Kim Bada first meets Jung Eunwoo on move-in day.
"Um..." Bada says to no one in particular, in the bathroom, awkwardly pushing the lever on the paper towel dispenser. "It's out."
She isn't expecting a response, so when from behind her another girl says, "Yeah. They're all empty," she startles.
"Sorry," says the girl behind her. "Didn't mean to scare you."
Bada turns. The person standing in front of her is intimidatingly pretty - not in a Bada finds her sexy way but in a it's humanly possible to be that pretty? way. Long blonde hair, full cheeks, lips that are too good to be true. "It's the school's way of trying to be sustainable," she explains. "It's really stupid. You brought a hand towel, right?"
No, Bada did not bring a hand towel.
"Good thing I brought two!" The other girl smiles brightly. "I'm Eunwoo! It's nice to meet you."
"I'm Bada," Bada responds. "Likewise."
Eunwoo brings Bada back to her room, where she gifts her a dish towel patterned with ice cream cones. Eunwoo has already finished unpacking, but the other side of the room is still empty.
"I'm back early because choir sings at orientation," Eunwoo explains. "Yaebin - my roommate - comes back tomorrow."
"Oh," Bada responds, not really sure how to further the conversation. "Cool."
Eunwoo laughs again. "Gosh, you're so small. Hard to believe I was a firstie once." She pauses, then adds, "I'm a junior, by the way. And Yaebin's and my door is always open in case you need anything, okay?" Bada nods. "Always. Even if you just want to hang. We love having people over."
Cool. Looks like Bada's made her first upperclassman friend.
Orientation is kind of a blur. So many names, so many faces - she really can't keep track of them all. The only person in her orientation group to really properly stick in her head is Doah, a tall, overconfident, but sweet girl who'd told Bada she loved her orange highlights at lunch their second day. Bada's not great with names, and she's not the most social of butterflies anyway. She's in a triple, so she'd thought she'd have two built-in friends with her roommates, but Jueun's kind of stuck up and Dami had fallen in with another person in their orientation group and spent most of their time out of the room.
Bada pokes at her mac and cheese and decides very resolutely that she no longer wants to listen to Dami's friend and this other girl with big hoop earrings talk about how much they want to audition for a capella. She's torn between just leaving, sitting through this painful conversation about the benefits of the M&Cs over the Nice Shoes (which, seriously. What kind of names...), or being that bitch and just getting up and eating her mac and cheese somewhere else for no discernible reason.
Then she spies that girl from the bathroom. Eunwoo. Decision made.
"Hi, Eunwoo!" she calls to the older girl, sliding out of the booth and hoping she looks cool for having upperclassmen friends already.
Eunwoo's face lights up when she sees her. "Bada, hi! Y'all, this is the firstie I met in the bathroom, who took the ice cream dish towel?"
"Hi there. I'm Minkyung. I'm in choir with Eunwoo and I use she/her pronouns," says one of Eunwoo's friends, who has short grey hair and a kind smile.
Bada smiles awkwardly back. "Um. Eunwoo said my name already. My pronouns are... she/her...?" she tries, still getting used to introducing herself with not just her name but her pronouns.
"It's so great to meet you," says another, the shortest of the crowd. "I'm Yaebin, she/her, and the poor soul who has the misfortune to live with Eunwoo. She hasn't shut up about how cute you are and how exciting it was to have a firstie... imprint on her or whatever." Bada cringes. "I know. Oh, and Minkyung's my girlfriend."
Minkyung smiles. It's soft and sweet and also sexy, and Bada's frustrated because there are so many pretty women at this school.
She makes awkward eye contact with the final member of the group, who's as tall as Minkyung and has long hair and a thin face. "Kyungwon, he or they," they answer after a moment. "Minkyung's roommate and local queer disaster."
Bada decides she's going to try her hand at saying something witty. "Aren't we all queer disasters here?"
She enjoys that the group bursts out laughing at that. "Oh, god, you're a gem," says Eunwoo. "I knew there was a reason I liked you. Why are we all standing here? We have a table, let's go sit." And Eunwoo takes her hand and starts basically pulling her in the direction of the kosher station.
Kyungwon shares a little laugh with her. "Eunwoo's always like this," they tell Bada. "Good luck."
When they climb the mountain, Bada comes along. Their school's yearly tradition involves the following: hiking, ice cream, classes being cancelled, and optional taking-of-shirtless-pictures. Eunwoo, Yaebin, Minkyung, and Kyungwon's traditions are: refusing to change out of their pajamas, knocking on Bada's door blasting Hollaback Girl in preparation for something Minkyung calls "Dis-O", stopping for cider donuts in Kyungwon's Honda on their way to the park; and optional post-mountain wine-drinking.
The wine's making her sentimental. It's only been a month since classes have started, but Bada's already so grateful for how these older students let her follow them around. She'd never fallen into a friend group in her own year, but she spent enough time in Minkyung and Kyungwon's spacious room in Wilder (the best and most competitive of dorms, if her friends are to be believed) that she'd stopped feeling jealous of Dami, of the girl in her Astronomy class who walks in hand-in-hand with her roommate, of the cliquey a cappella group that hoop-earrings-girl had ended up in. She loves her friends to death and, even though she's only a month into her first semester, is already dreading junior year when all of them will have graduated.
"Bada, baby, you're crying!" Eunwoo's laughing, a little bit - she's a giggly drunk, as she'd told Bada so many times in the parking lot of the liquor store while Minkyung bought them something sweet and tangy that didn't make Bada feel like she was drinking chemicals. "Oh my baby with your squishy cheeks, oh I'm being such a bad example right now, I'm embarrassing you!"
Kyungwon, another laughing drunk, finds this astronomically funny and falls backwards in their mirth. Minkyung, who's still mostly sober, comes over and gently shoves Eunwoo out of the way.
"You're a sad drunk," she says solemnly. Bada nods.
"You guys bought me illegal alcohol," she blubbers, staring at Minkyung through tear-blurry eyes.
"Yes," confirms Minkyung. "Because you are baby. But you're our baby, and that means that when you get drunk we supervise you, so that you don't tear your underwear climbing out of a window like Yaebin did in the Rockies her first year."
"I'm baby," Bada repeats. "I'm your baby."
"Yes," Minkyung tells her again. "Yes you are."