That's where she met her.
That girl that made her feels happiness and sense of belongingness.
The girl she never expected to be so attracted and attached to.
The girl she met in work.
Hebe Tien came to the office as a temporary secretary for Ji Hyo. She is a Taiwanese that has stayed in South Korea for a half a decade because her father was newly allocated there for work purposes. She was new but she was hardworking and willing to learn. She was three years younger than Ji Hyo and could speak fluent Korean. Her chestnut brown hair is straight and long, it reaches her chest. She also has a dark brown eyes and a sweet smile that made Ji Hyo took a second glance at her the moment she walked in. To be honest, she was dazzled by her smile. It's warm and friendly.
Hebe only came to work for 4 weeks because Ji Hyo's previous permanent secretary was on a maternity leave. It was short collaboration but their friendship quickly grows. They moved to places together, eat together, attend meetings together and for a few occasions, Hebe stayed over Ji Hyo’s house after long girls’ talks. Hebe was her only friend that she felt comfortable with.
For three times a week, Hebe takes night classes for barista course. Hebe loves the fragrance of the coffee but sadly she can't drink them because of her sensitive stomach. After knowing Ji Hyo loves coffee, Ji Hyo became Hebe's target to test her coffee skills.
Even after Hebe stopped working for Ji Hyo, they continue contacting each other and frequently went to Hebe's class after her work.
[Two and half years ago]
In her favourite dark green checkered shirt, Hebe brought over a cup of hot latte to Ji Hyo who was sitting at one of the tables. She tucked the fallen hair to the back of the ear and pulled a chair beside Ji Hyo.
“Freshly made… just for Song Ji Hyo.” She chirped, complemented with an eye smile.
“Thank you…” Ji Hyo smiled back warmly. “I was waiting for this the whole day in the office.”
Hebe's eyes glimmered as she watches Ji Hyo took a sip of the freshly brewed coffee. "How was it?" No doubt she was eager.
"Mmmm…” Ji Hyo closes her eyes as she savours the coffee. “You're really improving!" She smiled from ear to ear. "But there's too much foam this time.” Ji Hyo whined as she reached out for a tissue to wipe away the foam stains on her upper lip.
“Let me...” With her right thumb, Hebe gently wiped it away. She gave out a smile as she wiped her hand cleaned.
Shocked by the sudden gesture, Ji Hyo bit her lower lip and letting down a shy smile, cheeks reddened. Ji Hyo could felt an intensifying electric shock down her back.
"Why? What’s so funny?" Once again Hebe reached out her hand and gently caresses Ji Hyo's red cheek with her thumb.
Ji Hyo gives out a shy smile again hearing Hebe’s response. She then brushed her long fringe back. “Nothing…It’s just...”
It was at that moment she realised she started to develop feelings for Hebe. She has been into relationship before, so she knew exactly how it feels to fall in love with someone. The adrenaline rush feeling.
"It was the coffee...I think." Ji Hyo lied. "Well, why I don't see any other student's this time?" She looked around the empty classroom. Usually there are four other students around, but today there are only two of them.
"Actually there was no class today because our teacher is sick…but I still came…with permission of course." Hebe smiled cheekily.
“Such a hardworking girl! I would have spent mine on sleeping!” Her words made both cracked into laughter.
"Because….” Hebe’s lips forming a pout. “I’m still far behind in the class so I thought I might want to practice more...." Her voice trailed away slowly.
“Awww….you’re improving! Don’t be too hard on yourself okay?” Ji Hyo said and pinched Hebe’s nose lightly. “You’re really good with aegyo, do you know that?” She laughs at Hebe who’s playing along. “Honestly when I first know you I wouldn’t have guess you will be someone with so much of aegyo.”
“I only do that to people I’m close with….People used to say that I’m an Ice Princess.” She lets out a laugh.
“That’s because they are not lucky enough to get to know you better!”
“So you think you’re the lucky one?”
Ji Hyo nodded confidently. “You’re a very special girl” She said suddenly as she glances at her. “I wonder who will be the lucky guy…” Her voice trailed off.
“Guy?” Hebe ponders. “Honestly….I have been thinking about this quite a few times…”
“About?” Ji Hyo questions, with her eyebrows coming together.
Hebe heaves a sigh and drops her head low. “It’s nothing...maybe I’ll tell you next time...”
“What’s bothering you?” Ji Hyo asked with concern.
Hebe raised her head and plops her head onto the table. “This is so frustrating….but I’m not ready to share yet.” She looks up with a pout at the concerned girl sitting right beside her.
“You sound so suspicious...” She shook her head at the self-contradicting girl. Then Ji Hyo remembered the stuff she just brought along. “Maybe this will cheer you up.”
Ji Hyo turned to her right and took a red paper bag. She then passed it to Hebe.
“I saw this thing online…and thought you’ll like it. So I bought it for you.”
“For me?” Hebe said in an excited tone. Her hands dived in and took out a cloth. With a flip of the hand, she unravels a plain apple green apron with a cute cartoon elephant in front of it.
Hebe’s face lights up almost immediately. She has always love elephants and green was her favourite colour.
“OMG! This is so cute!”
Ji Hyo’s smiles widely too seeing Hebe’s excited face. “I knew you’ll like it the moment I saw this on the net.”
“Thank you!” Hebe jumps a little and hugged Ji Hyo around her neck. “Next time I’ll wear these when I come here for classes.”
Ji Hyo was a little overwhelmed because it was the first time they are being so close that she could smell her hair scent. It was mixture of grapefruit, green almond and hints of lily flower scent. It was refreshing and utterly addictive. Ji Hyo never looked at Hebe the same way again.
She officially has a crush on her best friend.
“我…喜--欢--妳.” Hebe said clearly, in Mandarin with her beautiful Taiwanese accent.
Ji Hyo heard these words somewhere before. It must be from the Chinese drama that she used to watch when she was younger. She frowns as her brain tries to registers what Hebe is trying to say.
Hebe reached out her arms and cupped Ji Hyo’s face. The cold from the winter suddenly just disappears as she could only feel the warmth from Hebe’s hand. It was snowing lightly that night, and the duos were spending their Christmas eve night together, sipping on hot tea in the balcony enjoying the city view covered with snows.
Hebe’s brown eyes gaze warmly at Ji Hyo. She thought if she can hold the gaze long enough, Ji Hyo will see how sincere she meant.
“I like you.” Hebe repeats, this time in Korean.
Ji Hyo looks at her, shocked eyes studying her face.
“W-What?” It was the first thing that escaped her mouth from the sudden confession, on a Christmas Eve.
It’s not a joke, silly.
“I mean it, Song Ji Hyo.” Hebe mutters. “I like you. I like to be around you, talk to you, care for you and be there for you…”
Her gaze are still intense, never moved an inch away from Ji Hyo’s.
“I struggled within myself for a long time….before I came out with this conclusion…” She added as she looked down. “I have fallen in love with you.” She looked up again with a smile. Her final statement concludes all.
Ji Hyo expression hardens at the words from her.
She was too shock and her expressionless face says it clearly. She never sees this coming - Hebe confessing to her. It never crossed her mind at all. She thought it was only one sided, not the other way round.
Silence hangs over them, not an awkward one but just a still quiet. Muffled Christmas carols could be heard from the living room and decorative lights along the rail lights up the balcony that adds to the atmosphere. Ji Hyo wants to say something, but not sure what to say.
Hebe could feel her heart beating awfully loud as seconds past, ready to burst through her ribs.
“I…you know—I” Ji Hyo finally spoke. She raised her own hands to her face to hold Hebe’s. She then interlocked her fingers with hers. “I’ve been dreaming to hear this from you.”
Her reply made Hebe‘s nervous face break into a smile; smile of relief to hear the answer that she was expecting.
Ji Hyo leans forward in the creaking rattan armchair and hugs Hebe around her neck tightly.
“I love you too.”
[End of Flashback]
She jolted up in the dimly-lighted living room. In the lonely Christmas eve, she dreamt about their past again. The sky outside the window was dark and it was snowing strong that night. The corn tea she brewed hours ago has gone really cold, almost iced. Christmas movies from the plasma TV was still showing right in front of her.
It was the first Christmas without her.
They broke up after over 18 months of relationship after it was being found out by Hebe’s father. The pressure from her dad was so overwhelming that both had no choice but to go own separate ways. Hebe was she was forced back to Taiwan by her family.
The first few weeks were unbearable. She had to fight off the urges for a few occasions to call her because she knew that calling her may worsens Hebe’s situation in her family. But neither did she receive any calls or messages from her. Perhaps it was just something not meant to be, she wonders sometimes. However, it became a habit of Ji Hyo to write in the green diary whenever she thinks about her.
Ji Hyo drops her head and buries her head between her folded leg.
She thought work could make her forget about her. She thought she could do it, but every little detail in her life reminds her about Hebe. Reluctantly she grabbed the notebook for another entry.
Entry: #225 Time: 11.33 pm Date: 24/12/14
It’s Christmas Eve again…Two years ago it was once the best day of my life. How are you? Are you celebrating with your friends?
If I could ask you one question again, did I ever cross your mind like you did?