Taeyeon’s mind felt inexplicably fuzzy. She dug deep within her consciousness to try and answer the lingering questions, but all she managed to pull out were fragments of doubt. To top it off, her joints ached her muscles throbbed. It was as if she had just jumped down from a building—an idea her memory believed otherwise.
“A-Are you okay?” the woman asked, her voice loud and shaky. She was looking down at Taeyeon with eyes that glistened bright.
Taeyeon reached for her forehead and groaned. “Yeah—I just need this clear up.”
“Should I call for help?”
“I’m fine,” Taeyeon reassured her. “Really.”
“C-Can I put you d-down for a second then?”
“Huh?” Taeyeon’s eyelids shot open. She glanced around and realized that the woman had been holding her up all the while. Flustered, Taeyeon jerked up, putting her hands at her sides and curling them in embarrassment. “Oh—I’m sorry about that.”
“But are you sure you’re okay?” The woman placed the ends of her fingers by her lips and bit down. “I was surprised that someone came stumbling out from the alley. I wasn’t sure what to do.”
It seemed like the woman didn’t know her—she didn’t speak with a familiarity that would have helped Taeyeon. If something did happen, then it was her problem.
“Thanks for helping me.” Taeyeon bowed. Her gut welled, urging her to remember the instance as if it held importance to her memories. “I won’t forget this.”
A wry smile creeped across Taeyeon’s face. Coming from her, that didn’t actually mean much.
“Well, if you’re really okay, I’ll be going now.” The woman smiled and picked up her basket. Her eyes arched into crescent half-moons and her cheekbones rose high enough to reveal her pink gums.
By then, Taeyeon was sure she didn’t know the girl. A smile like that was too lovely, too beautiful to not be recognized. Her mind might as well have played fool.
“Please be careful,” the girl advised, turning back one last time. “It’s going to snow soon.”
Taeyeon nodded and they went their separate ways, with one going north and the other heading south. It took Taeyeon a couple of minutes to notice she was still smiling.
That was done, and now she had more pressing concerns. She did her best to stay calm, hoping that something would turn up and trigger her memories. But there was none—not even the strange watch on her wrist. Taeyeon tried pressing on the buttons, but nothing happened.
After checking her pockets, rustling through her clothing, and searching her bag, Taeyeon found three things: a letter addressed to a certain Hwang Miyoung, a pack of mint, and what seemed to be a company pass card belonging to Taeyeon.
Taeyeon sighed. “My name—it must be Taeyeon.”
She had settled on one thing, but she still had no idea where she lived, whom she worked for, what had happened or why it did. But at least, she had a lead. If she was going to get her answers, then she needed to find Hwang Miyoung.
Taeyeon decided to ask a boy she had chanced upon while circling the neighborhood. He seemed awfully friendly as he played with his cat, so she figured he had to know something.
“Hey, kid,” she said, gesturing for him to come closer.
“Who? Me?” the boy glanced around and pointed to himself.
“Yeah. What’s your name?”
“Well then, Ji Seob.” Taeyeon bent down and held him by the shoulders. “Can you help me?”
Ji Seob crossed his arms and raised his chin. “Depends. Mom said not to talk to strangers.”
“I’m not a stranger. I have a pack of mint, see.” Taeyeon held out the pack and smiled squarely at the boy. “I just need you to tell me one thing.”
“But I don’t want mint.”
Taeyeon bit her lip. “Fine. What do you want?”
“I want ice cream. The one they sell by the corner.”
“Okay, I’ll get you your ice cream, so wait here.”
Without a choice, Taeyeon set off with her hands in her pocket. It wasn’t until a while later that she realized she didn’t have a single cent. She breathed out heavily, watching as her breath coiled in the air before dissipating.
“Good evening, ahjussi,” Taeyeon said when she finally got to the ice cream shop. “May I ask a question?”
The owner appeared from behind the kitchen door, donning an apron and a warm smile.
“Good evening to you too.” He chuckled. “I haven’t seen you around here before. Visiting someone?”
“You could say that. But I’m having trouble finding her house.”
“Oh? Who might you be looking for?”
“Miyoung. Hwang Miyoung. Do you know her?”
Blithe laughter filled the air as the owner squinted. “Know her? This whole neighborhood loves dear Miyoung.”
A soothing sense of relief swathed over Taeyeon, embracing her worries with hope. “C-Could you please tell me where she lives?”
“She lives in an apartment on the street to the left. It’s the one with a red carpet by the front gates.”
Taeyeon bowed and flashed a smile. “Thank you, ahjussi. I’ll be sure to come back and buy ice cream when I’ve got money.”
Snow was already falling by the time Taeyeon got back outside. She rubbed against her jacket and cupped her mouth to preserve the little heat her body had. Taeyeon tightened her scarf, letting the silk wrap around her bare skin.
Taeyeon made her way to the place the owner mentioned. After a few steps, she looked left and right—it was the same street she first found herself in. The same one she awoke to.
She trudged along dragging her feet, with the snow trickling from above and the cold breeze sweeping from behind. The apartment still wasn’t in sight, but she was losing it bit by bit. She couldn’t remember when she last had a hot meal or even a glass of water. Her eyes felt heavy. She palpitated. It felt like every artery and vein pulsated and throbbed with each step—each breath. Eventually, her knees buckled. She collapsed on the icy ground, her arms outstretched.
The last things she saw before her senses completely waned were the clear black sky and the infinitely many stars. It looked familiar, the blanket of darkness.
In its vast expanse, it only meant the start of a new beginning—and a wave of boundless possibilities.