It must’ve been a while since she had gotten proper sleep because her body clung to the futon like soot in a pan. Her tendons seared and her bones pulsed. The last thing Taeyeon remembered was feeling lost and having the surroundings loom over her dauntingly. And then there was that icy burn from the ground that slowly crept across her face before spreading throughout her body. Anything afterwards was a blur.
Taeyeon blinked countlessly for a few seconds before turning to her side and groaning in pain. She grabbed the backside of her left arm, feeling the line of gauzes that had been stuck on, before looking around and recognizing nothing. She supported herself up with her right hand and sat up.
There was a black wooden table beside her, small enough to fit three people, and filled with scratches and chipped edges. Across the room to the left was an old closet with floral designs etched on its doors. Taeyeon saw a pair of fatigues tucked at the bottom and tattered uniforms hanging by the opening. Beside it sat a dresser with broken knobs and a missing drawer. There were a few pictures set atop it, but Taeyeon couldn’t see far enough to tell who was in it. Behind her was the sink and everything else that made up a small kitchen. Everything was in one room, cleaned and fixed to make it look like it wasn’t falling apart—but nothing much could have been done to prevent that.
The door slid open. Taeyeon reacted in time, laying down to a sprawl in time to hear a set of feet trudge across the mat. She closed her eyes, but jolt from moving too quickly and forcing upon her joints surged across her nerves. She winced in pain, curling her hands and biting down on her lips to stay silent.
“You’re awake!” The girl dropped the grocery bag she was holding and rushed towards Taeyeon. “Which part hurts?”
It was the same girl from yesterday. If the owner was telling the truth, this was her. She was Miyoung.
Taeyeon brushed her hand and shook her head. “It’s nothing. I’m okay.”
“You’re not okay—look at yourself.”
Swallowing, Taeyeon set her hands to the sides and breathed out heavily. “See? I’m fine.”
“Look, the last time I left you, you ended up collapsing. I was so scared when I found you.” Miyoung pulled the blanket up to Taeyeon’s chin. “I’m not leaving you again.”
Taeyeon groaned. Her forearms throbbed as well. She lifted one up to see a gash across the flesh—it was shallow, but it still stung. Slightly red although already clotted, Taeyeon was nagged by urge of the itch.
“You must’ve gotten them when you fell. I was waiting for it to dry, so I couldn’t cover it up yet,” explained Miyoung. She reached for the grocery bag and began to wrap it in a bandage. “So don’t move around, okay?”
Without a choice, Taeyeon nodded. She wanted to resist because lying there made her feel weak, and although her memory didn’t serve much, her body and her conscious seemed to agree with the disgust she had for herself. The guilt of helplessness, of dependency gutted her apart—slapped her ego, but she had no energy to fight it. And soon, she found herself drifting back to unconsciousness.
By the time she woke up, Taeyeon was unsure of how long had passed. Her senses felt dull and the ceiling above seemed endlessly distant. A damp cloth loomed over her and water slowly trickled down her temple. It pressed against her forehead and warmed her so. She turned her head to the side and found Miyoung with her arms extended forward.
“Better?” she asked in a soft tone that Taeyeon might not have heard had there been another sound in the room.
Taeyeon nodded. She tried speaking, but her throat was parched, and her mouth dry.
“Sssh. You don’t need to say anything.” Miyoung cupped Taeyeon’s cheeks. “Just rest.”
“W-Water,” Taeyeon whispered in a raspy voice, exerting all she had.
“Oh, r-right.” Miyoung scrambled to her feet and hurried to get a glass of water. “Sorry,” she said, handing the glass to Taeyeon.
Taeyeon did her best to grasp and lift the glass, but she couldn’t arch her head forward. It felt heavy and stiff. She shot a quick glance at Miyoung and then at the glass. “Ugh—”
It took seconds for Miyoung to realize and understand what it was Taeyeon wanted. “You can’t—?” She leaned forward and slowly helped Taeyeon sit up. “I’m so, so sorry. I forgot—I thought—I’m so sorry.”
Taeyeon brought the glass high enough to be able to sip, but even then, Miyoung kept going on.
“I hope you don’t think I’m a bad person. I mean it. If you need help—any kind of help—just feel free to—”
She couldn’t take it any longer. If she had an annoying list, this girl was at the top right then and there. Taeyeon choked on the water. Portions of it splashed out of the glass and drenched her clothes.
Calm down, Taeyeon. She only wants to help, she thought.
With water dripping down her face, Taeyeon turned to Miyoung, forced a closed smile and wiped the mess with her sleeves.
“I’m so—I’ll—” She sighed. “I’ll get you a towel and a dry sweater.”
“So, what were you doing out there—Taeyeon? Am I right?” Miyoung straightened Taeyeon’s sweater and hung it by the window.
Taeyeon pulled lightly on the collar of the sweater Miyoung had lent her. It was a bit tight and it must have been patched up numerous times. “You’re not sure?”
Miyoung paused, tilting her head to the right before pointing at Taeyeon’s bag with her ID on top of it. “Well, that’s what it said on your ID.”
Taeyeon nodded, making sure to hide the suspicion from her face. It was possible that Miyoung was lying. “Yeah. So you’re not sure if that’s me?”
“What do you mean—I don’t understand.”
“You don’t know me? Kim Taeyeon?” Taeyeon asked, doing her best to sound comical.
“How could I? This is the first time I’ve met you,” Miyoung said. She walked to the table in the middle and started scooping rice from a bowl. “Do you want me to make you some porridge?”
“No—it’s okay. Thank you.”
“You seem bothered,” Miyoung scooted closer to Taeyeon and checked her bruises. “Is something wrong?”
Taeyeon shook her head and forced a grin. “No.”
“Well, I know your name now,” said Miyoung. She mustn’t have noticed my reluctance because she smiled as well. Unlike mine, hers had her showing her gum and the full of her white teeth. The ends of her mouth reached up, and the crests of her eyes hid her pupils. “So you should know mine. I’m Hwang Miyoung.”
“Hwang Miyoung,” Taeyeon repeated to herself.
“So what were you doing outside in that weather?”
Taeyeon glanced around the room, avoiding Miyoung’s eyes and thinking of an answer Taeyeon hoped would satisfy her. “Just walking around.”
“Ah—“ Miyoung snapped her fingers and rushed to her dresser. She took out a pad of paper and said, “Do you have any relatives? I need to tell them you’re safe and that you’re staying here.”
But Taeyeon wasn’t about to give up. It didn’t seem like this girl was suspecting her, and it wasn’t like she had any other choice. Miyoung was her only lead to her identity—to her memories, and if she really didn’t know Taeyeon, then she had nothing. “Are you sure you don’t know me?” she asked, trying one last time to pry out whatever she could.
Confused, Miyoung leaned forward and gawked blindly at Taeyeon. “Am—Am I supposed to? Is that why you were walking around yesterday?”
Taeyeon closed her eyes and sighed. “Nevermind. I’m still just a bit dizzy.”
“Yeah, I’m sorry. You should go rest some mo—” The house phone rung, which prompted Miyoung to turn and answer it. “Yes, boss?”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t think I can make it today. I’ll just work on Sunday. Yeah. Thank you, boss.”
“Did something come up?” Taeyeon turned to Miyoung, who was facing the floor, frowning.
Miyoung flashed her smile once again and brushed the air with her hand. “It’s nothing. You don’t have to worry about it.”
“If you need to go, it’s fine. I can lie down by myself. It’s not that hard.” Taeyeon chuckled.
Finally, Miyoung relented. She set the phone down and grabbed her bag. “It’ll be fast. I’ll come home right after and if you need anything, it’s all on the table. I left food in the oven and—”
Taeyeon shot a glare at Miyoung. She understood that she meant well, but the girl seriously needed to relax.
“Okay. I’ll see you later.”
The sound of the door closing resounded across the room. Taeyeon stood up, glanced out the window, and watched as Miyoung ran along the street and out of her vision. It was already night. The lamps had been switched on and the neighborhood was empty. It was quiet, and somehow, Taeyeon preferred it that way.
She scanned the room and realized that her feet didn’t feel as heavy, that her shoulders didn’t ache anymore and that the stinging sensation that nagged her was reduced to an occasional jolt whenever she put too much pressure on her left leg.
Her stomach grumbled. She made her way to the oven, which Miyoung pointed to and stared at it for a good while. Taeyeon didn’t know how to use it—so she stepped back and thought about what buttons meant before deciding to just go with her gut and inputting the time on the key pad. She waited for a few seconds before it lit up and whirred to life. Relieved, Taeyeon sighed and roamed the room as the food finished heating up.
The idea that Miyoung knew absolutely nothing about her still didn’t sit well with Taeyeon. She went around the room, skimming through papers and opening containers. But there wasn’t much to look at. The room was bare and simple. She was about to give up when she noticed the edge of what seemed like a box poking out from above the closet.
She tried jumping, but it was too high for her to reach. Without much of a choice, she ended up dragging the table beside the closet and using it as a lift. It was just enough to allow her fingers to grasp the rim of the box. She tiptoed so she could get a better grip.
The oven dinged as she grasped the box. It surprised her, causing her to lose her balance and stumble towards the floor. The contents flew all over, with some landing on top of Taeyeon. She exhaled, brushing her hair to the side and picking up the contents that fell on her.
She sat up and stared at the letter in her hand. It looked just like the one she pulled out of her bag when she came to. She turned to her side and found more. It was the same all around her. They were all letters to Miyoung—and if Taeyeon thought right, there was no way she wouldn’t be mentioned again at least once among them.