold shoulder all day, too.
No, werefine. Excuse me. Jihae had beckoned her over and she was grateful for the reprieve,
especially to talk about the album. Music was the only thing capable of clearing her head. When she
had started writing her own songs, she had been surprised at the expressiveness she was capable of,
somehow, because she did not consider herself an inordinately expressive person. She supposed it
made sense, and it was why she had always been so drawn to singing, because it allowed her
expression in a way she couldnt achieve normally. Songwriting was the same, but intensified. At
the same time, the business of it was remarkable; being able to divorce her feelings about her work
from the business of the work was a surprisingly easy feat. To be able to talk about a song she had
poured her entire heart and soul into as though it was a product, a commodity, was a surprising
Im surprised youre not saving that song you wrote for yourself, Jihae commented once they had
paused their discussion of the recording process.
Taeyeon worried her lip. Yeah, you and everybody else, apparently.
Do you want my opinion?
Always, unni.

Dont treat everyones opinion of that song as empty praise. You remember what it was like when
you first started writing songs, right? If its not good, no one here will hold back telling you that.
True, Taeyeon remarked dully, still remembering the sting of rejection of her first few
And even when a songs good, youre still going to have a difficult time of getting this much praise
over it. The fact that everyone is this favorable toward it should tell you something. Im sure people
have told you that it could really boost your solo career, but theyre wrong. It would do more than
boost it. I mean, between you and me, she lowered her voice, checking over her shoulder to make
sure none of the other girls were listening, you could be more successful than the group itself if
you kept it for your own.
Taeyeon must have looked as troubled and surprised as she felt because Jihae touched her shoulder,
gently, apologetically.
Hey, Im just sayingits not like it would be betraying the group or anything. I know you girls.
Ive worked with a lot of idol groups. A friendship like the one you girls share doesnt come along
that often. Theyd understand. Im just sayingIm just saying its a good song.
All the more reason for me to give it to the group, Taeyeon said, although the praise felt warm
inside her. It wasnt that she was tempted, really, but the meaning of releasing this song as a solo
song finally occurred to her. It wouldnt just be a successful songit would be a successful song
that she had written. Having a solo career was one thing, and it wasnt something she gave much
thought to beyond the tired inevitability of it. What she really wanted, what she had always wanted,
was to be seen as a legitimate artist, and all the songwriting she had done for the group had yet to do
anything to get her there.
Jihae chuckled. Theres no shame in keeping it for yourself, she pointed out. Sometimes youre
too selfless, I think.
Taeyeon laughed. No, you dont get it. Theres nothing selfless about it, unni. Its one of the most
selfish things Ive ever done.
Yeah, but
The door opened then and the loudest person in the entire universe yelled a greeting. Taeyeons
heart skipped a beat. She would never get used to it. Stephanie Hwang, like a sonic boom casually
strolling into a room.
Unni, youre late, Juhyun said severely.
Juhyun, youre scary, Tiffany returned playfully, but her expression was a little glum. It was easy
to miss, since Tiffany was better at faking emotion than anyone, but Taeyeon was staring so hard at
her she was surprised Tiffany hadnt spontaneously combusted from the intensity, so she noticed.
Tiffany touched her wrist, gently, briefly, as she came to sit with her. Taeyeon could not stop
looking at her. It was just like when she had come back from L.A., only this time she hadnt seen
her for a mere three hours instead of three months.
Howd the meeting go? she asked in a low tone.

It was okay, I guess, Tiffany said vaguely. She frowned. Really good, actually. It went well. It
was good. I dont really want to talk about it.
Taeyeon studied her. You have a lot to think about, I guess.
Basically. Sorry, I just She waved her hands around in vexation. Kind of sudden.
I should probably tell the other girls, right?
If you want, Taeyeon replied diplomatically, thinking she was barely in a position to give any
advice considering her silence regarding the contract revision shed been offered. She drew her lip
between her teeth. The studio hummed with activity and the air was hot and thick; it seemed like the
heat had been kicked up to unbearable levels, but it made Taeyeon breathe in and out shallowly,
watching the flutter of Tiffanys eyelashes as she examined her hands in her lap like they were the
most fascinating things in the room. It wasnt the first time shed noticed the utter sadness that
Tiffany seemed locked in so often, but it still surprised her, left her dazed.
She wondered what Tiffany was thinking, because she wondered about what Tiffany thought a lot.
Nearly constantly. She wondered what Tiffany had expected when she had moved to Korea. They
had talked about it before, about how a nine-membered girl group was really the last thing they had
ever expected as their future. Even when they had grown used to it, even when they had fallen in
love with it, it still felt like a prelude, the opening act to an eventual solo career. She wondered. To
suddenly be handed something when your hand wasnt reaching out for itwell, she just wondered
she wondered, a littlewouldnt it drop, she wondered, right out of your hand.
She wondered if that was what Tiffany was thinking. Her head was bowed thoughtfully for a long
time. Taeyeon watched her, watched the little down-curve of her mouth, and her brow furrowed
beneath the long sweep of her hair, and the way her hands twisted uncomfortably in her lap.
She waited, because she had always waited.
Tiffany finally raised her head to meet Taeyeons eyes and smiled. Hi.
Your hair looks different.
Taeyeon laughed, embarrassed.
Its nice.
I, Tiffany began to say and then thought better of it because there were people, maybe, or because
she had become shy, maybe, and Taeyeon hung on every unsaid word. But she did smile, and it was
a real smile, because Taeyeon knew the fake ones, and kept track of them. It reached her eyes,
forced them closed, and Taeyeon thought unsteadily that even if the future was a little confusing,
maybe it didnt really matter too much. Maybe they had made a promise, once, and maybe theyd
keep it.

When they finally got started, the studio was loud with chatter and she felt Tiffany grip the inside of
her elbow, drag her close and hold her there for a moment before releasing her. It stayed beneath her
skin for a long time, not just where her fingernails had dug in and made anxious little marks, but all
over, tingling right beneath her skin.

Working with Jihae unni was a lot easier than working with sunsaengnim, and Taeyeon had found
todays session a lot more relaxed than their previous pre-production sessions with Sunkyus uncle.
It wasnt that he wasnt enjoyable to work with, because he was, and the level of creative control he
was allowing them with this album was unbelievable compared to their last album, but he was still
the chairman of a board that wanted to dissolve a group that meant more to her than air, and it was
weird to joke and laugh with him in that context. There was an unspoken conflict, or perhaps, more
accurately, an unspoken utter lack of conflict. He knew, and he knew that they knew, and they knew
that he knew that theywell, the point was, it was awkward.
Jihae was different. Taeyeon realized that she had begun compartmentalizing people again,
organizing them into listspeople you could trust, people you couldnt. People who were innocent,
people who were against you. Realistically, she knew there wasnt anyone who was against them,
really, and it was just money, wasnt itthere was no malicious intent. But somehow, that was
worse. Somehow, a benevolent fight was a more difficult fight. It was rational to protest when
people wanted to hurt you, but when they were, for all intents and purposes, trying to make your
needs meet their needs, wellthatthat was business, wasnt it?
At any rate, Jihae was close to their age, and she was female, and she had no invested interest in
whether they were a group or not, which meant she was okay. The fact that she thought Taeyeon
was a decent musician was really just a plus. It was a little after midnight by the time they finished,
with barely one song close to done, but she still felt good. It was a much slower process than their
last album recordings, with a shared meticulousness and perfectionism, but she still felt good about
every single take theyd had that day. That had never happened before.
If this ended up being the last album they recorded together, Taeyeon thoughtand the thought was
quiet, quick, as though she worried someone could read her mindit would definitely be their best.
It was a little after midnight when they finished up. Strangely, the ten hours that passed had felt a
million times shorter. Taeyeon felt awake, alert, exhilarated in a way she had never felt after a
recording session that long. She couldnt even imagine sleeping.
Okay, thats it for today. Jihae looked pretty cheerful, which Taeyeon found encouraging. I know
my schedule is terrible right now, and Im really sorry about it, but if you guys compile your
schedules and send them to me or the producer, Ill definitely make a decent recording schedule
happen. Okay?
We can do that, Tiffany agreed.
Unni, do you want to go out, get something to drink? Taeyeon asked with a frown, watching Jihae
gather her things. She hopped up and down until Hyoyeon put a heavy arm around her shoulders to
lock her down. Even then, she bent her knees up and down restlessly.
Rain-check? Jihae reached out to ruffle Taeyeons hair. Definitely another time. You guys were
excellent today, so good you sucked all the energy out of me, she joked. Im going to get some
sleep, dont forget to give me your schedules.

They set about cleaning up once she was gone, but the collective gloominess from earlier seemed to
have mutated into a bizarrely cheery mood of mockery, at least where certain people were
Unni, do you want to get something to drink? Yuri imitated.
Taeyeon frowned. Hey.
Unni, Yoona added, her voice high-pitched. Recording music gets me so hot, lets go back to
my place
Wait, first of all, thats not how my voice sounds, Taeyeon protested.
Thats true, Hyoyeon agreed, its completely inaccurate.
And secondly, its not like that at all, I didnt mean the two of us, I meant all of us could go
All of us, and then the two of you could leave
No, I meant it in a professional way, Taeyeon pouted. Im not
Shouldnt we be discussing our schedules, Tiffany said quietly, folding her arms over her chest.
Taeyeon glanced at her, frowning.
Right, Taeyeon said, taking a seat and reaching for her planner. She uncapped her pen, feeling
uneasy under Tiffanys aloof gaze. Itd be easier if we can make ourselves available for unni, so
we can look at the next week or so, and
Im filming all week, Sooyoung said.
Even on Saturday?
No, not on Saturday, but Yuri
Yeah, I have thatmeeting, Yuri said evasively, pulling her phone out of her pocket to check her
schedule. But I can record some of my parts separately, if I need to, so if the rest of you are free
How long is the meeting?
I dont know, Yuri replied quickly. And then she laughed nervously. She examined her nails. Its
not a meeting actually, Im going in to record a song.
They were silent for a moment.
Oh, Sooyoung said eloquently.
Solo song? Tiffany prompted.
Yeah, Yuri said slowly and then looked at Taeyeon apologetically. Its just a digital single. Ill
probably just promote it for a month. Either February or March, or
She trailed off uncomfortably. Taeyeon twirled her pen too quickly and it fell into her lap. She

picked it up, nodding absently. You dont have to explain anything to me. Congratulations.
Thank you.
That sounds cool, Hyoyeon said.
The mood had become awkward. Jessica poked Yuri in the stomach. Thats big news, she said
with tactful deliberation, wrapping her arms around Yuris waist. Since when dont you share big
news with us?
Yuri laughed so nervously that it made Taeyeon feel bad. Since this whole you know, it feels
weird, accepting solo work, even if its just a one-off thing.
Theres nothing to feel bad about.
Yeah, Sunkyu agreed. I dont think thischanges anything. And thats really cool news. We
should be sharing cool news with each other.
They lapsed into silence. Someone cleared their throat. Taeyeon felt her earlier excess in energy
immediately draining out of her. Tiffany caught her eye.
Okay, so we dont have to do it this week, Taeyeon said abruptly, making a note of Sooyoungs
and Yuris schedules, if youre going to be shooting all week, Sooyoung
Dont be sorry. Beginning of week is bad for me, Ill make a note of thatwhat about after
Yoona glanced at Jessica. Jessica looked down guiltily. Taeyeon shifted in her seat.
Okay, Jessicas busy? she asked, trying not to feel impatient.
Thursday and Friday, Jessica said hastily. But Saturday should be okay.
No, because Sunkyu is going to be filming on Saturday, Taeyeon said with a sigh. So
Well, on Thursday its just a meeting.
Who are you meeting with? Tiffany asked her.
UmI think its a lot of different people Jessica said haltingly. Maybe its
Taeyeon was getting tired of this, and she was pretty sure she had figured it out. Youre meeting
with the head of artist development, Taeyeon finished for her. To develop your image as a soloist.
Ive met with him, so has Juhyun.
And me, Tiffany said quietly.
And Fany. Who else is meeting with him at some point?
She didnt need to look at them to knowit was all of them. She rubbed the back of her neck where

it had become tense. Everyone was looking at her guiltily as though they felt they were betraying
her. Betraying the group, maybebut mostly her. That was why it felt weird; all of their guilt was
directed toward her. She closed her planner.
Thats really great, she said quietly, sincerely, and theres nothing wrong with it. The only thing
wrong here is that were keeping secrets from one another.
She thought, at that moment, that it was the perfect time to bring up the contract revision shed been
offered but her tongue felt heavy in her mouth. She swallowed. What if they took it the wrong way?
Just because she had been offered it didnt mean she was considering it, andanother thought
occurred to her. There was no reason to believe she was the only member who had been offered a
contract revision, and their silence about their individual activities wasnt reassuring.
Youre paranoid, she told herself.
Look, okay, lets get one thing straight. You are all free to pursue solo opportunities. I think we all
encourage it. No one here is going to judge anyone for wanting to establish a solo career, so theres
no need to be secretive about it. Right?
I guess it just seems wrong, Sooyoung pointed out, when we knowI mean, isnt it kind of
playing into their hands? They want to break us apart and promote us as soloists, and were all
willingly going along with it?
Its okay to want both, Taeyeon mumbled. Its not fair of them to break us up if we can do both.
We should probably be proving that we can do both. I mean, do solo stuff all you want, guys, and if
were serious about a summer release date for this album, you definitely have plenty of time. But if
you arent willing to make time to work on it, how are they going to see the point in keeping us
together as a group?
She wasnt sure why she had to be the one to say this. If they all wanted the same things as her, why
did she feel like she was begging them to care?
I dont want to hold you back, she finished softly. I dont think anyone wants that. Im excited
that youre recording a single, Yuri.
Yuris smile was relieved. Thanks.
All right. Her tone was sharper than she had intended. She was eager to end this before she got
annoyed. She stood, grabbing her stuff. Lets stop here, you guys can text me your schedules and
Ill just shove it all at unni and let her decide a recording schedule. Okay?
She didnt lose her temper until she was in the elevator, jabbing at the ground floor button like it
had insulted her.
Hey Tiffany said shortly, shoving her arm between the elevator doors before they could close.
Taeyeon moved aside to make room for her. Tiffany nudged her in the ribs.
Take it easy, she said in a soft murmur. When Taeyeon didnt respond, she nudged her again, and
then again.
Tickles, Taeyeon snapped, slapping her hand away.

Sosmile, Tiffany said, nudging her again.

Ill smile after I kill you, Taeyeon said conversationally, slapping her hand away again.
Okay, Tiffany agreed, now switching to poking at her cheek. Smile. Smile.
No one will hear your cries for help in this elevator, Taeyeon replied.
Theres a security camera, Tiffany pointed out, so youll still go to jail. Smile.
At least I wont have to smile in jailwhat are you doing?
There was a click and a flash. Tiffany lowered her phone and began typing. Texting a picture of
your sad, stupid face to your mother.
Mom, save me, Tiffany narrated as she typed.
Leave my mother alone.
She smiled tightly. Hows that.
Tiffany looked at her silently and then pocketed her phone. Very cute, unfortunately.
The elevator doors opened and she walked briskly past Taeyeon. Watching her go, Taeyeon took a
breath so extended the elevator doors nearly closed on her. She felt a bit lighter, suddenly, and
hurried to catch up with Tiffany.
Do you want to get something to drink? she asked, wincing at the blast of cold air when they
stepped into the parking garage.
Tiffany glanced at her. Wouldnt you rather go drink with Jihae unni, she wondered dryly.
Taeyeon frowned, exasperated. Come on. Not you, too. I expect that from them, not from you.
Sorry. She seemed to mean it. She looked down at the ground. Do you want to take my car or
Are we getting a drink?
No, were going home. Youre not drinking anymore, remember?
She remembered. Yours.
They were silent in the car. Tiffany turned the heat on high and it blew out noisily, too loud for
conversation. Taeyeon slouched down in her coat, pulling the sleeves over her hands and wrapping
her arms tightly around herself. When she ventured a glance over at Tiffany she found her staring
blankly at the steering wheel, lost in thought.

Did you forget how to drive? Taeyeon asked her.

Tiffany turned, blinking. Snapped out of it. What?
Taeyeon turned the heat down a little, quieting the car. Are you okay?
Yeah. She sat back in her seat at last, settling her hands atop the steering wheel and glancing back
before she pulled out of the parking spot. Yeah. Yeah, Im okay. Sorry. This has been a weird day.
Taeyeon frowned. Yeah.
I mean. Tiffany glanced at her awkwardly. Not this morning. That wasnt weird.
It was a little weird, Taeyeon pointed out.
Yeah, but notbad weird. Not that the rest of the day was bad weird. It was more like, ambivalent
weird, and this morning was good weird, and then the rest of the day was like, unexpected weird,
and then disappointed weird, and now its likeweirdin aI dont know She had pulled over
abruptly, barely out of the parking garage to begin with, and threw the car back into park. Her
shoulders were up near her ears and her body was strung tight.
Taeyeon looked at her, wide-eyed. What
Im sorry, I mean, being alone with you right now, its really weird for me.
Im confiscating the word weird from your vocabulary, Taeyeon muttered, perplexed. I dont
understand, weve been alone together before.
Yeah, but its different when youre like, my best friend, Taeyeon.
Im not your best friend anymore?
Dont play dumb, Tiffany said with a frown. Im not thinking about you in a friend context right
I dont need to play dumb, it comes naturally, Taeyeon replied. She could feel the hair on her
arms standing up beneath the layers of clothes, even though the car had warmed up by now. I need
things explained to me slowly. What kind of context
Stop, Tiffany whined, its weird
Stop saying weird she tried to say but Tiffany had grabbed the collar of her coat and yanked her
over so forcefully she nearly fell into the gear shift. She could barely catch her breath before
Tiffanys lips were pressed hard against hers, so hard their teeth met and Taeyeon winced. Her palm
struck the drivers side window in an effort to keep herself from collapsing onto Tiffany entirely
and it stung and throbbed from the tips of her fingers all the way to her mouth where Tiffany had
seized her.
Tiffany kissed like she was fighting. Taeyeon had never kissed anyone with this much longing, this
much forcefulness; she felt her fingers slipping from their purchase against the window and was
suddenly, dizzily, reminded of the outside world.

WaitTiffany she tried to say, wet and tumbling into Tiffanys mouthsomeone might see

The windows are tinted, Tiffany said confidently, dismissively, and put her hand behind
Taeyeons neck to press her closer. She was gentler this time, compliant, as though urging Taeyeon
to take control. Which was dangerous, Taeyeon thought, because she was completely devoid of any
sense of control when in Tiffanys presence.
Still, she tried again and felt more than heard Tiffany groan.
Sorry, Tiffany mumbled breathlessly, tightly, sorryyoure justyoure really good at this. Did
you know that? She pulled back and then kissed her again, more restrained. Can I take credit for
that, at least, a little, I mean, I did teach you
If you want, Taeyeon laughed. With difficulty she pulled away, using her hand on the window as
leverage to push herself back into her own seat. She felt strange, but she felt better. Her annoyance
with the rest of the group was dissipatingsort ofand the feeling that had been twisting in her
stomach all day had relaxed, spreading warm through her body.
It was after midnight and the roads werent too crowded. Tiffany maneuvered through the sparse
traffic easily. Taeyeon fiddled with the heat, and then with the music, and then the door locks until
Tiffany slapped her hand away. She didnt pull away, though, her fingers grazing the back of
Taeyeons hand before she took it, pulled it into her own lap and held them both there against her
thigh while she drove.
Tiffanys hands were always cold. Taeyeon looked at them, at the anxious press of Tiffanys fingers
against the back of own hand. She was right. It was weird.
You can tell me, you know, Tiffany said conversationally, eyes on the road, if you dont want me
to work on a solo album.
I want you to do what you want, she replied honestly.
And the rest of the girls?
I want them to do what they want. Just because I dont want it doesnt mean you guys cant.
And why dont you? Her fingers pressed tightly against Taeyeons hand now, as though afraid she
would try to pull away.
I dont know. That was honest, too. She really didnt. Maybe she did want it. Performing was
performing, music was music. There were things she could do solo that she would never be able to
do with the groupshe knew that. There was no fear of failure. She knew she would be successful
it wasnt arrogance, it was common sense. Still, she didnt quite know what it was.
She looked at her hand beneath Tiffanys. If she couldnt hold them in one place, hold them there
with her indefinitely, where would they go? Maybe she understood, a little, that fear of losing
someone if you didnt hold on tightly enough.
I want you to do a solo album, she told Tiffany softly. I want all of you toI mean, do any solo
things you want. Really. Do both, orif the group is holding you back, I I dont want anyone
staying with the group because they feel they have to. No one should feel obligated to stay

Stop it. Tiffany kept her eyes on the road. A muscle in her jaw tensed.
Im just saying
Well, stop.
Taeyeon sighed, turned to look out the window. Tiffany held fast to her hand; her fingers were cold
but hot air was trapped between their hands. Taeyeon watched the streetlights blink past.
Taeyeon, listen to me, Tiffany said. Look, if it happens, it happens. But if you let it happen
without a fight, you know youre going to regret it forever. I know you, TaeTae.
Taeyeon didnt want to look at her. Its not just me, though, Tiffany, itseveryone. I mean, all of
us. I cant be the only one fighting. Whats the point, then?
Tiffany didnt seem to know what to say to that. The back of Taeyeons throat burned. It had been a
very long day.
The car was silent, sick with silence. They drove under a highway overpass and the lights on the
dash were bright enough to burn, set fire to the blanket of darkness that covered them briefly. In the
dark, Tiffanys hand relaxed and slipped from hers and Taeyeon flexed her fingers, waiting for the
blood to circulate again.
A very long day, a very weird day.

chapter eighteen
Lately, Tiffany has a glow about her. Everyone has noticed. Her smiles are brighter than Taeyeon
had ever thought possible. Shes late coming home, often now, and spends a lot of her time on her
All signs point to her having a boyfriend, and Taeyeon suspects everyone in the group has been told
but her.
Shes willing to admit this is at least partially her faulttheyre leaving her out a lot, she feels, and
it hurts her a little, but shed be lying if she said she wasnt somewhat responsible for pushing them
away. Its what she wanted, she tells herself, this whole time. It was insane to rely on them, and it
was insane for them to rely on her. There was no way the group would last forever, and when it
ended, wouldnt she be sorry for wasting her feelings? Eventually it would all amount to a waste.
There is an ache in her chest when she looks at them, and she knows its because she loves them,
but there is nothing that can be done about that. There is freedom onstage, under the lights, when
her only responsibility is her voice. Its different offstage. Its like being boxed in. Its unexpected,
that where she is least on display, she feels it the most.
Whats his name? she asks Sunkyu casually one day. Theyre alone in the dorm on a rare day off
and Taeyeon has found half a carton of ice cream in the back of the freezer. Shed scraped away the
freezer burn and used her spoon like a pickaxe to break it up.

Sunkyu glances at her out of the side of her eyes. Whose name?
Taeyeon digs a spoon into her ice cream. The guy Miyoung is dating.
Sunkyu sighs and sits on top of the kitchen counter. Im not telling you.
Why not? she demands.
Because she should tell you.
She wont.
Sunkyu shrugs.
Do I know him?
A nod.
Is he an idol?
Another one.
Is he good-looking?
Sunkyu rolls her eyes. Obviously, hes an idol, Taeyeon.
Is he
Stop asking me and ask her.
Youre a bad friend, Taeyeon says, feeling petulant.
Sunkyu ruffles her hair. Im the best friend.
Taeyeon ignores her. She tells me she wants us to go back to how we were before, but then she
refuses to tell me things. I dont think thats fair.
Do you really want to hear about her dating someone? Sunkyu looks at her skeptically. Taeyeon
shrugs stiffly. There is a perverse, masochistic part of her that would love it. Shed like to see them
together. It would tear the hole in her chest fresh open. It would hurt, and maybe it would help.
I want, she says, casually, honestly, to not feel like this anymore. Because its selfish.
Sunkyu looks at her softly. Taeyeon wishes people would stop looking at her that way. Its not
selfish. You cant control how you feel.
Taeyeon shakes her head. Its the worst kind of selfishness, because I cant turn it off. I want her
for myself, because its what I want. Because I love her. This guy could make her happier than shes
ever been and Ill still want her for myself. I mean, its a really ugly thing. Shes rambling now. I
mean, thiswhatever this isunrequited love. Maybe it looks romantic on paper, and it sounds
pretty in songs, but in reality, its just wanting something you cant have and not caring about the

consequences. Doesnt she seem happy? I mean, shes really happy lately.
She is, Sunkyu admits, and her lips come together in a thin, worried line.
She is, Taeyeon tells herself. If I really loved her, wouldnt that be enough? That shes happy?
But its not enough.
You deserve to be happy, too, Taengoo.
Im trying. She looks down at her feet and then meets Sunkyus eyes again. She is struck,
suddenly, with how badly she needs the girl standing next to her. Its a similar kind of need. Theres
selfishness in her love for the group, too, she thinks. Im trying.

Theres a writer unni at the radio show who always leans close when she hands Taeyeon things,
makes lots of eye contact while explaining, blushes when Taeyeon smiles at her. Taeyeon thinks of
herself back in high school, how uncomfortable she was in her own skin, how filled with disbelief
she was when people liked her, or confessed. It seems so long ago, especially now; its easy to
recognize when someone is attracted to her, and she supposes this is the sort of sixth sense idols
develop, because its part of her job to be attractive, and its part of her job to make people fall in
love with her. It had never occurred to her that this would be a particularly useful skill offstage.
She makes love to her in her small, cramped apartment, where the bed is inches from the kitchen, in
a part of the city shes never visited. It makes her feel weird, like idol life has left her sheltered,
although the dorm she and Tiffany lived in before debuting was hardly luxurious. It just feels weird,
being there, and realizing how little she knows about the girl shes pressed against, except for the
brief, polite exchanges of conversations theyve had at work. Seeing her from this angle, in the
heavy darkness, in the smallness of her apartment, is like walking in on someone changing, seeing
them in a private moment you werent meant to see. It elicits a hosts of questions that fill the back
of her throathow long have you lived here, does the radio show really not pay that well, do you
have any other jobs, where did you go to school, do you like radio or is it just what you do to make
money, are you a writer just trying to get your foot in the door
She swallows them. She shivers, feels thighs tighten around her hips, tastes the salt on her skin at
the base of her throat, and when she comes up for air she can only think of Tiffany, of Tiffanys hair,
Tiffanys eyes, Tiffanys mouth. Tiffanys hands, the line from Tiffanys wrist to her elbow. Tiffany
the trick of the light, Tiffany the optical illusion, Tiffany the illness she breathed in one day and has
been unable to unstick from her insides.
Have to go, she says quietly, rising from the bed. She feels a hand wrap around her wrist. I have
work, she explains hastily. She dresses in the dark. The room seems cold now. She bumps into a
table on her way around the bed. In a fit of guilt she sits down on the bed, kisses her.
I really like you, she says quietly. I dont want you to think this can be more, though, because it
Because of your career.
Noyes. And no. She looks down at the floor. Ill just end up hurting you, she tells the dark,
still air. Thats what I do. I try to be enough, and then Im not. If I dated you, somewhere along the
way youd realize.

It makes her feel better, and it makes her feel worse, and she starts to think at this stage in the game,
if she can have a little bit of the former, more of the latter is a worthy sacrifice. Its surprisingly easy
and had never really occurred to her. Being in love with the same person for the better part of her
teenage and young adult years had sort of closed her eyes to the pulsing, surrounding world; the
idea of attracting people had never resonated with her, and now its all she can think about. There
are pretty people everywhere, some even more objectively pretty than the one she wants, and if she
can make them want her, she reasons, then it isnt her fault. Theres a small amount of ego in it, but
she tells herself ego is really the only thing she has.
There are starstruck fans, and theyre easy, and they listen to everything she says and stay quiet
obediently and if she saddles them with complexes she cant feel terribly guilty because she has
complexes too, and confusion is an entry point. There are people who arent fans at all, who know
who she is and are hardly impressed with her as more than just a pretty facewhich she admits is
all she really is, at the end of the dayand they stay quiet because their priorities are the same.
Thats freakishly methodical, Sunkyu tells her when she explains the system but Taeyeon thinks
thats better than going about it with no method at all.
But its your life, Sunkyu goes on, and if it makes you feel better
She blanches, somewhat, because she isnt sure that it really is making her feel better, so much that
its making her not think about it as much. It relieves the tension and appears to be a win-win sort of
symbiotic relationship, because they want her, and she wants to forget. It is nice, really, the feeling
of being wanted. She isnt defective or anything, she thinks. Shes a bit of a mess, but people want
her, even if Tiffany doesnt want her, and messes can be cleaned up.
She puts her hands in her pockets, looks around. Tiffany is getting her makeup done. Theyre
getting a little better, she and Tiffany, and sometimes they even have conversations, conversations
that trail off into nothing, but conversations nonetheless. Taeyeon has begun counting the amount of
words they exchange to one another per week and when one week it peaks into triple digits, she
thinks maybe theyll be okay. Maybe. Maybe Tiffany will go and marry that stupid guy, maybe hell
disappear mysteriously and theyll find his body floating in a river, maybe, maybe, there are so
many possibilities.
Taeyeon frowns deeply. Sunkyu pinches her at the nape of her neck, as though she can hear what
shes thinking. Taeyeon winces.
Whos that? she asks, nodding in their direction.
No, I mean, whos doing her makeup?
The makeup artist?
Ive never seen her before. Shes pretty.
Sunkyu laughs, shoving Taeyeon. I dont think shes into girls, Taeyeon.
Taeyeon shrugs. A lot of girls arent, until they meet me. It isnt arrogance; maybe its bravado.
After all, they both know that if it were really true, she wouldnt be in the position shes in, would
she. She looks at Tiffany and swallows hard. Tiffany meets her eyes and starts to smile, but its the

way it drops off at the end, like they cant even exchange that muchTaeyeon looks at the floor
and changes her mind about the girl doing Tiffanys makeup.

The dead cold of winter, at five in the morning, is like an empty room where her footsteps echo.
There are these group of fans in the parking garage where she tries to enter from. They crowd
around the elevator; more of them come, then, from behind her and from all sides. They had been
following, but she hadnt seen them. The danger of traveling without managers, even if it was a
necessity sometimes.
Go home, she tells them, trying to keep her distance. She had thought the entrance through the
parking garage was the most discreet, but now it makes sense to loop around to the front.
They dont answer her, so she says it again.
Go home. I dont like seeing you. Im sick of it.
One of them is holding their phone up, taking video. Taeyeon can tell from the red light. She forces
herself not to snatch it out of her hands. Some slouch on the floor, leaning against the wall; they
smoke and play games, they eat snacks and drinks and leave the garbage behind. They vandalize the
walls. They post stupid messages on their stupid websites, with timestamps and pictures and names
and addresses and phone numbers and when she meets their eyes they look through her, like fire
eating through her skin and bones.
I dont like you, she says evenly, feeling itchy under her skin; she isnt sure why shes speaking at
all, except that she hasnt slept in over twenty-four hours and she is tired of sneaking around and
tired of being watched. I dont like seeing you. I cant stand seeing you. Go home.
Some of them are kids. Some of them are older than she is. They dont scare her, really, not too
much; the older men did, but they dont really follow anymore like the kids do. She feels
constricted, tied to them. They know everything about her, and if she does anything to make them
stop loving her, they can destroy her career. They have evidence, theyve taken pictures, theyve
taken videos, they know.
Jessica says they wont. Jessica says thats all it is, that they want to feel close to you, and keeping
your secrets, holding them inside, makes them feel that way. But Taeyeon doesnt want that, and its
insulting to call it love. Its ownership. Its wanting something you cant have, knowing you cant
have it, and still wanting to keep it in one place, keep it for yourself.
She feels like crying, and spins on her heel, hurrying out of the parking garage to enter from the
The dorm is quiet, and dark, and she neatens up a little on her way toward her bedroom.
Taeyeon yelps. Tiffany turns on the light. Shes on the couch.
You scared me, Taeyeon says. What are you doing out here?
I fell asleep, Tiffany explains, trying to sit up. Taeyeon moves to help her. By the time I woke up
no one was around to help me into my room.

Where are your crutches?

Tiffany makes a vague, disinterested gesture. Taeyeon clicks her tongue impatiently.
Please be more careful, and thoughtful, she says quietly. If your knee doesnt heal properly, what
will you do?
Tiffany shrugs, looking at her lap.
Taeyeon grows frustrated. Im serious. Think about your future. If you dont take care of yourself,
youre shortening your career. Its one thing after another with you. You have to be careful. Dont
you care?
Tiffany snorts. Wow, you havent lectured me in awhile.
Taeyeon looks at her, startled. She shakes her head and frowns. I just worry about you.
She tries to ease up a little. She knows Tiffany. As much as shes felt, over the past two years, that
shes lost her, she knows her. She has more drive than anyone she knows, and she isnt a quitter.
Taeyeon knew she was beating herself up for her injury.
The silence becomes awkward. Her hip presses against Tiffanys thigh; shes radiating warmth.
Taeyeon closes her eyes, bites her lip.
Do you want me to help you into your room? she asks, finally.
Tiffany shakes her head.
Are you sure? Is it comfortable out here?
Its fine.
Okay. She rises. Tiffany grabs her hand. Its soft, cold.
Stay with me, Tiffany says, quiet.
Okay. Obedient. No matter whats happened to them, when Tiffany wants something, Taeyeon
gives it. They sit in silence.
I miss you, Tiffany says, finally.
Taeyeon can only look at her. How is she meant to respond? Whats the proper response? Is there
one? I miss you too is an understatement; there are no words strong enough to describe the ache
inside her. She just nods. Tiffany sighs, as though rebuffed, but Taeyeon thinks that if she doesnt
get that the feeling is mutual, she hasnt been paying attention.
Where were you?
Taeyeon shrugs. Out.

Were you with someone?
Taeyeon looks at her, impassive. If Tiffany thinks shell talk about this with her, of all people, her
fall had messed up more than her knee.
Tiffany sighs.
You need to think about the future, too, is all shell say.
Ill think about it, Taeyeon says flippantly, and stands. We have to leave for rehearsals in two
hours, Im going to try and get in a little sleep before. She looks away, putting her hands in her
pockets. If you need anything, text oryell real loudor whatever.
We, Tiffany repeats quietly. You mean the eight of you.
Taeyeon looks at the floor. Yeah, the eight of us. Well keep you updated.
She hears Tiffany exhale and shift on the couch. When she risks a glance at her again, her eyes are
on the ceiling. Her face has that look it gets right before she cries. Taeyeon hates it, so she looks
Go. Sleep, Tiffany says, and Taeyeon takes the hint and leaves.

What do you think of me?

Her heart is beating fast. Lately, this is the question at the very front of her brain; all thoughts pass
through it. What do you think of me. It isnt an idle, egocentric thoughtits a frantic, indignant
demandwhat do they think of me, what do they think Im doing, what do they think Ill do, what
do they think Ive done. Maybe its paranoia, or narcissism. Maybe shes twenty-one years old and
so indescribably and unspeakably famous that she wonders if shes been rendered useless. At
twenty-one years old, does she have anything left to give?
I like you, the girl says. There are hands, insistent, at the button of her jeans. She pushes them
But why?
Eyes widen in confusion, as though she believes shes being tested. Was this part of the debuting
process, did senior singers routinely interrogate their juniors on their own self-worth?
I admire you. Youre talented, she says simply, and youre pretty.
Well, youre eighteen years old, Taeyeon thinks, so what do you knowthats no reason to like
someone. Whats being talented when hundreds of idols are talented, and whats being pretty when
hundreds of idols are pretty. That doesnt say anything about longevity
But what do you care about longevity, she argues, closing her eyes, if you cared about longevity you
wouldnt have become an idol, right

Sorry, she says, soft. Somehow, its painful. She swallows hard, kisses the mouth beneath hers
urgently. Sorry. She kisses her again. I think youll do really wellI think youll be really
famous. In three years, youll look back and wonder what you did to deserve it all. She exhales;
her mouth is wet. Believe me.
Theres no response. She isnt listening. A hand slips past the waistband of her shorts. Taeyeon
breathes her in, feels the storm pass over her.

There is a point, somewhere in time, and she doesnt see it coming, but suddenly she cannot stop
crying. They arent sad tears, but they arent happy tears. Theyre that place in between, where
exhaustion and weariness lie. The idea of being rewarded for hard work feels odd to her, like an
itchy sweater she wants to climb out of. Its a hollow victory, somehow, and even when she looks at
the audience, at their blurred faces like twinkling lights, at the members, at the past yearat the
past three yearsit all feels hollow.
She realizes why she always feels pressed underwater, and its because she is separately and
collectively in love with eight people and it has worn her down. The consequence of trying not to
care is caring too much, and they havent just gotten under her skin, theyve gotten deep into her
heart where she keeps private and safe, and every wall shes erected they senselessly demolish
without care. It exhausts her and humbles her and terrifies her, and yet theres security. Its safe,
there, with them, in the circle of their arms, and she cries harder because it doesnt make any sense
if it isnt all of them, if her best friend isnt there, if theres a missing piece, if they arent complete.
She pulls out her phone backstage and checks her messages, and the mass-text from Tiffany makes
every part of her feel like shes falling apart. It hangs in the air, bittersweet, and they all feel it, the
want to have her there, but Taeyeon feels pulled apart by it.
She thinks of the girl she fell in love with years ago, the girl who held her and admitted she was
scared, the girl who was vulnerable for all of ten seconds, just long enough to swear and promise
and tie them together forever and she thinks maybe its codependence or maybe its just loyalty, but
maybe its okay for people to need other people.
They party into the early hours of the morning and when it winds down, Jessica offers to help
Tiffany to her room, but Taeyeon says, Ill help her, and thats that, and then theyre alone, and
shes terrible at thisat feelings and emotions and knowing what to say, and so finally, when
Tiffany looks at her, looks at her long and hard, she just says, I miss you, too as though picking
up where they left off.
And when Tiffany just sort of looks at her, brows furrowed in confusion, she pulls her into her arms
and squeezes her, closes her eyes. I know I messed everything up, she mumbles into Tiffanys
hair. But youre my best friend, and I need you. Ill always need you.
Thats the exact second, she realizes later, that she knows she will need to do this forever.

So, whats her name? Sunkyu asked, setting down two cups of coffee on the cafe table. The coffee

shop was surprisingly empty for mid-afternoon. Taeyeon closed the game she was playing and
pocketed her phone.
Huh? She watched Sunkyus hands expertly add the right amount of milk and sugar to her coffee.
This was their routine. It wasnt that she was incapable of preparing her own coffee, she just liked
to wait and see if Sunkyu would do it for her. She always did. It came with a weird sense of warmth.
It was nice to have someone know you that well. A long time ago she had told Sunkyu, stubbornly,
that she hated being taken care of, and Sunkyus only response had been to teach her to like it.
The girl youre dating. Whats her name?
Taeyeon sipped her coffee thoughtfully. Im not dating anyone.
Sunkyu rolled her eyes. I know, you dont do relationships or whatever but youre obviously
seeing someone. Why else would you be so happy lately?
Because were working on the album?
Bull. Come on. I havent seen you this happy in forever. Is it Hyejin?
Taeyeon frowned. No. I havent seen her for a few weeks.
Sunkyu looked at her expectantly. Taeyeon tipped her coffee cup from side to side, watching the
coffee dance up to the edge and then slosh backwards. She wrapped both her hands around it,
feeling the heat solid in her palms.
Her silence didnt seem to make Sunkyu happy. A rolled up paper napkin was tossed at her head.
Does Stephanie know? Sunkyu asked, not giving up. Taeyeon swallowed hard. She must like
her, because shes been in a pretty good mood lately, too. You know how protective she is of you.
Taeyeon burned her tongue on an extra large mouthful of coffee. She looked down at the table. It
wasnt often that she and Sunkyu kept secrets from each other. But this wasnt like most things.
Hers and Tiffanys reluctance to put a label on whatever they had become had made it difficult to
talk about with each other, let alone anyone else. It wasnt that they were consciously keeping it
from everyone else, Taeyeon reasoned, or she thought it wasnt.
She fiddled with her fingers. If I tell you something, do you promise not to well, first, freak out,
and second, tell anyone, and third, be judgmental, and fourth
So many rules. What is it? Who is it?
Sunkyu looked at her with a steady, level gaze and then stirred her coffee for a long, quiet moment.
Tiffany, huh.
Our Tiffany? Miyoung? Our Miyoung?

Yeah. That one.

Sunkyu set her spoon down on a napkin. Taengoo.
I know, Taeyeon sighed, rubbing her forehead. I know.
How long has this been going on?
About a month now?
Sunkyu reached across the table to smack her in the head. And you didnt tell me?
I didnt know what to say! I still dont know what to say. I mean, this is
Are you guys, likedatingor
No, were pretty much exactly the same, Taeyeon said thoughtfully. Except instead of fighting
all the time, we make out.
Oh, Sunkyu said eloquently.
Sunkyu exhaled across the surface of her coffee. This is weird.
Yeah. It is.
But you seem happy.
Yeah. I am.
She was. She thought. She was a poor gauge of happiness, but she thought that it was probably what
this feeling was. It was distracting at least. Her worry over the groups future was intense enough to
give her stomachaches, but every time she stopped to think about it, she just thought about Tiffany
Youre the first person to know, though, she told Sunkyu quietly. I dont know if I should have
said anything, butwell
Is it supposed to be a secret?
I dont know.
What do you mean you dont know?
I mean, we havent talked about what it is.
Sunkyu looked conflicted. But youre happy?
I am.
Then, okay.

What do you mean? Dont say it like that.

Like what?
Like theres more to it. I told you not to be judgmental.
And thats why Im not saying anything.
Sunkyu shook her head, glancing out the window beside the table. She ran her finger along the rim
of her coffee cup.
Nothing, she said finally. Look, I love Fany. So much. Shes my baby. But if shes playing with
you, Im going to kill her.
Taeyeon nodded calmly. It would be a lie to say she hadnt considered itactually, it would be a lie
to say it hadnt completely possessed most of her waking thoughts.
Tiffany wouldnt she started to say, but Sunkyu cut her off.
I know she wouldntconsciouslyI mean. Look, you and I both know that Fany doesnt have a
mean or insensitive bone in her body. And its you, I mean, I think shed cut off her own arm before
ever doing anything to hurt you. On purpose. I mean, I dont think shed play with your feelings on
Taeyeon frowned. Then why do you sound so skeptical?
Just, why now? She blew on the surface of her coffee again. Taeyeon thought it must have
certainly been cool enough to drink by now and in an effort to distract herself she started counting
the seconds until Sunkyu finally took her first sip. I mean, shes known how you feel about her for
a really, really long time now. If shes felt the same all this time, I am going to rip her hair out for
making you suffer for so long.
Taeyeon watched her carefully as she lifted the coffee cup to her lips and then set it down to add
more sugar.
I dont know, she admitted. Im not a mind-reader.
You could ask.
What am I supposed to say? Hey remember that time I pined after you pathetically for over ten
years and you led me to believe I had no chance with you whatsoever? What was that all about?
Maybe leave out the word pathetically, Sunkyu suggested, blowing on her coffee again.
Will you please just drink that, youre driving me crazy.
Sunkyu drank, obediently. Taeyeon checked her phone. No texts.
I just want you to be happy, Sunkyu said, the old saying. She wondered if they even realized they

were saying it at this point, or if it was reflex, the way you said hello or thank you. She wondered
why they told her it at all, constantly. Like she wasnt aware that was what they wanted.
Well, I think I am, Taeyeon said.
Then, Im happy, too. She drank her coffee. Taeyeon drank hers. But if she hurts you, I swear, I
will rip all of her hair out.
Wow, thats sexy. Maybe you guys could mud wrestle.
Im going to let that slide because youre happy and youre cute when youre happy.
Im always cute. Did you see that article online? Someone let it leak that were working on an
Yeah, did you read the comments?
I never read the comments, Taeyeon said with a scowl, even though it was a lie.
Wow, I didnt know they were still together.
Are you surprised that there are stupid people on the internet? Taeyeon asked dryly, draining the
last of her coffee. Clearly theyre not a fan.
Also a lot of I was expecting Taengoos solo album instead comments.
Taeyeon made a noncommittal sound. Well.
What are you so afraid of? Sunkyu asked her suddenly, and Taeyeon met her eyes.
Im not afraid.
Yes, you are.
No, Im
Are you going to pretend you know yourself better than I do? I am the master of knowing you,
Taengoo. Youre terrified.
Taeyeon dabbed gently at the formica table where shed spilled her coffee. It really wasnt fear, she
wanted to explain, although every time she thought about it lately, her blood ran cold. She tried to
think of a way to explain it.
Ive never told anyone this before, but uh, when they put me in that training group with all those
other girls, I was pissed. I really didnt want to be in a group at all, let alone one so huge. I wanted
to be a soloist. It wasnt even about ego or anything, she tried to explain, its just what I had
pictured for myself. So all those times, in the beginning, when I said I wanted the group to be
forever, I was lying. I was just saying it because it seemed the right thing to say.
I doubt youre the only one who felt that way, Sunkyu pointed out.
But I still remember the precise second when I realized I didnt want that anymore, she said,

remembering how hard she had cried, and how empty she had felt when she had realized the victory
was incomplete. The thing is, this is a really, really terrible business, you know? I mean, Ive
watched it literally destroy people, and every time that happens I think, wow, that could have been
me. Or you. It could have been any of us. And the only way I knew how to not let that happen was
to make myself depend on other people.
Sunkyu smiled, a little. Thats all we wanted from you anyway. For you to depend on us.
But its all or nothing, you know? I cant turn it off. I cant teach myself to depend on you and then
suddenly decide I dont need you guys. When I made that decision, I really couldnt turn back.
Maybe its not like that for everyone, but thats how it is for me. I made myself weak, for you
I get what youre saying, Sunkyu said gently, but I want to remind you that were not kids
anymore, weve been doing this a long time, and nothing has to change, anyway. Just because you
go solo doesnt mean were not here for you. You went to every single one of Juhyuns
performances when she promoted her single, and you know why that is.
Because I dont really have much of a life, Taeyeon pointed out.
Because you wanted her to know shes not alone. And I mean, look at who were talking about.
Juhyun is the most independent person in the world. She wouldnt have asked for that, but you did it
Taeyeon nodded, playing with her empty coffee cup.
Its okay for people to need other people, Sunkyu told her. But you have to find a middle ground,
you know?
Taeyeons phone vibrated on the table and she picked it up, checking her texts.
Come keep me company, please~ Filming is the most boring thing in the world.
Sunkyu looked at her over the rim of her coffee cup. Is that Miyoung?
Taeyeons thumb hovered haltingly over the reply button. Yeah, uh
Is she summoning you? Sunkyu asked with a tone of amusement.
Well, not reallydo you want to come? Shes filming someplace in Gwangjin.
No, you go.
Taeyeon frowned. No, come.
Why, you dont want to be alone with her? She asked for you, didnt she?
Taeyeon found it difficult to read her tone. I guess.
Im serious. Tell her you'll be there.
Taeyeon had already typed the reply. Sunkyu

And tell her I said hi.

Taeyeon stood up, reaching for her wallet to pay for their coffees. Thanks, she said, smiling.
Sunkyu looked puzzled. What are you thanking me for? Its not like you need my permission to go
see her.
Taeyeon bit her lip. Nojustthanks. For not making me feel like an idiot.
Sunkyu shrugged. Im the best friend, she told Taeyeon and Taeyeon found she could do nothing
but agree.

chapter nineteen
How long did you film? Taeyeon asked, getting Tiffanys coat for her. She handed it over,
watching the shows production director out of the corner of her eye. One of their managers was
talking animatedly with him. Tiffany pulled her coat on.
Eight hours, Tiffany sighed, looking at her phone.
You left early.
Yeah, sorry, I know we were going to have breakfast.
No big deal. Oppa, you can go home, I have my car.
Jooyoung scratched the back of his head as he joined them. Are you okay with that, Fany? Do you
want to leave with this hooligan?
No, save me from her.
Im very trustworthy, Taeyeon protested.
Its true, Jooyoung agreed, it only took you thirty-six tries before you got your drivers license.
Practice makes perfect.
I have to thank the rest of the staff, Tiffany told them, leaving to do just that. Taeyeon settled
against the wall; this would be awhile, Tiffany was a lot more thorough than she was with this sort
of thing. Genuinely liking people probably helped a lot.
Did you eat? Jooyoung asked kindly, leaning against the wall next to her. Taeyeon nodded.
Good. Uheverything going okay with the contract?
Taeyeon looked at her hands. Why are you asking?
As an oppa, Jooyoung said. He looked straight ahead, frowning. Not an employee or anything,
just as a close oppa.

My lawyers still working on a revision, Taeyeon said quietly, glancing around to be sure they
were more or less alone. So I guess we'll see.
Have you told the other kids about it? Jooyoung asked.
No, Taeyeon said honestly. Itsan unnecessary stress. Who knows if Ill sign it.
Jooyoung nodded, looking at his shoes. I guess that makes sense.
Taeyeon looked down as well, pulling at a loose thread in her sweater. Even from far away she
could see the blush in Tiffanys cheeks as she thanked and sent off each individual staff member.
Her body felt tense. It had felt that way for weeks now; every lull in conversation felt like a missed
opportunity to confess about the contract. She knew she hadnt done anything wrong, but she also
knew that the longer she kept quiet about it, the more dangerous it became.
Her fathers lawyer had mentioned that discussing it with the girls really wouldnt do any good until
they had worked out something that better matched their needs, which helped a little, but guilt was a
powerful demoralizer anyway. I dont know what they told you, hed said over the phone, but
this isnt like the previous renewals, its a completely new contract.
I figured, Taeyeon had said, her voice low. She had ignored a few of his calls already because it
was hard to find a time when she was truly alone. Even then, Tiffany had been only one room over,
in the bathroom. Her ears had remained attentive for the sound of her shower shutting off. Im not
that stupid.
If youre going solo, the agency interprets this as you being a new artist theyre signing on, so they
drafted a brand new contract, he had explained. Taeyeon had suddenly wished she had thought to
meet him in person. This was dumb. It wasnt even the worry that Tiffany would overhear, it was
the guilt of discussing something this condemning in their shared home. Thats what this is, its
similar to the first contract you and the girls signed, but of course the provisions are different
because they consider you a new artist. And as far as new artist contracts go, its pretty light on
restrictions, I guess because they trust you and youve got leverage.
Taeyeon had bit her tongue. Shed wanted to protest that she had no plans to go solo and that the
contract was an attempt to blindside her, but she had thought it might be better to listen. The agency
knew she wasnt stupid. They knew she would have a lawyer comb through it; they knew a lawyer
would explain it to her. They must have felt that she would feel compelled to signbut why?
Theres some good stuff in here, Taeyeon. The amount of creative control you would get is
unheard of. I mean, its heard of, but at that label? There are some really good controlled
composition rates, and giving you full ownership of your own music is huge. That means if you
wanted to leave, theres nothing they could do with your music.
Right. But there has to be some restrictions.
Of course. The biggest control they seem to want to exert is who you work with. If I were to
explain it simply, theres a lot of creative control on your part, but every producer or composer or
engineer you work with is going to be pretty closely monitored by them. Thats nothing new, though
thats in your old contract.
Right. But. Would control over who I work with also apply to the other girls?

Yeah. Being marketed as a solo artist means youd really need permission to do anything with
them. I mean, I dont know how much theyd exercise that. They need the option to monitor who
you work with so that you dont sign some crazy producer onboard or anything like that. Thats
standard. But if youre reasonable, they probably wont feel the need to exert it. It just saves their
Taeyeon thought about what he had said. That had been a week ago; when hed asked her if she
wanted him to submit a revision that more closely matched what she was hoping for, shed said yes
mostly to buy time, she thought, and as a test. If she could negotiate a contract that worked for
her, maybe the rest of them could, too.
As she looked at Jooyoungs drawn face, set in concern, his eyes on the floor, she wondered if that
was going to be possible. She watched Tiffany chatting excitedly with one of the writers. She
thought about being eighteen years old and learning that the industry shed carelessly flung herself
into was more complicated than she could stand to comprehend, and thinking that maybe it would
get easier, more straightforward the older and smarter you got, but it suddenly seemed to her that it
was the other way around.
Oppa, she started, and then stopped. She was scared. If you thought if you thought that
something wasnt going to be good for us, would you say so?
Really, though? Would you?
Jooyoung shrugged, smiling. Should I try convincing you? I think sometimes your cynicism makes
you smarter than most people, but a lot of times I think it makes you blind. Did you know that
Taengoo? I think I care about you kids like youre my own family members. I want the best for you,
all of you.
What do you think that is?
The best for uswhat is it?
He shrugged again. As long as youre happy and healthy, its the right choice, right?
But do you think the rest of the agency wants the best for us?
No. I think youre talking about business, and business is something that only ever wants the best
for itself. When your needs and businesss needs match, thats when things are good. When they
dontthen maybe its time to go separate ways.
He did know, Taeyeon realized.
So what do you think? she asked him. They both watched Tiffany.
He thought about it for a long time. He looked around. We didnt have this conversation, Taengoo.

Theyre going to use your loyalty against you. Not just your loyalty toward the girlsbut your
loyalty toward the company. Theyre going to say, weve raised you since you were a teenager. We
turned a messy country kid into one of the nations most adored voices. We protected you. We
stamped down every scandal, guarded you from criticism. We took care of you like you were our
daughter. Theyll lie to youtheyll use people, and the feelings attached to those people, against
you. From top-tier executives to producers to part-time staff. Theyll use mewhat would
Jooyoung say? Would you abandon Jooyoung?
Tiffany was coming back. He wet his lips and turned, standing in front of her and blocking her from
Tiffany, covering her in shadow. His eyes were intense, sad.
Dont listen to them. No matter what they say, go with what you know. You know who the people
are that care about you. You know what we want. You know we just want your happiness. All of
you. Just remember, you know better than they know. And you know.
Oppa, dont hover over her like that, Tiffany chided as she came up to them. If someone took a
picture from this angle, thered be a scandal.
Good point, Jooyoung said with a cheerful smile, moving away. Like I need more trouble with
my wife. Are you sure you dont need me to drive you, Tiffany?
Im sure, Tiffany said, linking arms with Taeyeon. I trust Taeyeon.
That makes one of us, Taeyeon joked as they headed out of the building. See you, oppa.

Tuscany would have been so much better, Tiffany complained, looking at the water.
Taeyeon laid another piece down. It was pretty but there was too much of the same color.
Still, this is a kids puzzle, Tiffany pointed out, watching Taeyeon sift through the puzzle pieces
so she could continue constructing the trunk of the tree.
A kid couldnt do this, Taeyeon protested. We should push the couch back a little, this is going to
take up most of the floor over here.
Tiffany eyed her. Looks like a kid's doing it now.
Taeyeon narrowed her eyes at her, settling both her arms atop her knees as she crouched on the floor
next to the five-thousand piece puzzle. Okay, she said finally.
Aw, Tiffany said, pouting, are you hurt?
No, Taeyeon said sadly.
Tiffany crawled toward her, and then crouched as well, their knees touching.
It is a kids puzzle, though, she pointed out. You know you only chose it because of the pandas.
I like pandas, Taeyeon explained.

I like you, Tiffany said and then nudged her with one of her knees. Taeyeon put a hand on the
floor to stop herself from falling over and then scratched her nose, looking down at the puzzle.
Do you want to order something to eat, orI could make somethingbut we dont really have
anything in the fridgeI could make rice we could order something
She trailed off, uncomfortable with the way Tiffany was looking at her. She had been looked at that
way before; she had looked at people that way before. She had looked at the person in front of her
that way before. To be on the other end of a look she knew so well was disconcerting, close to an
out-of-body experience.
Are you hungry she attempted searchingly, looking at Tiffany with a cautious expression.
Tiffany nodded absently, not taking her eyes off of Taeyeon. Yeah.
We could go out, Taeyeon suggested.
I dont want to go out.
We could get something delivered.
You could stop talking about food and just say whatever it is you want to say. She settled her
fingertips on top of Taeyeon's forearm, touching the vein in her wrist.
Taeyeon pursed her lips. There were a million things she wanted to say; a good handful of them
were things she really should say and yet couldnt bring herself to.
Its nothing.
Its not nothing.
Taeyeon frowned. Dont get mad, she said carefully, but I kind oftold Sunkyuabout this.
Tiffany gave a wry smile. About the puzzle? she joked lightly.
Taeyeon didnt take the bait. It is a bit of a puzzle, isnt it.
You and me.
Ah. Tiffany folded her arms neatly across her knees. I guess so.
Her pensive expression worried Taeyeon, somehow; she wasnt sure what she wanted from this
conversation. She wasnt sure what she wanted from Tiffany, really, which was weird considering
she had thought she had wanted the same thing for years and years. And she still did, butit was
different now. Because she had what she wanted, and she didnt. She had Tiffany, and she didnt
have her at all. Maybe that was why they hadnt talked about itmaybe it hadnt just been Tiffanys
reluctance to label them, but her own reluctance too. Without labeling it, it was whatever she
wanted it to be, and that was somehow safer.
She glanced back down to the puzzle and began sifting through the pieces again. Youre not mad,

are you?
She didnt dare look up and so only heard Tiffany shift and cluck her tongue, saw her hand a
moment later as it joined hers in the pile of puzzle pieces.
Why would I be mad? she answered after a long moment.
Taeyeon shrugged. I dont know. I figured you didnt want to tell anyone I dont knowI just
Its not that I dont want to, Tiffany replied and then for a few moments they were silent,
assembling the puzzle with dedicated concentration.
I just dont know what wed say, and Tiffany exhaled. I dont know how theyd take it. Im
guessing Sunkyu threatened me with violence.
A little bit of violence, Taeyeon admitted.
Tiffany sighed. And the rest of them will be exactly the same.
I think she was mostly confused, Taeyeon pointed out. I mean. Maybe that was my fault. I
couldnt really explain to her what was going on, because I dont really know whats going on, and I
think the fact that we havent talked about it is
She shrugged and looked up. Tiffany had settled down and was sitting cross-legged, her shoulders
slumped forward, her eyebrows lowered over her eyes. Taeyeon couldnt help but feel bad, although
she didnt know why. Maybe it was easier if they didnt talk about it. Maybe what she had told
Sunkyu was an ideal, maybe the best thing for them to be was exactly what they were and had
always been, except kissing instead of fighting, which she admitted was a pretty good compromise.
Maybe. The thought of defining it at all weighed heavy on her.
We can talk about it, Tiffany said.
Taeyeon took a breath. Now she didnt know how to. Never mind just forget about it seemed a little
bit childish at this juncture. What are we doing? she blurted.
I dont know, Tiffany told her honestly.
I meanwhat are we, to each other, I mean
I dont know, Tiffany repeated. Is that what this is? Does it need a label for you to be okay with
No, I justlook, I think we both know how I feel about you. Im not really a wild-card. Ive
wanted the same thing for, like, ten years now, so I know what I want this to be, I just have no way
of knowingwhatyou
I want the same thing you want.
But why? Taeyeon sputtered, realizing suddenly why she felt so frustrated. Why, suddenly, now?
Did you just flip a switch and decide you can feel the same way about me? After ten years? I mean

Thats not fair, Tiffany said in a small voice. Ive felt this way for a long time.
Then why now? Taeyeon shook her head. I mean, are you really thatinsecureI mean, is this
just another thing to keep me with you?
Would it be so wrong if it was? Tiffany asked. She met Taeyeons eyes. Listen, if I had the rest
of my life to figure out how I feel about you, Id take it. But I dont. You're telling me I could lose
you forever. What do you expect me to do?
Thats not very comforting, Taeyeon said with a frown. You know, that if there wasnt the threat
of disbandment hanging over our heads youd leave me to continue being miserable foreverI
mean, its a littleI dont want to use the word sadistic, but theres no thesaurus on hand, so
Tiffany flung a puzzle piece at her and smiled, strained. You know I just want you to be happy. I
kept thinking, you know, if I wait long enough, youll get over me and I wont even have to figure
out how I feel about you, because itll be too late. Thats what I wanted, honestly.
Because you had it in your head that I was somehow going to be the thing that could make you
happy, and I knew I wasnt. I still think that. But She shrugged helplessly. Taeyeon looked at
her. The idea of the past ten years of her life being summarized with a helpless shrug was so
ridiculous it almost made her laugh.
Thats stupid, Taeyeon blurted. Youre stupid.
What are you, five? Dont call me stupid
Im sorry, but thats dumb
Taeyeon, get this through your head, Tiffany rasped harshly and her tone was unlike anything
Taeyeon had ever heard in all the years of knowing her. I cant make you happy, okay? Ive waited
years for you to figure this out and Im still waitingyoure going to realize that Im not what you
want, that you put me on an unrealistic pedestal for years, and theres no way any human being
could ever live up to what you want, especially me. Youre going to realize that.
Is that what this is? Just another effort to make me get over you? Youre unbelievable.
No. Tiffany shook her head adamantly. You dont understand the pressure.
I would never pressure you in any way, Taeyeon said, feeling defensive. You know that.
Thats not what I mean. I meanwhen you idealize something for too long, youre only bound to
be disappointed.
Idealize? Taeyeon repeated skeptically. What even was an ideal, she wondered. A type, an ideal
that was someone you could summarize in a line, a few words. She couldnt explain Tiffany in a
few words. She couldnt explain Tiffany in a million words. She knew this because she had tried,
and the more difficult it became to talk about, the more genuine she knew it was.
Listen. She straightened her legs and then hesitantly scooted forward, close enough to touch her.

She took a breath. She had left the ball more or less in Tiffanys court for a month now, never
approaching her, never initiating anything. In a way, it felt like her last lifeline, her last effort at
some form of self-preservation, an assurance that this was what Tiffany wanted and that if Tiffany
suddenly decided it wasnt what she wantedwell, maybe she could only get her heart broken a
little if she didnt invest too much.
Now, though, she made the first move forward, placing her hand carefully on Tiffanys knee. That
much she could do. She shook her head. Look, Im not some fan, okay? Im not someone who
doesnt know the real you. Im not admiring you from afarI know you. I mean, the good stuff, the
bad stuff. I know everything about you. I know you look like an ugly monkey when you wake up in
the morning
Taeyeon, Tiffany gaped.
I know that youve lived here for a million years and your Korean is still so mysteriously bad I
have to explain my incredibly hilarious jokes to you. I know youre stupid and stubborn and
overprotective to a really obnoxious fault, and I know thatbetter than anyone because Ive
worked and lived and been with you for ten years now. She felt Tiffanys knee shake beneath her
hand. Im not in love with an ideal person, she said. If you dont get that Im kind of stupidly in
love with every single one of your flaws, you havent been paying attention. At all.
She felt brave enough to finally look up at her and was surprised to see Tiffanys head bowed in a
slight nod. She scooted closer, braced both hands on the floor on either side of Tiffany; the
proximity made her dizzy. Thats it, she thought, studying Tiffanys wet eyelashes, thats ityou
wont get out of this alive.
She swallowed. Can I please kiss you? she asked.
Tiffany looked up, her eyes dark, and she nodded timidly. Taeyeon kissed her. She felt Tiffany cup
her face and her arms shook.
Ugly monkey, Tiffany questioned with a tone of disapproval, kissing just the edge of Taeyeons
A really cute ugly monkey, Taeyeon clarified, smiling.
And Im sorry, my Koreans awesome and youre just not that funny
No, Im really hilarious
Youre really not, all your jokes are lame puns and
Puns are funny
For old people, maybe
Please shut up, Taeyeon muttered and sealed their lips together, pressed close and put her mouth
anywhere she could, feeling Tiffanys feverish pulse throb where their lips met. She pressed her to
the floor and her skin prickled and buzzed as her blood raced through her veins.
She was beginning to forget the point of self-restraint. Maybe Tiffany was, too. Tiffany left marks in
her skin, always, little imprints of her nails on Taeyeons shoulders, scratches on her forearms. It

meant that she couldnt kiss Tiffany and walk away from it, blot it from her mind, because the
memories were carved into her skin.
It had seemed like a long fall over the course of many years, but maybe it was shorter and quicker
than she had thought.

The elevator stopped on the eighth floor on the way down. Taeyeon barely glanced up from her
phone but there was a chill in the air as soon as the other occupant stepped in and instinctively,
Taeyeon found herself backing toward the corner of the elevator, shrinking away.
Unni, the young girl greeted. She looked kind of young, Taeyeon thought, but there was never
anyway of knowing. Jessica and Tiffany had never had as many stalkers as she did and she had been
meaning to ask one of the managers to increase security at the new building but it had slipped her
mind over and over again. They had seemed so docile, so non-intrusive since Christmas.
How did you get in, Taeyeon sighed, her eye trained on the elevators floor lights as they
descended too slow for her liking.
I just want to see you Youre keeping a lot of secrets from them lately, the girl said and
Taeyeon looked up in surprise. You and Tiffany unni, the contract
How did you knowleapt to Taeyeons lips but she pursed them, not wanting to give herself away.
Her skin crawled a little. I dont know what youre talking about.
You know we always find out, the girl said casually, warmly, answering her unasked question.
Taeyeon studied her. She was pretty. Now that she was looking at her closely she thought she
looked like she was maybe university age; Taeyeon recognized her, because she had been following
her for a few years now. At least three or four. This was the first time she could remember ever
talking to her and it almost made her laugh, somehow, the idea of a young university-aged girl
following a celebrity for so long and only saying youre keeping a lot of secrets the second she had
a chance alone with her.
Taeyeon thought she should almost be grateful for the negligible sanity, at least in some respect,
although the thought made her bitter.
Its okay, unni, you know, the girl said softly. You think theyre not keeping secrets from you,
Taeyeon just looked at the descending floor lights, keeping her face still. Why had she left the
apartment alone, she wondered.
Im your fan, so Ill always follow you. Unniyou know that, right?
Yes, Taeyeon said stiffly.
I like the other members, too, of course, but its you. And its us. Were the ones who are always
there for you.
She was keeping her distance. They kept to opposite sides of the elevator. Taeyeon held her breath.
Do you remember when Tiffany unni left? How hard you cried? That was us there for you, not the

members. Do you remember that time you were too drunk to drive home? Maybe you dont. You
were really out of it that night. We were the ones who called you a cab. We said, where should we
have them take you? We wanted one of the members to take care of you that night. But you said no.
You just wanted to go home. Ill bother them, you said, Ill just be trouble.
Taeyeon shook her head. She didnt remember.
You never bother us, though. You dont trouble us. You can count on usthats all Im saying.
Taeyeon breathed a sigh of relief when the elevator came to the parking garage.
Good, she said, brushing past the girl, I can count on crazy people. Im so touched.
Hey. She was surprised that she hadnt been followed out of the elevator and despite her better
judgment, she turned.
I dont have an agenda, unniits the same for me no matter what you do. But dont you think
they probably have an agenda? Not everyone wants the same things.
The elevator doors closed. The parking garage seemed eerily empty. She wanted to laugh about it
but she thought she was in no position to. If she was keeping things from them, then why wouldnt
they keep things from her? Hadnt they all kept quiet about their solo activities? Wouldnt she have
done the same?
An eternity of friendship suddenly seemed very stupid if trust could collapse so easily.

chapter twenty
In all technicalities, as Taeyeon will later explain, the decision to not renew the lease on the dorm is
theirs entirely. Like everything else, the choice is left to them and its only kind, well-meaning
managers who explain that making them continue to live together when theyre well into their
twenties would be like saying the company doesnt trust them to be adults, and of course we trust
you to be adults, youre our precious daughters, youre new-age icons, youre responsible little girls
who tugged us out of red and right into black, and you know well always be grateful for that.
In that context, it makes perfect sense, and Taeyeon is the first to point out that its been six years
since debut and all the reasons they had for needing to live together back then simply dont exist
anymore. Theyre responsible adults who sometimes even drive their own cars to their own separate
schedules, and they have private lives, and significant others, and little spots and pockets of life that
dont intersect at all. From a financial standpointand Taeyeon rarely considers financial
standpoints, but her parents dothe quicker theyre out from under the companys thumb, the less
theyll have to pay back when all is said and done.

When all is said and done is a private phrase that Taeyeon only thinks about in hypothetical terms.
When youve toured the world and sold as many albums as they have, the idea of said and the idea
of done seem like mythical concepts, things people refer to as though they exist but what everyone
knows deep down cant possibly exist. She thinks of Girls Generation that way; the public sphere
talks about them as a finite thing and she gamely plays along, but she thinks maybe she knows
something they dont know, and maybe the fans dont even know, that if it came down to their
choice, when all is said and done, the only thing that could break-up Girls Generation is an outside
And what could that outside source ever be, she thinks, when weve made the company as much
money as weve made them.
At any rate, the nine of them are technically left with the decision to renew the dorm lease or not,
even if there is a higher power pulling the strings more or less. Sooyoung and Jessica talk about
moving back in with their families and Juhyun diligently looks at apartment ads and theres a weird
sort of electricity in the air that bothers Taeyeon more than it really should, although she chalks it up
to the fact that theyre discussing this during rehearsal instead of learning choreography.
For work reasons it makes sense to not move too far out of Gangnam, Sunkyu points out,
gesturing toward Juhyuns laptop with the cap of her water bottle. And the best security, too.
You should move back in with your family, Sunkyu, Hyoyeon comments. Without someone to
clean up after you, youll probably die in your own filth.
There are worse ways to die. Plus, I figured Taengoo and I would move in together.
Then Taengoo has to deal with your filth.
I like her filth, Taeyeon says absently. Can we practice now?
She admits that shes done very little thinking about where to move after the lease expires, despite
the fact that shes one of the members who has to think about it the most urgently. The rest of them
can ostensibly move in with their families until they find somewhere else, but a daily commute
from Jeonju to Seoul is more than shes willing to do at her state of exhaustion and homesickness.
Her first thought, sort of fleetingly, is that she and Tiffany can move in together, but the thought
disappears as quickly as it comes.
She realizes, with a start, stumbling over the choreography, that this will be the first time in nearly
ten years that she and Tiffany will be living apart. The thought is so singularly weird that it raises
the hair on her arms, makes her step back and lean against the cool wall while she watches eight
pairs of legs expertly complete the choreography she can only stumble through. The forefront of her
mind had been occupied with the end of the six years she had spent with the other girls, and it has
kept her from thinking about the near decade she has spent alongside Tiffany. She feels suddenly
small and fifteen and oddly clingy, watching Tiffanys focused attention on the choreography and

the way her hair sticks to her forehead and temples with sweat. Its a weird feeling, like leaving
home was a weird feeling, like looking at pictures of herself and her brother in the house she grew
up in was a weird feeling.
She has spent the last three years getting her best friend back, putting her back in the spot she
wants, and it feels a little scary to let go.
When the song picks up for the second time she pushes herself off the wall and slides into
formation. Maybe it would be a good thing, she thinks hopefully, to let go a little.

I guess its good that well still live together here, Tiffany says as soon as they unlock the door to
their dorm in Tokyo. Although it still feels weird.
Its going to feel weird for awhile, Taeyeon points out, flicking the lights on as they come in.
Thanks for coming with me. The rest of the girls had stayed at the restaurant in Shibuya but
Taeyeon had drank too much and eaten too little.
Its okay. Lets get you some food.
She doesnt want, really, to eat Tiffanys cooking, but she feels a little too dizzy and buzzed to even
properly light the stove so she lets Tiffany make it and hopes she finds it impossible to screw up
ramyun too much. The clock behind the kitchen sink says its barely past eight; she wishes, sort of,
that the rest of the girls would stay at the restaurant until late. She thinks maybe they will, because it
was a successful tour and it had been a year of successful things and they deserved, she thinks, to
eat a lot and drink a lot and laugh a lot, and she deserves, she thinks, to sit here and look at Tiffany
and Tiffanys pretty hands and deep, anxious concentration over boiling water.
Are you still looking for a place to live? Tiffany asks, leaning against the counter to look at her.
Taeyeon nods.
Theres a place across the river, she says. I was in the area last week, maybe, and the buildings
were really nice. Its less stressful there.
No matter where you go, itll be stressful, Tiffany points out.
Thats the stress that follows me, Taeyeon agrees, but if I can minimize it, Im okay.
So youre not going to live with Sunkyu?
I think shed be happier with her family, Taeyeon says. And Id be happier
Alone, Tiffany finishes and then snorts, turning to examine the water. Thats you.

How can you say thats me when Ive never lived alone my entire life?
Because, its what youve always wanted.
Not always. But maybe itll be better. I dont want to be a burden.
Tiffany rolls her eyes and examines her nails. Its the same any time they talk about it. Youre not a
burden, she says, and Taeyeon tries to believe it. Its hard to live with, though, and she worries what
it must be like for Tiffany, to look at her and know how she feels, and how shes always felt. How
can that not be a burden, she wonders.
What about you? she asks softly, drinking the glass of water Tiffany hands her.
Ive been thinking. Tiffany examines her nails closely. Oppa has his own place now, and he did
ask me.
Did he ask you?
Not explicitly, but I guess he did.
What did he say?
I said, were moving out of the dorm, and he said oh, you can keep oppa company then.
Wow, is he always so eloquent, Taeyeon mutters dryly.
You just dont like him, Tiffany says, rolling her eyes.
Its not that I dont like monkeys, Taeyeon protests, I just cant relate with them on an
intellectual level
Ill ignore that, Tiffany sings, since youre drunk.
Taeyeon is not really very drunk but if it gives her a pass to mock Tiffanys boyfriend without
getting hit, she wont argue the point.
Anyway, she says carefully, watching Tiffany add the noodles to the water, you cant move in
with him, anyway.
Why not?
Because, she says, blank, as though Tiffany is a toddler, youre an idol, and there would be a

Do you really think people would care?

Yes, I think people would care, do you have any idea how many news articles there would be if
you moved in with a guy
Our fans are mature enough to
You have to make decisions that will reflect well on the rest of the group, youd be burying eight
other careers if you
Just like you make decisions that reflect well on the group when youre sleeping with every single
girl you meet.
Taeyeon frowns. Thats different.
How is it different?
Because no one knows about it and, really, do I have to explain to you how its different?
So you can sleep with whoever you want but I cant even live with a guy who Ive been dating for
six months?
Five months, Taeyeon corrects idly and then feels like swallowing her tongue.
Tiffany opens her mouth to argue and then her expression softens. She turns back to the stove and
then brings the pot over to set it on the counter. Five months, she agrees in a low, disapproving
murmur. Why are you keeping track.
I didnt mean to, Taeyeon admits.
Its not fair, Tiffany says.
Why should it be fair? Taeyeon asks. You picked a bad career if you want fairness. Do you really
want to live with him? I didnt think you guys were that serious.
Thats because you dont pay attention any time I talk about him.
Do you blame me?
No, Tiffany says gently, stirring the noodles before lifting them up to Taeyeons lips. Butblow,
its hotits still not fair.
Youre an idol. You have to think about the group, Taeyeon says, chewing.

You know I always think about the group.

Jessicas not even moving in with her girlfriend and theyve been dating since the dawn of time.
Plus no one would pay attention if they moved in together, since theyre both girls. In that context,
you look pretty selfish. And you're not selfish."
Would you live with me? Tiffany asks, lifting more noodles out of the pot.
No. I can feed myself.
Tiffany shoves the chopsticks into her hands. Why not?
Because, Taeyeon says simply, looking down at her food, I want to figure out where you end and
I begin.
Do you? Tiffany asks curiously, leaning both elbows on the counter and eyeing her. Her gaze is
searing, and Taeyeon thinks, suddenly, maybe she really is drunk because her world feels a little
disoriented all at once. Doesnt that scare you?
Should it?
Tiffanys eyes are sad. Tiffanys eyes are always sad.
It scares me. I dont want to know where I begin. I want to know where you begin, and I want you
to know where I begin. Thats a safety net.
Were too old for safety nets, Taeyeon says and is surprised by the anger in Tiffanys eyes.
"Maybe you are," she says coolly. "Maybe you've outgrown me. I haven't outgrown you, though."
She leaves. Taeyeon eats alone.

In the end, Tiffany and Jessica decide to move in together, which is a terrifying combination
Taeyeon chooses not to comment on. Theyre the first ones to move out, and they have a party their
first week there, partly because Tiffany will use any excuse to have a party and partly because
theyve wrapped album promotions and their schedules are ominously bare, save for the upcoming
tour, but even that feels like the only excuse theyll have to see each other for awhile.
What was initially meant to be just the nine of them grows until its so large that Taeyeon thinks
Jessica and Tiffanys neighbors already have reason to complain, less than a week into occupation.
Hes there, of course, and Taeyeon almost leaves as soon as she sees him, except Sunkyu grabs her

tight around the shoulders and Sooyoung shoves a shot glass in her hand and Jessica says something
like, You have to get used to it, Taengoo, she really likes him a lot, way more than the other guys,
and they do three shots in successionone, two, threeand her head buzzes pleasantly and she
couldn't care less who Tiffany is kissing or who Tiffany has been kissing for the past five months
three weeks and two days (not that she was keeping track).
Doesnt it feel weird? Taeyeon asks Yoona, tuning out the sound of Hyoyeon explaining the
weirdly elaborate drinking game shes invented.
Doesnt what feel weird?
The meeting earlier today. Taeyeon frowns, shifting down low in her seat. When they talked to
Unni, I think it went okay.
I thought about it. For the past six years, whenever we discuss our schedules, they always tell us
what were doing. They say, youre going to go here, or youll promote in this month, or youll have
a concert here and here. This time they said what do you want to do? Thats the weird part.
Isnt that what you want, though? Yoona is puzzled. They put their shot glasses in the middle to
fill up. All this time youve said you want more freedom.
Yeah, but it feels weird.
Weird to get what you want?
Taeyeon isnt sure its that, since shes not sure its what she wants. There is a part of her, an
egocentric part of her, that thinks shes too good to be an idol, and has always thought that. But that
doesnt mean she knows how to be anything else.
It just feels weirdone shot She downs her drinkLike somethings ending or something.
We have to tour for the next three months, Yoona tells her with a laugh. Thats not ending. Thats
Maybe youre right.
Of course shes not right, Hyoyeon butts in, shes never right.
All I said was that well be touring for three months
Oh, then youre right, I guess, this time. Taeyeon, you should move in with me and maknae.

Because I dont want to live alone with her, shell make me eat vegetables and read books about
global warming or something.
I dont want to eat vegetables either. Why would you live with her in the first place? I figured you
and Sooyoung would move in together.
Because shes my baby, Hyoyeon says defensively, and if I moved in with Choi Sooyoung, wed
kill each other.
Good point.
I picked the less bloody option.
Shut up, youre just being cool, Tiffany says, joining them. Shes drinking the same beer that her
boyfriend likes. Thats what she drinks lately. Yesterday she was so excited about it.
I was not
Thanks for coming and saying hi, Tiffany says to Taeyeon pointedly.
Taeyeon shrugs. You looked busy.
Unni, whats this, Yoona demands, grabbing Tiffanys hand. Theres an ugly ring on it. Well,
actually, its kind of pretty, but the sight of it makes Taeyeon scowl.
Oh. Tiffany snatches her hand away. Oppa is going to be out of the country on our anniversary,
so he gave this to me now.
It looks fake, Hyoyeon jokes, mostly because it so obviously does not. "Is it made of plastic?"
Thats really romantic, Yoona says.
I guess the most basic things are romantic, huh, Taeyeon comments.
Unni, you guys are kind of serious.
Tiffany looks down. Yeah, kind of.
Taeyeon feels childish and grumpy but she thinks Tiffany is full of it, she thinks over the past three
years Tiffany has been kind of serious about four different guys and maybe shes really in no place
to talk, but it seems like theres a very skewed definition of serious going around.

Well no one asked my opinion, Taeyeon says bitterly, but I dont think hes good enough for you,
and hes ugly.
Tiffany smiles. Thats why no one asked your opinion, she says politely, cheerfully.
Thats why I offered ithey
Hyoyeon has yanked her up by the arm and pulls her over the back of the couch in a messy heap.
Come on, lets go get more liquor from the kitchen, she says, dragging her off. They push through
the swarm of people and Hyoyeon hits her in the back of the head.
Stop starting fights.
I didnt.
You wanted to.
Kind of.
Which would be totally hilarious to watch if it was just the nine of us, but theres a lot of people
Yeah, Taeyeon agrees, leaning against the kitchen wall. The partys mostly filled with industry
people and other celebrities. They talk. Even if theyre your friends, they want to be bigger than
you, and they look eagle-eyed for the chinks in your armor.
You look ugly, Hyoyeon greets Jessica as she comes in the kitchen, fixing her hair. She looks
almost as though she's just woken up.
Youd know, youre the expert.
Did you see the ring that oppa gave Stephanie, Hyoyeon snickers, rinsing out a stack of used shot
It looks really cheap, Jessica mutters.
No, its definitely expensive.
Yeah, its expensive, but its a cheap gesture, you know?
Yeah, hes kind of a cheap guy.
So you guys dont like him either, Taeyeon says, feeling somewhat vindicated.

Hes okay. Jessica shrugs. Tiffany likes him, and if he helps her take her mind off of things, I
cant really argue.
I think she has really terrible taste in men, Hyoyeon admits, but she has terrible taste in music
and clothes, too
You would really know about terrible taste in clothes, Jessica agrees.
I just think its kind of stupid how obsessed she is with being in a relationship. I mean, she looks
for them, instead of letting them happen.
Yeah. Jessica shrugs. I feel about him the same way Ive felt about the last three guys, I guess?
Likeshe dates him, she barely introduces us to him, after a certain point she makes it seem like
theyre getting really serious and that she cant live without him and thenbamits over. Just like
that. The fact that she suddenly seems so serious about this guy doesnt tell me anything except that
I assume shes going to dump him soon.
Taeyeon wonders if thats true. In actuality, she hasnt done a whole lot of paying attention to the
guys Tiffany dates, but its true that they seem to have dedicated shelf lives as boyfriends. For three
years shes been incapable of being single, Taeyeon thinks, but every relationship ends as soon as it
gets remotely serious. Taeyeon supposes shes not really in any position to judge, since she hasnt
been in a serious relationship for nearly five years and what she doesnt know about maintaining a
serious relationship could probably fill Kyongbok Palace.
So Stephanies weird, Hyoyeon sums up in a bored tone. Whats new. Give me something to
drink, Sica, youre a bad hostess.
Jessica ignores her and smiles at Taeyeon. I got your favorite wine.
Aw, Taeyeon says, youre the best hostess, dont listen to haters.
Im not a hater, Im just upsettingly sober, Hyoyeon protests.
And theres someone who wants to meet you, that actress Tiffany invited.
Taeyeon frowns. There are a lot of actresses here tonight.
Jungwon, the one shes going to host that cable show with. The one you said was pretty.
Why does she want to meet me?
The same reason most people want to meet you, I guess. Jessica rolls her eyes. Because youre
more famous than them and youre too short to be intimidating? How would I know? Its my job to
make sure everyones happy and that includes keeping you and Tiffany from fighting, excising

underage boy-band members from the guest list, banning Yoona from any poker games so she
doesnt hustle all my friends out of their money, and making sure you get laid.
And getting Hyoyeon drunk, Hyoyeon all but whines.
Oh god, who invited you? Jessica snaps, leading her away. Taeyeon hunts around in the mostly
bare kitchen, looking for the wine Jessica mentioned. Theyve barely moved in, boxes still stacked
in most rooms, and the kitchen is the barest of all. Theres a cabinet filled with wine glasses and
shot glasses and a solitary cooking pot, almost as a perfunctory afterthought. Taeyeon thinks about
her own new apartment, which shes set to move into next week. She doesnt expect to use the
kitchen very much. She doesnt expect to use the apartment very much, truth be told. Sleeping and
showering, but maybe not living. As much as shes lauded the idea of finally being alone, the
promise of the silence, the emptiness, it doesnt really sit well with her.
The bottle is hers; Jessica always buys it just for her. If it was just the nine of them tonight, she
might drink straight out of the bottle, but image in all things, really, even at a party where it seems
image cant be much. She has seen industry professionals, people she respects, notionally, fallingover drunk or even worse. Taeyeon keeps image fastened to her like full-body armor. Youre old
enough now, a colleague had told her, that there are only a handful of scandals that could really
undo you. She isnt sure why it bothers her so much. Shes hardly a pristine person, and she makes
no secret of it, but the group is still pristine, in its own way, and thats important. Somehow, its

Jessica had mentioned that the balcony view had been pretty instrumental in hers and Tiffanys
decision to rent this apartment and its in the back of her mind as she leads Jungwon toward the
doors. Forefront on her mind is how stuffy the apartment has become, and how much she hates
people closing in on her. It isnt just the feel of them, of people she doesnt know or even people she
does know moving in tight around her, its all her sensesthe way they block out any light,
artificial or otherwise, the loudness, how it's never just a comfortably dull hum but a loud storm
where you can catch snatches of conversation with no context. And the smell. Taeyeon likes
perfume, almost to the point of obsession, but its the singularity of scent she likes, not the
collection of it.
Out on the balcony its cool and quiet and bright and open; it smells like Seoul in summer. Smoke
and leaves and gasoline and the quick, stinging scent of wine, like someones spilled it somewhere.
There are two other people out here, both smoking, and she and Jungwon navigate to the other end
of the balcony. Taeyeon looks down.
It wouldnt be correct to say she was afraid of heights, but it wouldnt be correct to say she wasnt.
The sight doesnt calm her. To be this high up is electrifying, and to see this much of the city is
dauntingand scary. Sometimes she looks at pictures of Seoul, glittering and imposing, and tries to
match it to the image shes constructed in her head after years of living here. They never match.

When you only see a little bit of it at a time, it isnt glittering, it isnt imposing, its just streets and
From here, its all that and more. Beautiful, but scary. Something she doesnt think shes worthy of
looking at and yet cant stop looking at all the same.
She snorts a little. Taeyeon, youre drunk. Youre so drunk. Youre so very drunk.
Tiffany talks about you a lot.
Jungwon has a nice speaking voice. Taeyeon hasnt seen her in anything to know how well she acts,
but she knows that shes nice to look at and shes nice to listen to, and there wasnt much more you
could ask of an actor or actress, was there. Shes had one breakout role, but shes still a rookie, and
she makes Taeyeon feel old. Theyre the same age, but Taeyeon feels old, because shes been in this
business for six years and here is a girl who probably still gets excited when her manager calls her.
When she sees her daily schedule she probably cant wait to meet all the objectivesher first
thought probably isnt, but when will I have time to eat, and when will I have time to sleep, and
why do I have to work with him, hes such a jerk, and that scriptwriter hates me, everyone knows
she hates me, and why three hours filming for a television appearance that wont amount to more
than two minutes, thats going to be an hour of hair and make-up at least so maybe I can sleep then
but I have to discuss tomorrows schedule with our manager dont I and when will I get time to
sleep when can I sleep
Taeyeon frowns. When she looks down at the city she gets vertigo and the lights swim together.
She talks about all of you, but she talks about you a lot. Somewhere in the space of the last five
minutes, shes drifted closer and Taeyeon can feel her arm pressed against her, can smell the soju on
her breath. The city is a loud roar behind them. The quiet kind. A loud, quiet roar. Kim Taeyeon is
drunk. She dangles her drink by the tips of her fingers, watching it hover above the city, a glass
ready to shatter.
Weve known each other a long time, Taeyeon explains.
I asked for your number a few times, but she said it wasnt hers to give out.
Taeyeon drinks, long, measured. What would you do with my phone number?
Call you.
Ah. Thats the best use of a phone number I can think of.
Where do you live?

Um. Taeyeon switches her drink to the other hand and then points east, where the traffic is
congested. Right now, the fifth light from the subway station. Next week, she points across the
river, theres a barbecue place over theresomewhere past the barbecue place. I think one, two,
threeblocks past
Her fingers brush Taeyeons forearm as she points to a building only a few blocks away. Thats
where I live.
Oh. Taeyeon nods. Thats
About a five minute walk.
That is very close, Taeyeon says carefully, shifting her weight.
Do you want to see it? Its a nice apartment.
Shes very direct.
Hmm, well She brushes Taeyeons arm again and smiles.
Youre really cutedid you know that?
Ive been told, Taeyeon admits. ListenId like toId definitely like tobut you should
know, you know, I dont really do the relationship thingor anything like that.
Thats okay. I can't really afford something that dangerous when my career's just starting out
anyway. She traps her against the balcony railing. Plus I get the feeling Tiffany would kill me if I
dated you.
Taeyeon bites her lip. Thatsreally? Shes not a particularlymurderous person
She feels Jungwons lips on hers when the door opens and her eyes lower immediately upon seeing
Hey, Tiffany says, frowning. She has a pack of cigarettes in her hand. Its gross, and shes been
doing it ever since she started dating him, although she swears it has nothing to do with him.
Taeyeon frowns.
I guess you met Taeyeon, Tiffany says and glances beyond them toward the city. When she lifts a
hand to run it through her long, dark hair, Taeyeon notices the ring is gone.
Yes, we met. Thanks for inviting me.

No problem. Taeyeon
Taeyeon bristles. Yes.
Youre in public, you know, Tiffany says conversationally, and then glances at her, aloof, her eyes
narrow. Youre an idol. You have to think about the group.
Im sorry, Jungwon says, its my fault, really. I couldnt help myselfshes so cute, dont you
Taeyeon smiles tightly at Tiffany. Im cute.
Adorable, Tiffany agrees dryly.
Ill go get my jacket and meet you, Jungwon says and Taeyeon watches her disappear back inside.
Please dont, Tiffany says when theyre alone.
Dont what?
Sleep with her. I have to host a show with her once a week, and its going to be really awkward if I
know shes slept with my best friend.
Taeyeon shrugs. Just pretend you dont know about it.
She doesnt argue. They dont argue. They itch for fights but they dont have them.
They stand in silence. Taeyeon drains the rest of her drink and sets the glass down on the ground.
She notices Tiffany rifling through the pack of cigarettes and pulls the pack delicately from her
hand, shoving it in her back pocket.
Youre quitting.
She doesnt argue, because they dont argue. They start fights half-heartedly with no intention of
Hes not good for you, Taeyeon says softly, looking anywhere but at her. I know you think its
because Im jealous, and I am, butyoure not the same anymore. This isnt you. Youre not like

that. Youve always been your own person, and to see you just taking on the traits of guys you date
its just
Could I become someone you cant stand?
Taeyeon laughs at the sudden question. Is that what youre trying to do?
Tiffany purses her lips. Its cold out here. She can see the goosebumps on her crossed arms. No. I
just want to know how you see me.
How I see you?
If you see me the way I see me.
Taeyeon looks away. I just see you, she says, breathless, and then doesnt know how to explain it
better. She has never thought about whether she sees Tiffany a certain way. Do people really do
that? She loves her, flaws and all. Maybe she loves her flaws more than she loves her virtues.
Maybe thats sad. I just want you to be you, she explains at last. And I dont think this is you.
Maybe. Maybe Im getting sick of this.
Of what?
Its just really endless, you know? She purses her lips again, brushes her hair out of her eyes. Its
getting too long. She forgets, now that they arent living together, how she liked watching Tiffany in
the morning, brushing her hair in front of the mirror, turning the tangled, messy hair into silk. Its a
weird privilege she has been afforded for too long, the privilege of the best friend, the privilege of
the roommate, to see her in her unpolished state and watch her shine up like something impossible
and pretty.
I guess.
Finish tour, tour again, record album, promote, tourI mean, over and over again. Its the same
Its not the same, Taeyeon says with a frown. I mean, the music is different, and the concerts are
differentI mean, every concert is different, the audiences are different, the
I know. Its not that I dont love it, because I do, its just that I dont know what to do with it
anymore. What are we doing? Were not going to get more popular than we are now. Theres no
place to go but down.
Its not about the popularity. You said that.

I know. Its not that. I just feel stuck in one place. She looks at Taeyeon. Its lonely at the top.
I guess. But youre not alone. You have us.
Do I? Tiffany wonders. Have you?
Youll always have me. I just worry about you. I dont think hes good for you.
Tiffany examines her hands. Maybe not. I dont know. I have to be in love with someone, right?
Taeyeon thinks about it and wonders if its true. In her experience, being in love with someone isnt
really all its cracked up to be.
Come here, Tiffany says and pulls Taeyeon into her arms. Shes warm, and her heart is beating
fast. I love you.
Taeyeon laughs, trying to pull away. Gross.
Just deal with it, okay.
Say it back.
She feels Tiffanys arms tighten around her and she breathes her in a little, that spot where Tiffanys
shoulder meets her neck and its warm and Taeyeons heart feels light; her tongue feels heavy.
I love you, too, she mumbles and Tiffany releases her. I think Im going to go home.
Take a cab.
Im taking a cab.
Dont sleep with Jungwon.
I wont sleep with her.
Text me when you get home.
Ill text you. Anything else?
Tiffany looks at her for a long time. Her mouth opens and then closes and the ensuing exhale is so
loud Taeyeon can hear it over the roar of the city, over the muted racket of the party inside.
Nothing comes to mind.

She thinks Tiffany looks pretty like that, with her hair moving in the wind and the city bright and
bustling around her like a vibrant backdrop. She thinks thats something, the girl she loves and the
city she loves, right there, like a picture.

present (2016)
In a way, Taeyeon enjoyed the solitude.
For the most part, theyd been laying down vocal parts in pairs or small groupstwo or three of
them coming in at a time and meeting with the studio engineer to record. Taeyeon liked this, sort of,
and had always had a strange relationship with studio production. The lack of a rapt audience when
recording vocals had always left her sort of cold toward the material, but at the same time, she
appreciated the methodical nature of it, the allowance of screw-ups, and ability to re-record a bad
Today she was alone, and it was strangely comforting. With less people to record, it should have
been moving faster, but she was finding discussing the music with Jihae relaxing. It alleviated the
stress, a little. In all things, she realized music would always be the thing that moved her. It wasnt a
thing she could give up. That had never been an option.
Have you heard the mastered version of Yuris single? Jihae asked when they broke for another
discussion of the song they were recording.
No, I want to be surprised, Taeyeon said with a frown. The single would be out at midnight.
Shed heard the guide version of the demo once but was sort of anxious to hear what Yuris version
would sound like. As such shed promised to buy a version off of every download site she could
find and argue with people on the internet who didnt like it. In return Yuri had promised to
autograph Taeyeons bra.
Its really good, Jihae said. If it doesnt chart well Ill be genuinely surprised.
Ill be genuinely annoyed, Taeyeon said. Shes worked really hard. Yuri was behind on their
group recording schedule because shed been working so hard preparing promotions for this single.
It was fascinating watching Yuri work herself to exhaustion because she was so unlike Taeyeon in
so many ways. She never complained, she just smiled and laughed through the exhaustion. Part of
that, Taeyeon knew, was just her nature, but she guessed another part was how genuinely excited
Yuri was to promote her own song.
Taeyeon supposed she was someone who really deserved it. She supposed they all were, really.

They were hard-working kids, even if they hadnt been kids for a long time.
All right, lets try and finish this song, she suggested, standing up and stretching. She was trying
to take care of her voice but truthfully she would have killed for some coffee at the moment. She
knew her voice was a little dead from close to a year of disuse, serious singing-wise, and her radio
schedule which sometimes left her hoarse. She cleared her throat a few times on the way in.
She slipped her shoes offa nervous, ingrained habitand stepped into the recording booth. The
minute she was standing there, alone, studying the music, the relaxed spots inside her seized up.
When she was fourteen years old, she had stepped into a recording booth and breathed life into a
song for the first time. She still remembered that more than any other recording session over the
years, the terrified feeling of being alone in that booth with the headphones too big for her ears and
a team of engineers and producers watching her, hawk-eyed, through the glass. Even if it was just
unni today, and even if she had done this a million timesthis was more like the first time, wasnt
it. So much was riding on this album. She had thought, years and years ago, that if she couldnt do
it, then she would never be able to do it. She thought that now.
Her voice cracked, just a little, and she stepped back with a frown.
Youre okay, Jihae said through the intercom. Just sing it like you sang the solo version. Its the
same vocal part, essentially.
Youre right, Taeyeon agreed, and she warmed up a little. The section theyd recorded earlier had
higher notes than this. This part was perfectly in her range. Her throat just felt tight.
She tried again. She thought about Yuri.
Jihae broke in again.
Do you want to move onto another section for now and come back to this one later?
Taeyeon sighed. Yeah, maybe.
Does that sound good? Lets do that.
Okay. Thanks, unni.
And Taengoo, if we need to change the key, we can always do that, okay? Itll take a little extra
work but nothings set in stone until its on the shelves, right?
Right, Taeyeon said, but that wasnt a very comforting thought.
When they were finished for the day Taeyeon felt the need to apologize. She wasnt sure why,
because she had worked with Jihae unni even when her voice had been at its worst, and she thought

she had done better today than on other days, in the past, when she was overworkedstill, she felt
guilty, because it had been a failure and it hadnt been entirely out of her control, she knew. She
could make excuses for the physical condition of her voice, but the fact of the matter was that she
was preoccupied and that was all there was to it.
Theres nothing to apologize for, Jihae said with a laugh. I always like working with you.
I feel like I wasted a couple hours today.
Jihae shrugged. Its your money, she said playfully. Dont worry, we got a lot of really good
stuff, and Ill see you on Thursday with Tiffany and Juhyun.
Okay, Taeyeon said glumly, packing up.
Im serious, you know, Jihae said. I mean, Ive always really liked working with you. You know
I dont care what I do, as long as its good music. When I work with people who I know really care,
then I remember why I liked this job in the first place.
Yeah, but
You had a bad day, theres no reason to beat yourself up for it. Give me your phone.
Taeyeon frowned, watching as Jihae programmed a number into her cell phone.
Thats my personal number, she explained, handing the phone back. When this album is finished
well, wherever you end up going, just keep in touch. I think we work well together.
Taeyeons mind picked up suddenly, buzzing back to life. Going? she repeated. What makes you
think Im going somewhere?
Jihae paused and then frowned. UmI didnt say you were going anywhere. Just that if you were
just a what if, for whenever, a year from now, five years from now, even ten, Id work with you,
whatever youre doing.
Taeyeons silence seemed to make her uncomfortable so she added, with no small amount of
chagrin, Im just saying I like working with you, Taengoo. Thats all.
And the rest of the girls, Taeyeon supplied, looking down at the floor.
Yeah. A beat. I like working with all you kids.
Wherever we end up going, Taeyeon said slowly, attempting to echo Jihaes tone although it felt

Ughgod. Thats not what I meant. Im sorry I worded it that way. I just meant
You just meant that youve heard rumors, Taeyeon finished for her and Jihaes sudden flushed
cheeks made her think shed hit it on the head. That people are talkingare they saying Im
leaving the company?
Unni looked very badly like she wanted to not answer but after a moment released a sigh. You
knowtech peopleI mean, engineers and other guys, they dont know what theyre talking about.
They gossip about stuff constantly, its notI mean, it was just a year ago that one of my sunbaes
was saying he knew for a fact that the company was debuting a new group in six months, and thats
not true, so why would this be true? They just gossip. Thats it. Everyone knows you guysyou
knowyou guys are in it for the long haul.
Yeah, but this gossip, and she muttered it like it was a dirty word because after this long in this
business, it wasnt anything else, true or notis that what theyre saying? That I want out?
They are, Jihae began carefully, saying that some of you are planning on leaving after this
album. But like I saidwhat do tech people know? Im sorry I said anything, Taeyeon, that was
irresponsible of me. I was just trying toyou knowsay that Id work with you, no matter what. If
you need a studio engineer, you can always call me.
Taeyeon hadnt realized how tensed her shoulders were until she attempted to relax them and felt
her neck crack. She let them droop and then smiled, apologetically. Sorry for interrogating you,
No, Im sorry forstressing you out. I shouldve thought about what I was saying.
Its okay, Taeyeon said with a laugh. It doesnt take much to stress me out these days.
A kind smile graced Jihaes suddenly relieved expression. I can tell. Dont worry about things too
much, Taengoo. Its not healthy.
She felt like people had been telling her that her whole life. It was in her nature to worry, though; it
always had been. Knowing full well that it was the reason she became stressed so easily didnt
make it any easier to stop. It undid peopleworrying this way. Worry bred desperation, and she had
seen what desperation could become in a business like this. She thought about the group, about her
best friends, her trusted teammates, and she thought about what their worry and their desperation
could do to them. Would she be able to blame them? Wasnt she exactly the same? For all her
posturing and admissions that she was exhausted, the idea of being cast aside, an overlooked
footnote in a one-day list of has-been idols, a poster that some kid eventually grew tired of and
pulled off the wallit gnawed her insides apart until there was nothing left.
Because thats what she would becomenothing. If she wasnt this, then she wasnt anything. A kid
from the country who never pursued higher education, who had no skills outside of this one thing.

Could she really blame them? It wasnt greed, it was survival. How could any of them stay alive if
they didnt have a place to do the only thing they were good at?
Taeyeon released a breath and smiled at her unni. I just want it to be a really good album, she said
at last, a half-lie, a tiny truth. I want it to be our best.
It will be. You had an off day. Even pretty, frighteningly talented people are allowed a couple of
Taeyeons smile was bland because she knew shed had more than a couple, and knew there were
more than a couple to come. On a good day her heart felt heavy with loneliness and melancholy;
today, somehow, she felt a little lighter as she left the building. She met the cool night air of the city
with her eyes wide open. No one ever faulted a person for giving up if they were beaten down.
Maybe they would say she should have fought harder, and maybe they would be right. But a
rational person couldnt blame her for giving up, just a little.