She put on a mint-colored roundneck t-shirt and an ivory-colored skirt before standing in front of the mirror. She left her room after checking if there were any creases on her clothes.
“You’re still at it?”
“Yeah, I’m still at it.”
There were bottles of coffee and vitamins on the table. She sighed before standing next to her mother.
“You should really stop drinking.”
“Why don’t you tell me to stop breathing instead?”
“If you can’t quit, why not just drink black coffee? I heard that it’s healthier for the body.”
“Coffee without milk and sugar is not coffee, girl. But are you going out?”
“Yeah. I’m going to hang out with Yoojin.”
“Do you need any money?”
“No, I still have money left over from last time.”
She peeked at the laptop screen. There were two different texts on the divided screen. One was an essay for a magazine, and the other was a novel.
“Don’t you get confused when writing two at once?”
She found it curious whenever she looked at it. Her mother always worked on multiple things at once. She switched between texts and wrote two different types of writing. She would switch to the other once she was stuck on one, and switch back if she was stuck on that. When she was young, she always watched her mother do so while dazing out. Her mother used to say that she was so adorable when she just dazed out like that as she sucked on her thumb.
“What kind of writing is it?”
“The sadness of doing groceries.”
“What about the novel? The same one you were doing last time?”
“No, it’s a different one.”
“What about the last one?”
“I saved it. I’m planning to read it later.”
“You might end up deleting it again if you do that. You should just send it to the publisher.”
“Your mom’s pride won’t allow it. Can you show your acting to others when it’s not perfected yet?”
“No, I can’t do that.”
“It’s the same for me.”
Her mother alternated between stretching her fingers out and clenching. She did the same thing. Her mother always did that exercise since she spent most of the time sitting.
Just as she was fiddling with her fingers, a messenger program popped up on the screen. On the left, there was the name ‘Ahn Pilhyun’. That person was asking if things were going well.
Her mom replied ‘somewhat’.
“A friend of yours?”
“A comrade of mine I got to know through work.”
“A comrade that fought with me against the evil that is the publisher.”
“You call the source of your money evil, huh….”
“Why don’t you reach my age? You’ll realize that the person that pays you is the enemy of your life. Rather than that, is it okay for you to still be here?”
“I can stay for around 10 minutes. She’s coming right now.”
“Don’t be late and be there early. It’s not polite to make your friend wait. Also, come back home early. You watched the news, right?”
“Your daughter is strong, you know? I’ll probably win against a man in a fight.”
Her mother stood up and walked to the kitchen.
“Since my daughter seems like she’s going to eat out, your mom will have to eat by herself. This is why people say raising kids is useless.”
“Should I just watch from the side?”
“Forget it. You should get going. I’m going to order something good while you’re out.”
“Sure, sure. Eat a lot of delicious things then, okay?”
She went to the door and put on her shoes. She picked up the bag with the script in it and opened the door.
She took the elevator as she heard her mother tell her to come home early. She received a call when she got on the bus to Suwon station.
-Where are you? I’m three stations away.
“I’m almost there.”
-Then wait for me in front of the kimbap restaurant in front of the station.
She got off the bus and stood in front of the kimbap restaurant. She saw a lot of people eating through the glass window. Most of them were eating by themselves.
Hearing a familiar voice, she turned her head around to see Yoojin. Yoojin was wearing a black leather jacket, a white blouse, and a pair of high heels as well. She didn’t look like a high school student.
Yoojin stood next to her before hooking her arms.
“You haven’t had dinner yet, right?”
“Then shall we eat dinner first?”
“Hm, why don’t we get some appetizers instead?”
When she tilted her head, Yoojin pulled her arm. The place they were heading to was inside Suwon station. Yoojin turned right and led her to the department store connected to the station.
“I saw a macaron store when I was coming out. I think they just opened. There’s an event as well.”
“Let’s talk while we get something to eat there.”
The station was filled with vitality from the people going home from work. Looking at them, she felt filled with energy for some reason. As she followed Yoojin, she browsed the cosmetics and clothes that were put on display. She ended up buying two bracelets because she liked them. Yoojin put on one of the bracelets before giggling.
“It’s over there.”
There was a macaron store with a sign that said that there was an event going on. Inside, there was a place for people to enjoy food and drink. They walked past the people that lined up to buy some for takeaway and ordered some from the counter. Vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. They decided to share the vanilla. As for drinks, they ordered green tea lattes. They went with that since Yoojin said that sweetness had to be complemented with bitterness.
“It’s not as good as I expected.”
Yoojin looked rather disappointed.
“It’s delicious though.”
“That’s good then. Oh, have you seen the other actors?”
“No, not yet.”
“There should be an occasion to get together and eat dinner or something before the first shoot.”
“Ah, I heard that the day after tomorrow is the first read-through session. I think that’s what you’re talking about. I heard there will be cameras too.”
“It’s probably to shoot some videos for a making film. You have it good. There are a lot of actors I like in that piece. Sir Choi Taeyeol, Mrs. Kang Miae, sir Han Woojin, and senior Joo Inha. They’re people you can only see in traditional dramas, and this is their first sitcom, you know? Thanks to that, everyone’s talking about it.”
She spat out a deep breath. There were many actors that could be considered ‘great seniors’ in the lineup. She felt nervous when she thought about how she would get to act together with actors that were popular before she was even born. Moreover, one of the main character’s family members was played by a member of ‘Change’, a popular boy idol band. When she said that she was going to shoot this sitcom, many of her friends asked for autographs from him.
“Why do you look depressed?”
“I’m just a little nervous.”
“Phew. I know how you feel, but you can’t do anything about it. That kind of nervousness won’t go away unless you confront the situation.”
“Really? Oh, right. Is the read-through just like one for a play?”
“Without any special instructions, yeah. Are you appearing on the 1st episode?”
“Then you just need to sit there obediently in one corner of the set and say your line when it’s your turn. The lead and supporting characters will probably sit at the center table and the minor actors will probably sit in the chairs that are against the walls.”
“It’ll be strange to make a mistake during the read-through, right?”
“It’s fine. Everyone will just laugh it over.”
“Yoojin. Have you made mistakes during a drama shoot?”
Yoojin rested her chin against her hand and spoke.
“It was during my 1st year of high school. It was a really minor line. But I kept messing up and had to redo it four times. I really wanted to run away back then.”
“What did you do then?”
“What could I do? I just did it. Thankfully, the actors that I shot with back then all consoled me by saying that I will do better next time. It’s mostly a case-by-case scenario, but as far as I know, there aren’t any actors that scold other actors that are at their first shoot.”
Just as Yoojin was telling her not to worry, she stopped and made an expression as though she made a mistake. She worriedly asked.
“What is it?”
“Miss Lee Miyoon is on that sitcom, right?”
“Then you should be careful. She’s infamous for being vicious. She’s known for scolding supporting actors and minor actors alike if they’re bad at acting. I heard that she sucks the soul out of them and some of them end up running away halfway through.”
“Yeah. So don’t make a mistake in front of her.”
She looked at the cover of the script. The names of the main actors were right next to the names of the producer and the writers, and the second line had the name ‘Lee Miyoon’. How strict of a person was she?
“Give me the script. Rather than worrying about it, it’s better to just try. Let’s try practicing. Where’s your line?”
“On page 15.”
“Is your character Lee Danjoo?”
“Your line’s quite long.”
Yoojin started reading the script until she suddenly took out her phone. She stood up and left the store as though the call required some quiet.
She looked at her script and sighed slightly. She was worried enough as it was already, and she felt gloomy after hearing that there was a strict senior. This was not a play she was doing with people around her age, but a shoot for a TV program with seniors. She was worried about whether she could adapt properly since it was a completely different environment. If it was anything like a play, she had the confidence to do well.
After finishing her call, Yoojin returned to the store.
She wondered who Yoojin was talking about. She asked Yoojin about it, but she didn’t reply and only made a strange smile. At that moment, she saw a boy who was looking around outside the store. Was he looking for someone?
She spoke out in surprise. The boy approached them. He opened the door to the store and sat down next to them.
“How did you come here?”
“How? I took the train. Am I late?”
Yoojin said ‘no’. She looked at Yoojin. She finally understood the meaning behind her smile.
“Well then. I should get going, then, huh.”
Yoojin took her bag and stood up. She immediately grabbed Yoojin’s hand and spoke.
“Where are you going?”
“Where? To my next appointment, of course.”
“You had an appointment?”
“I’m a busy person, you know?”
Yoojin shook her hand off and whispered into her ears.
“Both you and he are busy, so you might not actually get the chance to meet frequently in the future. You should have a blast today. You should get him to dote on you.”
“I’m leaving then. But next time, be sure to hang out with me a lot.”
After smacking Maru’s forehead, Yoojin turned around and waved her hand. The amber bracelet they bought together sparkled.
“You’re going?” Maru said to Yoojin.
“Yeah, I am. Have fun, the two of you. I’m expecting lovey-dovey.”
“I’ll ask you to stay out of courtesy.”
“Forget it. Both of you owe me this time, okay?”
“Yeah, we owe you.”
Before she left, Yoojin bought a box of macarons for takeaway. She waved her hand to Yoojin who waved back through the window. It should’ve taken more than an hour to reach here from Seoul, so she felt both thankful and sorry.
“If we have some time, let’s go to Seoul together,” Maru said.
“Yeah, we should.”
Yoojin once again waved towards them.
* * *
“What are you going to do about this? I just got the uniform yesterday! Here, do you see the ketchup? It’s not going to come off.”
“I’ll wash it for you and give it back to you.”
“What? Wash? Do you think washing it will do anything? Looks like you really don’t know anything, huh? Even if you have a professional launderer wash it, it will leave behind a stain. Look at this red thing on the white shirt. What do I tell my mom?”
“Th-then what do I have to do?”
“Well, it’s not like there’s no method at all.”
“What is it?”
After saying that, she tilted her head. Maru, who was playing along, also breathed out.
“Why don’t you rest a beat before you say the word ‘money’? I think it’s better to exaggerate it a little since sitcoms are about character building,”
“Really? I think it will be a bit bland if I just follow the script.”
“Think about it for now. Look at how things go during the shoot and try it out if you can.”
“Ah, I wonder if I can do it.”
She sat on the swing as she spoke. Maru sat on the swing next to her.
“Are you worried?”
“Of course. This is my first time on a TV show. Honestly, I was prepared to fail when the senior of mine offered me the audition and just tried it out as an experience. Now that I actually passed, it feels unreal and somewhat worrying as well.”
She started swinging on the swing. Maru stood up and walked behind her to push her. She embraced the wind that hit her face and took a deep breath. It felt like the nervousness spread around in her body was easing a little.
She waited for the creaking swing to completely stop. It had been a long time since she rode the swing. She didn’t have any experience of sitting down on a swing like this after she graduated elementary school.
“Can I do this?”
“Do you want to do well?”
“Then don’t be so tied up over it. It’ll be strange for someone to do well the first time. It’s actually easier if you prepare yourself to get scolded big time at least three times.”
“Yes, three times. After that, you’ll be able to do well.”
“It’ll be rather fortunate if three times was the end.”
She jumped off the swing.
“Can you practice with me one more time?”
She smiled and opened the script. She felt comfortable just because someone she was at ease with was listening to her like this. If she was able to save up this energy inside her body, she felt like she wouldn’t be nervous on the day of the shoot as well.
“Then I’ll give you the sign.”
“Yes, director Han.”