The lovely fanfic below is courtesy of sekai-wa-mawaru <3
Kaeun had gone into the kitchen thinking that their cat had somehow made its way into the cupboards but found that it was actually Nana’s rummaging around that was making all that noise. (It really wasn’t that much noise – Kaeun was naturally a light sleeper and she was still getting used to dorming with all of them.) She hesitated at the door, starting then stopping, then starting to move through the doorway only to stop and call out instead.
“Um … unni?”
Nana turned from the cupboard, her arms full of ingredients. ”Kaeun,” she said. It was a simple statement of fact but it made Kaeun even more unsure as to what to do. She watched awkwardly as Nana set down the ingredients on the counter then turn to the refrigerator. When Nana pulled out eggs and butter, Kaeun couldn’t help but ask, “What are you making?”
The way Nana said the word had almost been the same as the way she’d said Kaeun’s name. But Kaeun’s ear had picked up something softer than fact in her unni’s tone. She took a small, slow step forward, as if walking on the ice of a frozen river. There was something flowing underneath the surface, she could see it now that she was closer – the nervous flitting of Nana’s eyes, the restless shifting of her weight from side to side.
“Can I help?”
Nana’s eyes fixed on Kaeun’s with a sudden intensity that almost made Kaeun gasp outloud. Kaeun forced herself to stand still and keep Nana’s gaze. It reminded Kaeun of her training for the camera, the way Nana stared at her so long unblinking. But instead of studying her, Kaeun somehow felt like Nana was studying herself.
Nana finally nodded and Kaeun moved next to her at the counter. Nana’s instructions were given in simple sentences, one step at a time. It was much like how she taught dance and it actually made Kaeun feel more comfortable to liken their midnight baking session to one of their midnight dance rehearsals. She didn’t feel so self-conscious about her still-growing limbs or saying the right thing – she just had to listen and carry out the directions.
Kaeun was surprised at how easy it all was and before she knew it, they were already cleaning their mixing bowls, waiting for the cookies to finish baking in the oven. Kaeun was washing the supplies while Nana dried them with a towel. She did it slowly though, her brow furrowed and her gazed turned inward.
Kaeun turned off the water and asked softly, “Are you okay, unni?”
Nana took a moment before answering. ”I think I forgot something.” The heavy look held for a while before she sighed, puffing up her bangs in the process. ”I always forget something.”
“You don’t have the recipe written down?” Kaeun thought about the drawer in her mother’s kitchen that was filled with recipe cards, some of which had been passed down through generations.
Nana set down the bowl she had been drying and shook her head. She passed the towel over its surface lightly, like how one would pet a cat. ”My grandmother never wrote it down. But with how many times we baked cookies together, you’d think I’d have it remembered perfectly.”
The silence that fell was one that Kaeun was suddenly afraid to break. ”Can’t you ask her for the recipe?” she asked softly, as if her voice might break the ice she felt she was standing on.
Nana’s head bent forward slightly, just enough for her hair to fall forward, a curtain drawn over her face. ”No,” came Nana’s answer. ”She passed away 2 years ago. 2 years ago this day.”
The shock that ran through Kaeun nearly took her balance in addition to her breath. Nana noticed Kaeun’s reaction and reached out instantly to steady her. ”Hey, easy now.”
Kaeun’s heart ached at the sadness she saw in Nana’s eyes. She had been wrong in thinking that Nana’s feelings were a frozen river. It was more like the deepest part of the ocean, where the coldest water flowed, but was full of the most life. Kaeun realized at that moment that she had been acting all wrong: instead of tip-toeing along what she had thought to be a frozen surface, she should have dived in and joined Nana in reliving her memories.
Kaeun covered Nana’s hand on her arm with one of her own. ”I’m sure they’ll still taste wonderful,” Kaeun said suddenly. But before Kaeun could berate herself for not even giving some sort of condolence, Nana broke out into a smile – a genuine smile, one that made Kaeun feel like she was witnessing dawn over the ocean.
“Thank you,” Nana murmured, squeezing Kaeun’s hand tightly. Kaeun squeezed back and gave a smile of her own, the smell of cookies wrapping around them. [sekai-wa-mawaru]