“merry (early) christmas, jinri. i miss you.”
it’s only a blinking message on the screen of her phone, but jinri can feel her heart sink almost as if he’s there, right next to her, playing with her hair like always, and then awkwardly pulling her into his arms before whispering sweet nothings into her ear. somewhere in her heart, jinri feels like he restrained himself from typing down his usual i love you (it’s still there though – embedded deep beneath the brief words in his message).
taemin was never jinri’s first choice. there were always others who appealed to her standards more, just that jinri was always too engrossed in her life – in her upcoming life – that she could never get a handle on her feelings. and even though jinri had been in the business long enough (longer than taemin at least and all the other boys she had ever stared at lovingly), as time progressed, she didn’t. and then suddenly, as quickly as it had first materialized in her, that feeling of superiority she had had every time more fresh talent would walk through the building doors (nervous-eyed, shaky, and lost, just like she was on her first day) would slowly start to dissipate.
the only difference between taemin and all the other boys she liked was that taemin mirrored her feelings of being behind. she always thought he was selfish to think so, because he was lee taemin after all, he could dance better than she could, his singing was leveling hers, and over the years she realized that he was better in the business than she ever was. and then he took the only thing left close to her heart. taemin got an acting call without even auditioning, and it irked jinri – irritated her to no extent – that his life was being spoon-fed to him while she was just in the shadows of everyone else.
but then taemin didn’t like watching jinri fall and cry and break under all the pressure. taemin was the only one who, despite being so far ahead of her, looked back, walked backwards, picked her up, brushed her off and pulled her along with him. he was the only one who captured her on an emotional level, seeing past the bubbly façade into the soul of a girl who just needed some acknowledgement, some love.
jinri doesn’t actually recall how it all started with him (the memories are too faded and fuzzy and blocked by her conscience); there’s a few touches here and there, a soft peck, a blush, a smile, a deeper kiss and then their clothes slipping to the floor and making an untidy heap that she cleans the next morning. somewhere in the muddle of thoughts, there’s a vase crashing to the floor, a fit of anger, some tears (but mostly none because they’ve both learned to control their emotions so well), and in the midst of all the chaos, there’s jinri’s heart, frail and frantic, lost and at a loss, cracking and shattering under the weight of her feelings.
“i don’t know if this will work out.” she remembers the words because they had tumbled out of her mouth, abruptly and out of the blue. his silence thereafter spoke volumes, but jinri knew that in her heart (and somewhere deep down in his too), there was a shadow of doubt that maybe – just maybe – whatever perfect fairytale they were living wasn’t going to reach its happily ever after. jinri rehearsed the breakup for weeks, and yet when the time came to actually tell him, she wasn’t prepared for his reaction. he didn’t ask why, just stared at her momentarily before nodding and telling her it was okay – i understand jinri, i respect your decision – and again he managed to irritate her in ways no one else could.
guilt is what jinri lived with throughout the next year. she distracted herself with promotions and schedules, long hours of filming for her drama, and everything else that could sway her mind from him. but he was always there, an encouraging voice echoing in the back of her head as she performed, a reminder whenever she had to retake her kisses with minho, a vivid silhouette when she watched him from the sidelines, dancing onstage at concerts as if nothing had changed, as if he was still hers, and she was still his.
jinri stares at his message, still lighting up the screen of her cellphone, and slowly she starts typing back to him. “merry (early) christmas, taemin-ah. i miss you too.”
there’s a part of her that wants to call him, hear him answer, and just tell him that she’s sorry for everything, for putting her career ahead of him when he used to put her ahead of his career. she wants to say sorry for pushing him away when they had everything, when everything was almost perfect (not exactly perfect but getting there). but then she remembers why they went their separate ways, why she let go of what they had, why she broke up with him.
“why’d you… y’know…” jongin’s voice is distant and dry. jinri feels sick as she feels his stare burrowing holes into her.
“i… taemin and i… we weren’t right.” the words are hushed, judged and weighed before spoken.
“but he loved you.” his words send shivers down her spine and she shakes her head. “jinri, he gave you friendship when you needed it most, and love when you needed it even more. i really don’t think that your excuse is substantial enough for-”
“just fuck off, jongin,” she mutters, pulling her legs close to her chest. “i don’t need you to tell me what i’m doing right and what i’m doing wrong.”
“jinri, i’m trying to help-”
“jongin, i don’t know how to explain it to you, but we just fell out of love okay? i loved him, he loved me, but we fell out of love. there was nothing left. i’m sure if you ask him-”
“i’ve asked him, jinri.” jongin shakes his head a little before getting up and heading towards the door. “he gave me the same answer.”
somewhere, deep in jongin’s words, there’s a shrivel of advice, some counsel she’s needed for a while. and with everything from her past in mind, jinri quietly erases the “i miss you too” from her text and presses send.
when they ask jinri for her new year’s resolutions she smiles and says she wants to find a boyfriend and also learn how to drive. there’s hope in her voice, and a longing to move forward. somewhere around the same time, taemin answers that love reminds him of regret. his eyes echo the sad truth that he wants to go back to how it was.
taemin walks against the wind, struggling to dwell in the past. jinri walks along with the wind, wafting towards a new future. and for the first time, jinri is finally the one in the forefront, and despite being so far ahead of him, she glances rearward at taemin, takes a few steps back, picks him up, brushes him off and pulls him along with her. jinri thinks – knows – taemin deserves a friend to help him back to his feet just like he helped her find her way when she was lost.
and for once in a very long time, jinri is whole and happy.
(spring rolls around and jinri gets her driver’s license and taemin is the first person to congratulate her. he smiles when she tells him she’s halfway done accomplishing her goals for the new year.)
a/n : idek where this came from, i wanted to write a fluffy xmas present with taelli under a mistletoe or something but then i saw sulli's new year goals and taemin's thoughts on love and man this just came to mind. the reason for their breakup is open to interpretation, as is whether or not they get back together in the end (imo they don't lol). sorry if the lack of uppercase letters annoyed you; i was trying a new style.. hope you enjoyed, sorry i'll do better next time ;-; thanks a lot to aya for the inspiration! happy holidays!