Unspoken Words – Part 2

April 3, 2013 in rahmyun, Unspoken Words by rahmyun

Her classmate’s hurried scrambling woke her out of her daze, and Taeyeon mentally pinched herself as she zipped her pens and pencils away. Her wandering attention during class certainly wasn’t helping her grade, although it had been mostly presentations so she hadn’t missed that much this time. Besides, after her own presentation, an A- seemed far more reachable than it had a few weeks ago. With that thought, she made a quick glance around the room.

Hmm, looks like she left already… Looks like even Miss Perfect gets hungry.

“Taeyeon-ah!”

…or not.

In a practiced motion, she leisurely finished her scan of her surroundings to find Tiffany standing on the other side of the desk, face lit up by a grin.

“Good job today!” chirped the girl, hand raised with her palm facing out.

Confused, Taeyeon mirrored Tiffany’s pose and was surprised when she slapped their hands together in a loud smack.

Oh right, the American high-five, Taeyeon belatedly remembered. Her hand dropped to the table, and she let her lips tilt into a smile with her reply. “Ah, thank you. It’s all because of your help, though, Tiffany-ssi.”

Tiffany’s grin remained bright as she shook her head. “No matter how good or bad the teacher is, the student’s achievements are still her own.”

It was sadly easy for Taeyeon to keep her eyebrows from disappearing into her hair. Surprise, surprise; the perky girl is smarter than she looks.

“Or his own,” she added to Tiffany’s statement. Turning away, she slid her books and notebooks into her school bag, remarking, “Nonetheless, it’s mostly due to your efforts that this project went as well as it did, so thank you.”

“You’re welcome, but it was nothing, really. I mean, it’s the least I can do for one of my classmates,” the grinning girl chirped again, and Taeyeon inwardly sighed. Her words were designed as a polite cue for dismissal, but Tiffany clearly had other plans.

Let’s see here, what’s the quickest way to put myself out of my misery… Standing, she swung her bag onto her shoulder.

“Aren’t your friends waiting for you? It’s lunchtime, after all,” Taeyeon asked, not caring if she was being borderline rude. Bluntness was a weapon she seldom used, but for whatever reason, she didn’t feel like sheathing it today.

To Tiffany’s credit, though, she either refused to be offended or did a very good job of hiding it. With a shrug, she adjusted her own bag’s weight on her shoulder. “I see them every day. They can wait a little.”

Taeyeon’s control slipped, eyebrows lifting before she could even attempt to keep her face expressionless. They can wait, hmm? What’s so pressing that you have to pin me after class and make your friends wait? Ball’s still in your court, Hwang. Without a word, she stepped around her desk and moved towards the door, surprised a little at the ease with which Tiffany fell in step with her. Whenever she made abrupt movements in the middle of a conversation, her classmates were often left stumbling over their feet—figuratively or literally.

As they made their way down the hallway, Tiffany finally broke the silence. “So, Taeyeon-ah, where do you normally eat lunch? I never see you around in the cafeteria or in the quad.”

Small talk? Really? Then again, I suppose that’s the more polite way to go about things. Keeping her gaze on the path before her, Taeyeon answered, “Here and there. Wherever. The cafeteria and quad just seem like such conventional places to eat, don’t you think?”

The words slipped out before she had barely thought them in her mind, and she mentally pinched herself again. Tone it down, Tae! she berated herself. What are you going to gain from her thinking you’re a—

“Oh, so you like to challenge convention!” Tiffany exclaimed, interrupting Taeyeon’s self-admonishment. “I agree; blindly following what society dictates is just so boring and confining. So, Taeyeon-ah, feel like challenging convention today?”

A quirk of her eyebrow completed Taeyeon’s expression of disbelief. “What exactly do you have in mind, skipping classes for the rest of the day?” she questioned, failing to keep the patronizing tone out of her voice.

Tiffany smiled as she shook her head at Taeyeon. “No, nothing that drastic, unfortunately. Just eat lunch with me and my friends.”

“And why would you want me to do that?”

If it wouldn’t have made her look insane, Taeyeon would’ve slapped herself right then and there. Stop word vomiting! You have a perfectly functional brain that can filter what you say, so use it!

“I mean, I know I’ve eaten with you before,” she quickly amended, a blush of embarrassment spreading across her cheeks. “And you were kind to invite me to lunch then, but why invite me now?”

Somehow, her question drew a wry chuckle out of the other girl. “Oh, I’ve heard the rumors, Taeyeon-ah. You’re the daughter of a mafia boss, a CEO’s prodigal heir, a fugitive hiding from foreign authorities. And we unsuspecting girls are endeavoring to pull you into our circle, make you into one of us; a fact you’re supposed to be incredibly thankful for.”

They turned a corner, and Taeyeon realized they were only a few hallways away from the main quad. Someone was going to see them soon, and if they weren’t careful, that person might even overhear their conversation.

Tiffany, however, remained nonchalant as she remarked, “There’s a grain of truth in every rumor, but I think in some of these, you’d have to look much too hard to find it. So why not let the people have their fun, and let them believe their rumors a little longer?”

It took her a second to realize Taeyeon had stopped walking. “Is that what this is?” hissed the shorter girl. “The being nice to others, the exclusive circle; it’s all just a game to you? A way of entertaining your fans?”

She couldn’t help but admire how Tiffany’s red hair gleamed in the light as the other girl shook her head. “No, no, no. We’re genuinely nice people. Really. Our quiet rebellion against the norm just happens to entertain the rest of our student body.”

Moving closer, Tiffany laid a hand on Taeyeon’s arm, and her voice grew softer. “But forget about the rumors. Why live by other’s expectations? Why can’t we just live the life we want to live? Come eat with us. You’ll see that we don’t need façades; our dear classmates take care of that for us.”

Without looking back, Tiffany swept away, pausing at the top of the quad steps as Taeyeon hastily joined her.

______________________

One of the good things about walking with Tiffany Hwang was that you barely had to push your way through the crowd. It was as if an invisible bubble surrounded her, and unless you were allowed into that space, you had to avoid intruding upon it at all costs.

As ridiculous as it was, though, Taeyeon had to admit that it made walking much more efficient. Where it would have taken Taeyeon ten minutes to get through the quad’s organized chaos, it took the two of them only a few minutes.

“Unnie!”

Both of their heads swiveled at the cry, and Taeyeon spotted a tall doll-like girl waving at them.

Tiffany waved back at Yoona, veering off from her original path to head towards the table dubbed “the goddesses’ realm” by their fellow students.

A little self-conscious with five pairs of eyes watching her, Taeyeon dutifully followed.

“Good, you’re here,” Hyoyeon commented before pointing her chopsticks at the girl beside her. “It’s your turn to appease the shikshin’s stomach before it decides to eat us all.”

Laughing, Tiffany reached into her bag and placed something wrapped in foil in front of Sooyoung. “Here you go. An American submarine sandwich, just as I promised. And don’t worry, I didn’t make it.”

The girl who had just been eyeing Hyoyeon’s noodles already had the sandwich unwrapped by the time Tiffany finished speaking. “Good, because the last time you made my lunch, I had to skip a day’s worth of meals due to the stomachache,” Sooyoung retorted before biting into her meal.

From across the table, Jessica shook her head, muttering something about manners—if Taeyeon heard correctly—and tapped the girl sitting next to her. “Yuri-ah, be a dear and scoot over, will you?” Together, the pair slid down the bench, and Jessica caught Taeyeon’s eye as she patted the now vacant spot. “Kim Taeyeon, right? Have a seat.”

She warily settled herself as directed, finding herself facing Yoona. Glancing down at the other end of the table, she saw that Yuri had struck up a conversation with Hyoyeon and Tiffany. Clearly, it didn’t matter what combination you put these girls in; that was how close they were with one another.

“So Taeyeon-unnie,” began Yoona, drawing her attention back to her side of the group.

“Yoona…” Jessica warned, giving the younger girl a look.

“Yes, Sica-unnie,” she sighed, rolling her eyes. “Taeyeon-ssi, do you mind if I call you unnie?” she asked politely.

The strange exchange confused Taeyeon, but it would take more than that to distract her from answering in a timely manner.

Shrugging, she replied, “Unnie’s fine, but you can really just call me whatever you want.”

Around a mouthful of bread, lettuce, tomatoes, and some meat Taeyeon couldn’t identify at the moment, Sooyoung jumped into the conversation. “How about Taeng? Can we call you Taeng?”

Jessica glared at her, flicking a runaway breadcrumb back at the girl who had managed to swallow and take another bite in the span of a breath. “Don’t talk with your mouth full, you shikshin. The food’s not going anywhere but your stomach, so you can spare the time to make sure your mouth is empty before speaking.”

Even Taeyeon had to crack a smile at that. Despite her lanky figure, Sooyoung obviously deserved her nickname of shikshin, especially with the rate her food was disappearing.

“Taeng’s fine too,” she answered, saving Jessica from a food-laden retort. “Not all that original, though.” Reaching into her bag to pull out her lunch, she missed Sooyoung’s mischievous smile and instead heard her say, “Oh, we’ll think of something…”

“So unnie,” Yoona interrupted, continuing where she had left off. “Where are you from?”

“Jeonju.” Putting her spoon in her mouth so that it wouldn’t get dirty, Taeyeon opened her lunchbox to reveal her homemade kimchi fried rice.

“Ooo, the countryside! Why did you come to Seoul then?”

She pulled the spoon out and dug it into her lunch. “My father’s job transferred him here, so my whole family moved.” Taking a bite, she smiled to herself. Perfectly made, as always. There was a reason why kimchi fried rice was her specialty.

“Ohhh, that makes sense. Do you have any brothers or sisters?”

Spoon halfway to her mouth, Taeyeon paused, considering how to answer. Eh, might as well make it simple. “One younger sister and one older brother.”

“Okay, enough with the interrogation,” Jessica cut in, giving Taeyeon a sideways glance. She turned away, calling across the table, “Fany-ah, you should probably make the announcement soon. People are getting antsy.”

Taeyeon did a subtle survey of her surroundings, confirming Jessica’s observation. Students who had been chatting and eating their lunches were now milling around, casting furtive glances towards them.

Right, Valentine’s Day. Well, whoever the poor sucker is, I wish him luck, she thought to herself as Yuri stood to let Tiffany climb onto the bench.

“May I have your attention please,” she said, raising her already loud voice.

The crowd immediately quieted; this was the moment they had been waiting for all day.

Tiffany paused as everyone waited, and it seemed like she was trying to decide how much longer she should drag this out.

“Jalen Kim,” she stated in fluent English.

Frowning, Taeyeon tilted her head, searching her memories for that name. Jalen… Why does that name sound familiar?

The bewildered students around them tittered, and Tiffany scanned their faces as if searching for the person herself. Her gaze briefly rested on Taeyeon before continuing, “I don’t know who you are, but I know you’re a student at this school. And you’re the one I pick. Enjoy the rest of your day, everyone.”

Climbing down, she sank into Yuri’s seat to cradle her head in her hands, and Jessica placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.

“…excuse me for being out of the loop, but who’s Jalen?” As much as she racked her brains, Taeyeon could not remember where she had heard that name. What made her even more curious to know this guy’s identity was the fact that there were very few foreign students at their school, and none of them went by Jalen.

Several looks were exchanged across the table, and finally, it was Yuri who answered. “Jalen Kim is a writer who posts stories on his online blog.”

A vague idea was forming in the back of Taeyeon’s head, and she resisted the impulse to bite her lip as she asked, “And why does Tiffany think he goes to this school?”

“Because he writes about us,” came the quiet reply. Tiffany glanced at Taeyeon, a plea in her eyes. “You wouldn’t happen to know who he is, would you? You may be the mysterious transfer student, but I bet you don’t miss a single thing that happens around you.”

Shaking her head, Taeyeon got to her feet, shoving her hastily repacked lunch into her bag and slinging it over a shoulder. “I’m sorry, but I don’t. And if you’ll excuse me, I just remembered I have something urgent to take care of.

With careful steps, she made her way out of the quad, only breaking into a run when she was absolutely certain she was alone.

What does Tiffany want with Jalen Kim?