Foto bij STAGE 3 – Final

After Hit the Stage, their lives basically returned back to normal. Momo was welcomed back as a hero in JYP Nation, despite not having brought back a price. They loved her for trying and admired her even more now they had seen what kind of performances she was able to do. Momo took the compliments with a weak, forced smile.
Mina wondered if she was the only one who could see that it was unnatural. She decided to pay little attention to it though, but it was hard to do so. Now that they had gone through so much together, she felt like they had bonded. She wasn’t able to go back to how things used to be before. She couldn’t hate Hirai Momo anymore, not after all that had happened, nor could she ignore her when she forced a smile to her fans.
But their lives were too different to combine now that their normal schedules had resumed. Mina was busy with her ballet classes and Momo did the same. They didn’t see each other often, only when they passed each other in the hall. Momo on her way out of the dance studio and Mina on her way in. They shared knowing gazes, gazes that Mina had used to interpret as cocky but now knew they meant something different. She knew how to read them.

They didn’t speak about their kiss. In fact, they didn’t speak at all. It pained Mina to see them distancing again, slowly fading away from each other, but she reckoned that it’d be the best for both of them. They were too different, two sides of the same coin.
That didn’t mean Mina hadn’t yearned for the blonde, though. Ever since their lips had touched, her dreams were filled with extensions of their kissing session. Subconsciously, she had wanted it to continue, even though her head told her she didn’t. After thinking about it carefully, she labelled the kiss as a way to cope with their frustration and stress, not as something with actual feelings attached, because that couldn’t be, right? Until a month ago, Mina had hated her. There was no way that she felt something more for the blonde.
The kiss had just been the easiest way to blow off some steam.

After a few weeks of not talking to her, Mina had eventually forgot about it as well. That’s why it came as a surprise when Momo grabbed her by her wrist one day after practice.
Mina had been just done with her solo lessons and was about to retreat to the dressing room, when she saw the blonde coming out. It was quite late already, so it took her by surprise that Momo was still there. It hadn’t been unusual during their Hit the Stage period that Momo stayed in JYP Nation until 11 PM, but now that the show had ended, the girl wouldn’t have a reason to practice until so late.
When their paths crossed and their eyes met, both girls stood still for a moment. Mina could feel her heart bump loudly in her chest.
She was the first one who wake up from her daze. The brunette smiled lightly and stepped forwards, resuming her way towards the dressing rooms. When she passed the blonde, it first seemed like nothing would happen, until she felt Momo’s long, elegant fingers curl around her wrist, stopping her. Mina’s breath got caught in her throat at the touch. Her fingers were cold on her hot skin, like ice on fire.
Their eyes interlocked again and Mina knew from that moment that their kiss had been so much more than just letting off some steam. Mina almost willingly let Momo lead her back to the dance studio. None of them spoke, but they both knew what the other craved for; longed for.
Because she had been the last one to leave, the lights were switched off. The shutter was down which prevented anyone from looking into the dance studio, which handed them a bit of privacy. The small window was usually open, which gave the parents the opportunity to watch their kids for a few minutes during their dancing classes, or what are supposed to be dancing classes. Whenever it was ‘Parents’ Day’, there were hordes of parents squeezing together in front of the tiny window, each holding up their phones to film their kids dancing off-beat to children’s songs.
It didn’t often happen that the curtains were closed, only when groups practiced for the annual performance. They had been closed during their sessions for Hit the Stage. And they were closed now, causing the studio to be close to pitch black. The light that shone from under the doors was just enough to allow Mina to perceive Momo’s silhouette. Her blonde hair almost seemed to glow in the dark.

The blonde’s fingers were still curled around her wrist but sooner rather than later, they curled around her waist, pulling her closer. Mina’s breath got caught in her throat and her heart sprang up when she felt Momo’s hand in her neck.
She felt the blonde’s hot, fast breath on her lips when they moved closer. Her arm twisted around Momo’s neck. Their foreheads leaned against each other for a moment before their lips found each other.
The kiss was softer than their first one had been. Back then they had been so full of adrenaline because of their performance, so full of need for the other, that they hadn’t been able to control themselves. The kiss had been sloppy, with tongues everywhere and hands trailing over each other’s body, eager to touch every bit. It had made Mina’s head spin in a good way.
But this kiss was softer.
Weeks had passed and Mina had not realized how much she had missed the blonde – her kisses as well as her personality – until their lips met again. They slid slowly over each other’s, tasting every flavor carefully. The girl’s lips felt like clouds, or maybe pillows. Ever so soft.
Momo cupped her cheek with her hand and had the other arm around her waist. Mina laid her arms over her shoulders, intertwining one hand with her hair, keeping it out of her face. She willingly pressed herself up closer to Momo, until their whole bodies were touching.
Her heartbeat had speeded up when Momo had bowed closer to her, but slowed down as soon as they were kissing. It felt right. It felt like nothing in the world was ever supposed to feel as right as this.
The ballet barre the ballerina’s used to warm up with prevented her from being completely pressed up against the wall. Mina gasped for air when she felt Momo’s hand underneath her shirt, straddling the sensitive skin. Momo smiled against her lips when she heard that. The blonde moved her lips to her cheek and eventually to her jawline. She lowered until she could press feather light kisses in her neck. Mina immediately tilted her head, giving her more space. She held herself up with one hand against the barre, the other one still entangled in Momo’s hair.
When she opened her eyes for a moment, she caught a glance of them in the large wall-sized mirrors of the studio. She stared into her own eyes, almost not believing what was happening. Momo’s head was buried in her neck. Her lips felt incredibly good – especially when she softly bit down onto the sensitive skin, causing Mina to let out a mix of a gasp and a moan – but to see them like that made her feel like she was committing a crime. It felt scandalous. Her belly knotted together in fear. What would they do if someone walked in right now? She bit her lower lip. This was not her… This was not the person she wanted to be.
When Momo reached her collar bone, Mina placed her hands softly on her shoulder. The blonde didn’t immediately get the hint.
“Momo…” Mina muttered softly. She put up a little more resistance, which caused Momo to look up. She smiled widely though, catching Mina’s face with her hands again, letting their foreheads rest together. She wanted to lean in for another kiss again, but Mina turned her face away. This caught her attention. Momo looked up with a frown and took her hands back from her face.
“What’s wrong?” she asked her. Mina looked down, avoiding the other girl’s piercing gaze. A sigh escaped her lips.
Momo returned her hands and cupped her face in her hands, rubbing reassuringly with her thumb over her cheeks. Mina leaned into her touches, closed her eyes and bit down on her lower lip.
“We shouldn’t do this,” she muttered softly.
“Why not? Don’t you want to?” Momo asked. Her voice sounded fragile, more like the humble, shy Momo she was in the daytime unlike Hirai Momo, the dangerous dancing machine. It almost broke Mina’s heart.
“I do… I do…” she murmured. “It’s just that… I like this. I like how you make me feel and I like how I started to like you once we started to work together. But I can’t do whatever we’re doing right now. I can’t.. I can’t just work together with you so closely for a very long time and then go back to being strangers after the show only to kiss again a few weeks later. I need something secure and even though I like the thrill of secretly making out in the practice room, I can’t go through with this.”
Momo let her speak without interrupting her, a deep frown on her face. When she was done, she smiled weakly.
“What are you suggesting? That we should date?”
The brunette shook her head and sighed.
“Do you think that would work? We are too different, you and I,” she said. Momo rose her eyebrows.
“I can list quite a few things we have in common.”
“That’s the thing, Momo. I will keep feeling competitive because of that. I used to want to be better. I still want to be, although it has lessened a bit now that we have become closer. But I am jealous and I will always will be. Our relationship would be… toxic, if I constantly want to try to be better than you. I wouldn’t be able to treat you as an equal. I know it sounds stupid but it’s not you. This completely on me.”
Momo’s smile faltered.
“I didn’t know you felt this way…” she said, almost inaudible. “I’m sorry.”
Mina shook her head immediately and took Momo’s head in her hands. She pressed her forehead against the blonde’s, still shaking softly.
“Oh no. No, no, no,” she murmured. “Don’t apologize.”
She kissed her softly, but she felt that Momo’s heart didn’t feel like it anymore.
“You were perfect. You are perfect,” she whispered against her lips. “But you are not for me. And don’t keep yourself reserved for me. Don’t waste yourself.”
Momo sighed against her lips and curled her arms a little tighter around her waist. She buried her face in Mina’s neck, but didn’t attempt to kiss her again.
“Once again, we feel differently about each other,” she heard her mutter. Mina closed her eyes and let out a sigh. They cuddled, huddled into each other. The brunette pressed soft kisses on the top of Momo’s head.
They stood together like that for a while, until Momo looked up to her. A weak smile was displayed on her face.
“But I suppose I cannot make you feel differently this time,” she said. Mina looked down and swallowed. She shook her head slowly. The blonde nodded and kissed her one more time, before she freed herself from Mina’s embrace.
Her eyes were alert and Mina could see them twinkling, even in the semi-darkness of the studio.
“It was an honor to dance with you, Myoui Mina,” the blonde said. Mina looked up and smiled.

They had left JYP Nation together that evening, but as they parted ways – each to go home – their hearts also parted ways. The girls didn’t speak to each other for a very long time. In the first few days, Mina’s heart had ached like she had just lost a loved one. In fact, she still saw Hirai Momo every day, but the looks they shared now were apologetic. Apologetic because they knew how much they had hurt each other with that one kiss. Apologetic because they both had to get over each other and because it hurt more than they were willing to admit.

The first dinner after their break up had been awkward, but after that, they had turned friends pretty fast. The get-togethers weren’t as bad as they used to be, now that Momo and Mina got along.
Sadly it didn’t last for long. Because of Momo’s Hit the Stage performance, she was soon contacted by a famous idol entertainment. They had reserved her a spot as a trainee, if she was willing to come. Momo accepted and left JYP Nation. After she became a rookie, she was more often than not practicing for becoming an idol and was therefore not at the dinners of their families anymore.
It saddened Mina not to see the blonde anymore. Even as a friend, she was very happy to be around her. But her sadness turned into pride when she saw her debut in a girl group a year after that. Momo wasn’t only a great dancer, but she could sing and rap too. Her dancing skills weren’t used well, Mina thought herself. The girl group’s choreography was way too easy for her. But she was placed at the top of the formation often, which gave her a lot of screen time and soon a lot of popularity.

Momo’s dream as an idol began at the same time Mina made it as a ballerina. She was accepted as a student at the Korean National Ballet Academy and she finished it one year sooner than the other students.
Besides a few hit songs on the radio, Hirai Momo had turned into a vague memory that was buried deep inside her brain. Mina forgot about her. The only reminder she got were the music videos and Momo’s mother, who still came by regularly at the Myoui house.

Years passed and Mina aged well. She participated in several shows and performed countless of times. After she had become too old to stay a ballerina, she opened her own ballet school in Seoul. The first few years were rough, but after she had made a name, the children who were willing to learn ballet were in abundance.
At first, Mina was still able to teach all of her classes herself, but eventually she had to hire other employees as well. She could expand her company even to Busan and Incheon; she was a hit.

Perhaps she should have known back then that a confrontation would happen. The more known she became, the more she came in contact with people who were willing to pay more. Eventually only the elite of Seoul was able to afford Myoui Mina and her skills.
She wasn’t surprised when a tall 5-year-old hobbled into her dancing school one day. Her jet-black bangs fell over her forehead. Her long hair divided into two pigtails, which bounced happily when she did. Her smile was cheeky, although she was shy when Mina came to meet her.
The girl was followed by her mother, a tall, gracious woman. The years had made wrinkles appear underneath her eyes, but besides that her face was still as gorgeous as the day she had walked into JYP Nation. The only difference between back then and now was that she had cut her hair short – shoulder-length – and she had gotten rid of her bangs, which caused her to look a lot more mature. The color had changed from blonde to chocolate brown.
They only had to exchange one glance to recognize each other. They only had to exchange one glance for the memories to return.
“I believe we had an appointment?” Hirai Momo asked her, as she approached. She held her daughter by the hand. Mina smiled reservedly.
“We do. Private lessons for your little one, am I right?” she asked. Momo nodded.
Mina lowered herself and shook the girl’s hand. Momo’s daughter took hers shyly and quickly hid behind her mother after Mina took her hand back. She stood back up again.
“We don’t usually take them in from such a young age,” she started, as she glanced at the kid.
“I know.”
“Why not go to JYP Nation? Why not enlist her for hip hop? Suppose that’s nicer for your daughter too. Ballet isn’t often appreciated and viewed child-friendly,” she said, thinking out loud. Momo chuckled and ran with her long fingers through her hair.
“Ballet is the base of every kind of dance. I learned that during Hit the Stage. And who else should I trust her with besides Myoui Mina?”
Momo winked and even after all this years, that wink could make Mina’s cheeks light up like fire.
“Well, why don’t we get started then?” she asked, as well to Momo as to her daughter. She held out her hands and after a quick look at her mother, the girl took her hand.

After that, she encountered Hirai Momo often. Their old feelings would never return the same way as they used to be, but the spark between the two women had never died. Their souls were still pulled towards each other like two magnets. Plus and minus. Two sides of the same coin.
And even though they had both someone else waiting at home, the looks they gave each other was as scandalous as the kiss they had shared backstage when they were teenagers.

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