Title: Must Love Girls [Part Two]
Rating/Genre: PG-13; Girl-Meets-Dog-And-Girl
Disclaimer: I don't own Soshi. I don't own anyone, in fact. All Fiction.
Chap. Summary: Taeyeon opens up more to Jessica, despite her fears.
Author's Notes: Wow, I forgot how accomplished I feel posting weekly. As a reminder, this is a multishot, so it should go for about six chapters? That’s what’s on the outline so far, at least. :33 Leave a comment if you can~
Shout out to yuukistar22 for a reference she'll know when she sees it. ;DDD
In an unforeseen turn of events, Taeyeon roused from bed…smiling. Eyelids low, but free of sleep. Bleached hair not a complete morning disaster. Her shower didn’t scald her to kingdom come before she flexed the knobs just right. She devoted fifteen minutes to grab breakfast: half a French toast bagel. Made of bread, carbs. Real food.
On her train commute, she wasn’t sandwiched into uncomfortable angles. The office’s pervert doorman (known to ogle women through security monitors) got the boot. Cubicle hours sped by in scrolling, documented intervals. Her born-again manager’s daily salvation speech got drowned out by Spotify playing the most unskippable mix of EDM into her earbuds.
It was Thursday.
A good day.
Taeyeon remembered to pack an extra set of clothes--jeggings, a pawprint-ready t-shirt, her trusty Keds--for 6:30. 6:30 with Diglett. Ahem, Lennon. Lennon, the peanut butter to her lonely jelly.
She even gathered the nerves to clock out forty minutes early. Her manager almost impeded her escape, a sanctimonious lecture at the tip of his tongue, until Taeyeon smiled. Bidding him a ‘blessed night’ in pandering finesse.
He held the elevator door for her.
Taeyeon browsed her once-beloved pet store. She hadn’t dipped a toe in there since Diglett’s accident. The little bugger would sniff dutifully through every single aisle, pinkish nose roving to a stop for his favorite smells. One of many being a display of rawhide treats.
Tears welling, the grieving woman brought a bag to a checkout line. Eyes fluttering to the ceiling whenever customers sauntered by with their living, breathing dogs.
These were big steps. Elephantine steps.
All for Lennon.
And at 6:30, with a goofy pup grin and wiggly spins, he hailed her arrival. That is, the dog and Jessica, his reserved owner.
As the Corgi-Aussie glossed Taeyeon’s cheek in juicy licks, Jessica maintained distance. Typing on her iPhone, rummaging through Lennon’s travel tote, running a thumb across her short, manicured fingernails in teal flicks. Looking goddamned bored out her mind. Taeyeon sneaked glimpses at her, concluding the woman radically different from a ‘dog person.’
Lennon, in contrast, hailed their visitor like a romantic. All the kisses Taeyeon wanted (needed, to be frank). The clever animal nosied into her purse, unearthing the paper sack of rawhide.
“I bought him low risk, natural treats. Hope that’s okay,” Taeyeon mentioned, praying the spoiling wouldn’t stop here. She had oodles of love (and bank) to shower on little Lenny.
Jessica detached the sunglasses from her collar. “I trust you won’t poison him.”
Taeyeon would never poison Lennon.
It’d obviously been a joke. Yet, sentimental tears crept down Taeyeon’s cheek. If Lennon died, he’d mirror Diglett in his final minutes on this earth. His laboured breath slowing to a standstill, unfocused stare to where she hoped was an afterlife for dogs. A heaven full of slow squirrels, tummy-scratching technology, endless sausages, and no jackass motorists to harm any of them again.
“What’s the matter?”
In those long seconds, her creeping tears merged into a snotty, mascara-bleeding mess. Taeyeon licked her bottom lip, head shaking. “Can we do a lap around the park?”
Jessica drew a handful of napkins from Lennon’s tote. “Have these.”
Two fresh packs of tissues sat in Taeyeon’s own bag, but she accepted the gesture out of courtesy. She attempted to muscle up a smile in exchange and failed terribly. Because the memories continued to form. The heartache, the sadness, the resentment invaded her skull, threatening to enable her dissociative state.
Maybe she’d been hasty. Venturing out again endangered Taeyeon. Meeting new people and exposing her heart to a dog that wasn’t hers could lead to a tremendous, irrevocable crash.
First loves were bound to end.
And some fools, like Taeyeon, wouldn’t earn a second.
“I...” She hiccupped. The fingers brushing Lennon’s pelt trembled. “I...won’t...”
Taeyeon sagged sideways onto a tree, ashamed of blubbering in front of another human. Ashamed for letting her cloak of normalcy slip from her shoulders. Ashamed for her wasted past.
Then, a set of fingers, light in weight and warm to the touch, found Taeyeon. It was Jessica’s. She smelled like roses.
Jessica softly said, “I brought Lennon’s yellow ball” like she was mediating a crazy lady.
Fitting. Taeyeon hadn’t expected this drama, either.
The hand that’d been stroking Taeyeon’s relayed the loop of the leash. It also pulled her off the tree.
“Shall we walk?” Jessica asked, stepping away.
No questions? No teasing? No what-in-the-hell-did-I-get-myself-into discussion?
Taeyeon stared, stunned.
Speechlessly, she followed Jessica’s lead through a block lush with greenery, high bar fences, and running space for Lennon, who’d been waiting patiently. A true gentleman through and through. A true Diglett.
Taeyeon tickled his pointed ear, giggling. He sure knew how to lift her spirits.
So, afterwards, she regained her composure and rewarded him with a hearty game of fetch.
“What in the hell did I get myself into?”
Jessica leaned a cheek on her palm, enduring over an hour of Lennon and his playmate dirtying themselves in a field. For sure, those grass stains wouldn’t ever wash out of Taeyeon’s pants. She sighed, finding herself logically bewildered.
And illogically infatuated.
“Really?” Jessica groaned. “The stars aligned for this woman?”
She’d dated respectable professionals, for god’s sake! A sculptor, an architect! The pole-dancing Astrophysics major Krystal fawned over to this day. Why was Jessica Jung, bedder of the country’s most desirable women, wallflowering it up on a splintery park bench? In what depths had her self-esteem tumbled to feed off Taeyeon’s energetic sprints and scare glances? Weren’t there doctors to remedy this? A supplement she could scoop into her morning coffee?
Was Taeyeon even seducible? Or sexual?
Damn those bashful, watery eyes. And her gorgeous smile that’d been reserved for Lennon and only Lennon.
Nonetheless, Jessica would sooner pledge celibacy before reaching Fetch: Hour Three.
She advanced on the happy couple. Neither seemed to have lost steam, to her annoyance. Behind giant sunglasses, Jessica announced, “Break time. It’s going on two hours.”
“is it?” Taeyeon asked without meeting her eye.
“Yes. Lennon’s probably thirsty.”
“A store nearby sells an obscenely extensive ice cream selection.” Jessica pointed. “I’ll treat you to a cone, if you’d like.”
“I wish those places supplied dog ice cream, too. A kickass recipe online uses pumpkin purée, bananas, and plain yogurt as a base. You ever consider blending some for Lenny?”
This bitch (no pun intended) was enraging.
So, how come Jessica wanted to yank Taeyeon in by her grass-stained pant loops and go to town?
“Sure. Until then, will you partake?” The overcast night sky did nothing to the humidity. She fanned herself, fighting a sweat.
“No, thanks.” Taeyeon re-fastened Lennon’s leather leash. “C’mon, boy! Wanna take five?”
Jessica purchased a Melona bar and bottle of water for her and Lennon, respectively. As stubborn as before, Taeyeon refused her second and third offer for a cool snack. She unloaded a collapsible dog dish from his bag, filled it to the brim, and patted the bench for Taeyeon to take a fucking seat instead of standing wait until Lennon finished drinking.
Taeyeon sat. Which didn’t stop her from vocally marveling at how Lennon licked his lips in messy intervals. Or how the park lights oranged onto his fur just so.
Mystified, Jessica nibbled her ice cream. Building the guts to ask, “Are you single, Taeyeon?”
The acidity in Taeyeon’s reply was unmistakable. “Isn’t it obvious?”
“Not really,” Jessica lied. “I’m curious about your social life.”
“Figment of your imagination.”
“I make disappointing company, I told you. Even for myself.”
“Then, that makes two of us.”
In response, she met Jessica’s playful grin. A trace of a smirk spasmed at the corner of Taeyeon’s lips. Awkwardly, fleetingly. Back down to a soft pout. “I can’t imagine that.”
Was that flattery? “It’s true. Can you believe we spend a heinous fraction our adult years deteriorating in an office? I drag myself home each evening just to bore myself to sleep.”
“How can you be bored with Lennon around?”
Of course. Lennon inevitably mentioned.
Jessica shrugged, tasting a melting edge of melon. “He’s a pick-me-up. Can’t substitute human affection.”
“Agree to disagree,” she conceded, fearing Taeyeon too unstable for a friendly argument. “Have you been single for a long time?”
Taeyeon poured Lennon a second helping of water. “Have you?”
And there, the conversation could’ve waned. Jessica, however, fought her damnedest. She surveyed the park for any appendages to the ‘single or not’ subject, twisting antsy fingers through her hair. Once something (thank goodness) sprouted to mind, she coyly nudged an elbow into Taeyeon’s. “I bet your ex is hot.”
Taeyeon tapped the toes of her Keds together. “What makes you think that?”
‘Because you’re hot, you dummy,’ Jessica swished in thought, opting instead to ask, “How about him?”
Following Jessica’s subtle nod at a jogger zipping by in black Nikes, Taeyeon raised an eyebrow. The twitch was slight and flung a variety of meanings around their quiet space on the bench.
“Did your ex look like him?” Jessica pressed. She needed to know.
“Him?” She arched her chin at a leaner, tanner man hoisting his daughter to a water fountain. Amongst a host of things, Taeyeon captivated Jessica. Her blink-and-you’ll-miss it facial queues weren’t irritating. They were sensitive, beguiling, promising. Jessica ate more her Melona, imagining something sweeter. Like Taeyeon’s lips.
Lips that pinched into a cute little bow. “Longer hair.”
“Like Mr. Man Bun over there?”
Seemingly more relaxed, Taeyeon leaned to see, placing a hand onto the backrest of the bench. Her thumb innocently grazed Jessica’s back, nearly sending the woman into a Gone with the Wind-level swoon. “Which one?”
“That hairstyle’s quite popular, isn’t it?” Jessica laughed, noting two men with their dark hair knobbed into bands. “Um, the one at the east entrance with the mustache. Are you into facial hair?”
Taeyeon’s adorable cringe could melt a boulder. “No, thank you.”
This close, Jessica could easily press their lips into one. Her breath staggered. “But, it’s groomed so well.”
“So, the other Man Bun? In the cargo shorts?” Jessica hoped he hadn’t left because nothing allowed her head to turn away and check. Taeyeon’s every blink, every muscle movement spelled out a story.
And none of those stories were disappointing.
“Do you always...” Taeyeon swallowed, apparently noticing their proximity. She stalled for a beat as their gazes matched in a simple sweep. Then, started again. “Jessica, you...”
“You smell like roses.”
If humans could choke on compliments, Jessica’s cheeks would’ve blued by now. She murmured, “I do?”
“Guy in the cargo shorts, you said?” Taeyeon asked in an obvious pivot. “Ah, he’s handsome.”
“But?” She proffered the last bit of her Melona. It wedged perfectly in the middle of its stick.
Taeyeon finally accepted. “But...”
Jessica dangled on the line that was Kim Taeyeon’s confession. She couldn’t articulate why she predicted a confession besides the way Taeyeon distracted herself. By poking Lennon’s butt with her dingy shoe, spinning the popsicle stick, and faking a feeble cough.
“Taeyeon,” she tried again. “Is he too handsome?”
“He’s too...” Taeyeon lapped a dot of green from her knuckle. Jessica blushed. “He’s too him.”
Too him? As in too male?
Maybe fate hadn’t tarnished Jessica’s chances after all.
So, as Taeyeon finished their ice cream, Jessica motioned to the shadiest part of the field. There, a curvy yoga-phile in god’s gift of skin-tight rayon stretched like a lengthy, sexy pro. “Would she and your ex have any similarities?”
The gronde’s face fell. As if she’d been busted for a crime.
“Does she resemble your ex, Taeyeon?”
Clumsily, Taeyeon scrabbled to her feet, unclipping Lennon’s leash from the bench arm. The poor woman’s face had gone haunted, so pale against the night sky.
She probably didn’t come out often, Jessica guessed as she added, “I don’t mind, you know. It’s okay.”
That was an understatement, practically an alternative fact. She was ready to throw her own parade of rainbow floats, go-go dancers, and boob confetti.
“Oh,” Taeyeon answered. On the verge of a panic attack, her trembling hands betrayed. “Sorry.”
“Your ex. Was she that flexible?”
Tugging Lennon to the grass, Jessica couldn’t miss the reply that would supply her with a thousand dirty fantasies until they’d hang out again: “I wish.”
Taeyeon wanted to throw up. Her day should’ve been a succulent one, rich with positivity, confidence, Lennon, and a fetching workout. Then, she had to cry. And later, reveal her sexuality in categorically the most transparent way.
Why the hell couldn’t she protect her feelings? For a day, even?
As her mind’s ticker tape recapped the dreaded sequence of events, Taeyeon’s eyes watered in embarrassment. It was nobody’s business which sex she fancied. She navigated these waters daily, avoiding any potentially out-y topic or mannerism. Hell, she’d extinguished her wardrobe of plaid months ago. It wasn’t like she had somebody to be a lesbian with anymore.
Alas, for some stupid reason, Taeyeon told a near stranger that she smelled like roses.
Flippin’ roses. Essentially flirting.
Taeyeon wiped her brow, stressed. Her instincts auto-warned her to put on her straight armor, to huddle under the lavender blanket of assumed heterosexuality. Jessica wouldn’t have been the wiser. All the lady asked was if that greasy-haired man reminded Taeyeon of her ex.
Omitting the truth would’ve prevented this. It wouldn’t jeopardize her time with Lennon.
What if Jessica responded badly, contorting her face in disgust? Information Age or not, many people her age feared the unknown, the outliers. Something as trivial as two female figures atop of a wedding cake could turn acquaintances into their bigoted relatives.
Jessica didn’t freak out, though. An ally.
As they ended the short walk back to Jessica’s building, Taeyeon built up the courage to say, “Thanks for the swell evening.”
Swell?! Had Mickey Mouse possessed her?
“No problem,” Jessica replied in a deep sigh. “Lennon’s going to miss you.”
Lennon’s silver eyes twinkled in the streetlamp light. Panting, tap dancing in place. Being characteristically amazing.
“I’ll miss you more,” Taeyeon whispered, bowing down for his warm kisses. “So, so much more.”
Her eyes now watered for Lennon. For Diglett. She stroked behind his ears slowly, likening the feel to short tufts of satin. She cooked up a farewell talk.
But, she could’ve voice it.
Saying goodbye to this precious, perceptive creature triggered Taeyeon. Froze her in place. Lodged her tongue to the roof of her dry mouth. Her ears knelled, ringing the tolls of depression in her immediate future. Loneliness awaited her in a cold apartment without real food. Life would return to its regularly scheduled programming starring Kim Taeyeon, the sorriest leading lady.
Maybe she’d stick to Pet Mourners Anonymous. There, she’d be able to cope. Or, run the illusion of coping as some old sap reads chronicles of his dead iguana. At least in the safe confines of a closed coffee house, she’d be flanked by those who loved animals.
Taeyeon eyed Jessica’s fur-less designer denim and pristine Stan Smiths. Hard to picture her emphatically scratching Lennon’s tummy, making him feel valued.
“He can keep the toys,” Taeyeon muttered, “and the rawhide. I won’t be using them.”
Jessica recovered a ring of keys from her clutch. The bag from the pet store swung on her arm like a pendulum. “He’ll maul them in your hallowed absence.”
“Will you be okay?”
Taeyeon stood, clapping her hands clean. “Lennon’s a great dog.”
Jessica’s eyes stayed fixed on Taeyeon. “What will make you okay? Anything I can do?”
“Nothing,” she answered without hesitation. “There’s nothing you or anybody can do for me. Don’t even waste your time.”
Something similar to hurt flashed across Jessica’s face. Her shoulders tensed. Small lips ticked unpleasantly, dark hair blew over her eyes from the breeze. “Well, if that’s how you feel.”
Guilt hit Taeyeon like a brick and she couldn’t decide why.
Actually, she could. Jessica didn’t have to invite her along today and she chose to, anyway. She allowed Taeyeon quality hours with Lennon, to be herself again.
Jessica hardly illustrated an ideal dog parent, yet she worked well enough.
And Lennon loved her. That much was clear.
So, before she second-guessed it, Taeyeon gently caught Jessica by the wrist. As mannerly as possible, she spoke her heart. “My dog didn’t live to his second birthday. I couldn’t, um, even so much as consider adopting another dog for personal reasons that...” She tightened her fingers on the silky skin. “You provide a happy medium. I’m lucky to get to know Lennon and a bit of you, too. Thank you, Jessica.”
Jessica’s eyes were wary; they searched Taeyeon’s for a prolonged moment until she answered, “Lennon and I go to the park every Thursday. Are you free?”
“For him, anything.”
A final goodbye didn’t happen! In a leap for pure euphoria, Taeyeon stole the leash from Jessica’s limp grip and danced circles with her Diglett clone. She’d managed to speak her mind. To get what she wanted. Which was Lennon excitedly hopping to his hind legs, begging her to scoop him into a paw-ish hug. Damn, this dog was perfect.
Things were looking up.