“Thanks, friend,” is the response Doyeon gives to Yoojung after she splashes her with water from the pool at the corner of the sleeping area. There’s no screaming, no screeching, no hair pulling—it’s all remarkably civilised complaining. It was nothing like this back at Chungha’s agency. There were boys there.
A second later, Yeonjung splashes the two of them and runs away shrieking, and there, that’s what Chungha was expecting.
She surveys the younger girls fondly. They’re all young enough to have boundless amounts of energy, and Chungha and the other older girls can’t really keep up. She’s not quite like Nayoung, who almost seems narcoleptic in her ability to fall asleep whenever, wherever, but this kind of exercise, so different from the dance practice she’s done for years, still tires her out easily. She stretches, her arms back behind her, to work out some of the kinks from the rock climbing they had done earlier, and then settles back down on the grass.
Sohye, vastly different from the day they’d arrived and she insisted on dance practice each day, now rockets across the grass and all but tackles Somi into the pool. Somi takes it good-naturedly, spluttering and laughing loudly, so Chungha knows she isn’t hurt.
All hell breaks loose. Somi goes for Mina, who drags Yoojung into the water with her. Yoojung hooks onto Yeonjung, who had ventured a little close, and they all end up submerged to their necks. Doyeon scurries away before she ends up wetter than she already is.
Sejeong settles down beside Chungha, grinning. It’s a warm day and there are towels for all the girls, so nobody is concerned they’ll get sick before their big debut. It’s nice to just watch them play—it’s as good a bonding exercise as any of the activities they’ve done so far.
“This is fun,” Sejeong says.
“You should go and play with them,” Chungha tells her. “You, Kyulkyung and Chaeyeon. Leave us old ladies to rest.” She pats Nayoung’s leg, from where she’s sleeping next to her. Nayoung doesn’t stir.
Sejeong laughs. “You’re not old, unnie! No older than Nayoung-unnie.”
The way she says it, Chungha knows she’s not referring to their oldest, but instead to Kim Nayoung.
“Do you miss being there?” she asks.
“Every day,” Sejeong says, confidently. “But I love this, too. And I’ll get the chance to be back there soon, and with the other girls. This is just the start of a new adventure.”
Chungha smiles at her, her own mind drifting back to practising with Oh Seojeong and the rest of the trainees, including the new 101 friends she’d made.
And then she’s splashed with water.
“Hey!” she calls, turning to look at which of the little brats had done it; all running away from her in all directions in fits of giggles.
She may look cross, but internally she’s still smiling.