Last chapter: Yul and Jessica enjoyed an afternoon at the park and in his place of employment where he taught her some self-defense basics.
Jessica hears her buddies return from work as soon as they enter the building.
“Soonkyu’s got a girlfriend! Soonkyu’s got a girlfriend!” a strident voice crows.
Low grumbles answer it.
The blonde bounces to the door with a big smile and opens it before Sunny can even pull out her keys. “Wow!” she exclaims. “Nice flowers, Bunny!”
Blushing half in pleasure, half in embarrassment, the smallest woman smiles back before pressing a kiss to her roommate’s cheek. “Thank you, Love.”
“Here!” Jessica takes the dozen roses surrounded in baby’s breath from Sunny to put them in a vase. “And hi Soo!” she calls over the curly-brunette who has one hand on the wall and the other with two fingers down the back of her shoe to get it off.
An even prouder smile dazzles her. “Hey Little Buddy! How was your day?”
The three women chat until Sooyoung and Sunny rejoin the eldest in the kitchen. Gasping sharply, Sunny backs into her taller friend instinctively.
“What’s wrong?” her friends ask her.
A grin too tight to be true answers them as the bunny approaches the kitten with a mix of confidence and fear. “...S-SicaChu, hand,” she says as if telling a dog to lift its paw.
Confusion has the blonde setting the vase down and reaching for her roommate’s shaking hands until she too gasps. “O-oh! I’m sorry!”
“No problem!” the younger woman says too brightly as she snatches the sharp ring from the thinner woman and jams it into her own back pocket. “Yul told me about it during lunch time— and I think it’s a great idea— but I’ll ...just hold onto it while we’re inside, okay? He was su-”
Jessica nods. “Okay. ...He and I worked out a lot today,” she mutters to her feet. “I’m going to go lay down.”
“SicaChu,” Sunny murmurs in regret. “I....”
“I understand. Congratulations on the flowers and Hyomin, Bunny.”
“I’m just tired, Soo.”
“Too tired for a hug? No hug for your ever-loving Soo, who’s been dying to see you again all day?”
That and a pitiful pout that Jessica doesn’t need to see to know exists has her sighing deeply and rolling out of bed to unlock and open her door.
“Did you know what happened to her, Soo? Why she dropped out of college?” Jessica gives voice to the thing that has been weighing heavily in silence for days.
Sooyoung takes a moment to respond. “Yes. But-”
“You know, that day in the hospital? She said that she broke my trust in her, but it’s clearly the other way around. I finally getting why Tyler drank all the time... Maybe I should st-”
“Oh, Sweetheart, you’re nothing like him! Y-”
“You’re not supposed to lie, Soo! I’m not allowed to!”
The much taller woman chooses not to argue or reiterate her assertion that Jessica can speak freely, as she’s always been able to do. “Soonkyu is truly an incredible person,” she says instead, seemingly out of the blue.
“I know that,” her friend answers crossly. “Do I ever know that! God...”
“So many people have unending reasons to feel indebted to her, some they don’t even know.” Sooyoung woman bites her lip. “Did you know know that she took that beating in Taeyeonie’s place?”
“No!” Big eyes go huge while the tanned woman grins internally at yet again derailing negative emotions in favor or surprise and curiosity. “How?”
“I found out by chance. Soonkyu had just disappeared, didn’t respond to email or texts. I thought she’d had a death in the family or something until I overheard her attackers bragging about what they’d done a week later. Called campus security to pick them up right away. She doesn’t know that I did that, or that I know the real reason why- I still wonder whether or not Taeyeonie knows. Perhaps that’s part of why Tiffany helped her so much.”
Sooyoung shakes her head. “Fany-ah’s naturally flirty and overly friendly, no? Those men wanted her and thought she was into them but that Taeyeonie was turning her gay, so... Our two itty-bitties are the same size, and it was winter so everyone had their hoods up. Plus, people here often think Asians all look alike anyway, right? Soonkyu never told them who she was... You sort of did the same thing for your sister!” she cries after the woman storming away from her.
“Soonkyu!” Jessica finds her bunny curled up in her own bed and climbs in beside the brunette to cuddle the life out of her. “Why do you always do this?” She has half a mind to shake her friend but can only cling to her. “We don’t deserve you. We don’t deserve you! We-”
Sunny’s wide eyes instantly narrow at her roommate’s lament. “Youngie, what did you-”
“I softened up our pretty kitty for you!” Sooyoung answers too quickly and cheerfully. “You’re welcome!”
Before Sunny can chide the youngest woman, Jessica bursts into tears. “I’m so sorry, Bunny! I’m sorry! I can never make it up to you!” She sobs into her friend’s chest. “Can you ever forgive me?” Her fingers press barely perceptibly over plush lips. “I want you to and I don’t. I don’t deserve- could never-”
“SicaChu, it wasn’t your fault.” Gentle but firm hands smooth blond hair. “I don’t blame you in the slightest. I know that you would never-”
“But I did! I really did! I remember everything now! ...I-I know how life-draining it is to be ...assaulted, but S-Soonkyu, you have no idea... To be the monster too...” Agitated, futile gestures of hands clap over streaming eyes.
“Honey, that wasn’t your fault!” two people reiterate for the innumberable time.
“No?” Jessica cries. “Then who’s was it? It sure as Hell wasn’t yours, Bunny! Nor Tyler’s! He hasn’t been a part of my life for years! The only person-”
“It was him, SicaChu! You- Please let me speak. You are my sweet little mouse who would never hurt a fly. I’ve always known that. The whole time ...that night, I knew it wasn’t you. I knew it was something that was hurting you; that’s why I wanted so badly to fight it and win. That- ssh, that I fought it alone was my mistake. I know my own limitations but ignored them. I let myself get overwhelmed, and that is what set off my panic attack. It wasn’t your fault, SicaChu! You had no idea what I’d been through, and through everything, you never meant to hurt me. You just wanted to protect yourself. The atta- Our altercations weren’t malicious in the slightest...”
Jessica shakes her head. “You didn’t know what I had been through! I just went psycho on you without warning and for no reason as far as you knew! I- I...”
“You are both silly little kids who should’ve- Yah!” Sooyoung frowns at nearly being double-kicked. “Can’t you both just realize that bad things happened to you but that they don’t make you bad people?”
Neither older woman answers.
“’Cuz really, I gotta tell you: You keep talking about my little loves like this, and we’re going to have some serious problems. I won’t stand for this!” The youngest woman crosses her arms and tries to glare at her friends.
The roommates lay her out flat, one jumping on her in an embrace and dragging her down while the other whacks her over the head with a pillow to ensure her tumble.
“Lay down then!” the curly-haired woman insists. Fluffing her pillow and then thumping it onto Sooyoung’s chest, she rests her own head on it.
Jessica hugs the much taller woman around the hips and snuggles her own cheek into the concave abdomen under it. “I don’t deserve you either,” she says a long while later.
“Yah!” A big hand ruffles the hair on the crown of her head less than gently. “What’d I say about talking about my kitten like that?”
The blonde promptly bites Sooyoung’s pinky and ring finger, growling.
The trio laughs.
Several minutes pass by in silence.
“Soo? Remember when you told me that it might’ve been better if Tyler had-”
“Yes!” the tanned woman interrupts for fear of death by bunny. “Wh-what of it?”
“Did you ever think that it’s good that I ...pushed you guys down and stuff?”
Sunny moves to shove Jessica’s shoulder, but Sooyoung catches her wrist and holds it back.
“What do you mean, Kitten?”
“Well... It was kind of a display of trust, r-right?”
The younger women have an eyebrow-wiggling conversation.
“No, really; think about it! I must have known, somehow, that you’d let me pass and wouldn’t hurt me for pushing you, ’cuz I wouldn’t have dared try that with Tyler. He’d punish me if I so much as looked at him funny; a-and I knew that. E-even when he was too, um, too busy ripping my clothes off to hold me down, I-I only fought him that last time, when I knew that I’d be dead when he was done. Y-you know what I mean?
“I came right to you when I thought were Tyler and about to smack me around, remember, Soo? He used to shout, ‘Don’t you run away from me!’ T-taught me to never to do that, violently so. ...I was really scared all those other times with you guys, obviously, but not necessarily of you guys, I don’t think. I didn’t recognize you at face-level, but I sort of knew who you were. I hid to try and pull myself together, not only because I thought you’d hurt me... I think; maybe.”
“I like that answer! Let’s go with that even if it’s wrong!” Sooyoung half-cheers.
“Yeah!” Sunny agrees. “...And here.” Retrieving it from her pocket, she puts the ring that Yul gave to Jessica back onto its owner’s third finger.
The blonde gapes. “A-are-”
“Yes, I am.”
“Creepy mind reader.”
“I’m so proud of my teeny-tinies!” Sooyoung cuddles Sunny and Jessica as she beams.
Tearful giggles fill the room.