Damn real: chapter 11

“Ugh, let’s see here. So it’s Coffee Meets Bagel. And I just need to log into my account from FaceBook, and… here we go!” Namie narrated her first experience ever using a dating application. “Alright, so in chats, we’ve got these four guys.” She pulled up four small pictures with names. “Peter, Steven, Layton, and Eddie. Got it.” She listed, looking at their individual profiles. Much to her surprise, none of them listed their religions as Christian or Mormon! “Wait, what?” She raised an eyebrow. Why would her father not pair her with people who were not already Mormon? Was his whole point not to stick her with somebody from the church to guarantee that she would conform? Thinking about it, the accountant was frustrated. She regretted ever giving her father her social media passwords. However, being the spineless, obedient adolescent she was, she did not know better. Even moving to D.C., she never really used social media, so the brunette never really felt the need to change any of her login information. Regardless, it still did not warrant her father essentially cat-fishing four young men the way he did. This was a demented ploy of his, and she shuddered at the thought of what he could have said to them. However, she shook off any doubts she had as she read through the messages her father sent the boys. To her surprise, her father only said things to the effect of “hello” and “when can we go on a date?” The responses she had received were all just available dates. Deciding to take a chance, she started messaging each person back, and started to schedule meet-ups with each of them. According to her schedule, she would be meeting with Peter, then Steven, then Eddie, and finally, Layton. Sighing to herself, she wondered if she did the right thing as she went to bed.

“I can’t believe you actually went through with it! Four dudes?! Jesus hell, you’re the reserve Mormon!” Claire laughed. “I know, right? She doesn’t have sister wives, she’s got brother boyfriends! Dating around with all four of them?” Wei teased her cousin. “Oh, shut up.” Namie rolled her eyes, downing another glass of red wine as the three were supposed to be watching The Bachelor, but instead, their interest quickly turned to Namie’s potentially budding romantic life. “So, who are you thinking? Any of them catch your fancy?” The Japanese-Taiwanese performer laughed. “Well, they’re all equally qualified. All of them went to decent schools, they have solid careers, and for the most part, none of them are particularly unattractive-” She started, only for a tipsy Claire to snag her cellphone and look through their profiles. “Oh, hells yeah, they’re cute. But oh my God! 35?! That one, too old. I don’t care if he’s Asian therefore looks like he’s 22, he’s old.” The front desk supervisor was referring to Layton. “Oh, shut up, Claire.” Namie shook her head, yanking back her phone, causing the auburn haired girl to fall off of the sofa. “OUCH!” She groaned, landing on the floor. “It’s okay, I’m good. The alcohol broke my fall!” She shouted, getting back up. “You good?” Namie rolled her eyes. Despite how irritable drunk or tipsy Claire was, Namie still cared for her as a friend, because at the end of the day, the sober Claire was the one she loved like a sister. “Shut up. Let’s go back to watching The Bachelor. Clearly Namie doesn’t want to share her men with us. Selfish Namie, keeping four dudes to yourself.” She jeered, but the half Japanese accountant just ignored her comments. “Oh my god, he she really trying to seduce him? Dumb whore.” Wei laughed, throwing popcorn at the television screen. “Oh, before I forget! I’m going to be at some Asian celebrity event tomorrow, and you’re both coming with me. I don’t give a shit what you guys say, you’re coming.” “Huh?”

“Wait, you never told us you were FAMOUS in Japan!” Claire frowned at Wei. “Yeah, I knew you did idol work, but you were on multiple magazine covers in Tokyo?!” Namie was in disbelief. “Oh, yeah, I was! My single, Better than you, it topped the Oricon charts back in 2014.” Wei laughed. “You’re not even like bragging about this. Like what the actual hell?!” “I mean, haven’t you ever wondered why I have like six million followers on Instagram?” Wei chuckled. “I just assumed that it was because you’re a pretty Asian girl! Look at me! I’m a decent looking white beauty guru, and that’s why I have three million! But you managed to get a whopping six million?!” Claire was stunned. “Nah, they’re my fans. I have quite a few from Japan, China, Taiwan, and a couple in Los Angeles and New York, but mostly within Asia” She explained. Namie never even realized that Wei had that many, because she was prohibited from having an Instagram by her mother, who felt like the application was too indecent for her to download. The aspect of uploading photos of oneself for complete strangers to see, Mrs. Merrimen felt like it was too promiscuous in nature. Therefore, this was still news to her. “Wow, I didn’t even know. Why didn’t you feel the need to tell us?” She wondered aloud. “Well, bragging isn’t exactly my forte. I really don’t care about how many fans I have. At the end of the day, it’s how I perform that matters to me.” She smiled. “But what are you doing career wise?” Claire pried, curious. “Oh, thanks for reminding me, actually! I have to go to the Japan during the spring, because I’m going on tour again.” Even though Wei had mentioned going on tour in the past, Namie assumed it was just small gigs in Japan. “I’m performing in the New National Stadium. Also, I’ve got to do a lot of 3D modeling for Square Enix. They want to capture my face for one of their upcoming video games.” “Holy shit.” Claire gasped. Both girls were stunned that they were in the company of essentially Japanese pop culture royalty. “How did your parents take you becoming an idol?” “They’re happy that I’m doing something that I genuinely love, but it took some convincing.”

“Are you sure you want to be an idol in Japan?” Xiaohua looked at the then 18 year old idol. “Yeah, I’m sure.” She assured her parents. They were sitting in the living room of their house in Maryland, discussing Wei’s futures. Juntaro had reservations about letting his daughter work in Asia, because of their disdain for Asian politics and society. “Well, how about this? Let’s see how this record deal works. If I can transition to live performances in Japan and Asia instead of just doing covers on the Internet, I’m sure my career as a performer can take off. Besides, financially, I should be fine. I’ve got quite the following on YouTube, and I’m pulling in easily $100k a year.” She reasoned out. When she was in high school, Wei went to to the Baltimore School For the Arts so that she could one day become a singer. At this point, she had amassed a following of close to one million subscribers on YouTube for her singing covers of JPop and Asian music, before branching out into writing her own music. However, she had been scouted by an agent who wanted her to come to Japan for her first live concert. It was an opportunity of a lifetime. “You know what, dear? We should let her do this.” Xiaohua looked at Juntaro, confident in her resolve. “Wei, you go chase your dreams. Don’t lock yourself into a cage, like my sister did.” He smiled. “Alright. I promise, even if I’m working in Japan, I’ll get a house nearby. Maybe in like D.C., so that way, I can visit you guys often.”

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Damn real: chapter 10

Ultimately, sending Emiri and her family was a failed effort. Seeing her younger sister and her family did not make Namie want to have a family of her own any more than she already did not. However, her parents did not stop there. The day after Emiri left, Namie received a Facetime call from them. “Young lady, I have already taken the liberty of making you an account on this dating app!” Mr. Merrimen angrily announced through her phone screen. “Wait, what?!” The brunette was furious. “Yeah, and I actually have gotten quite a few matches. Of these young men, I have selected four for you who I think you could be a good housewife for.” All Namie could think of right now was drowning her father in a bathtub. However, she quickly recalled that murder was illegal, and him dying would not necessarily make her life any better, so she tried to gather her thoughts and calm down. “Dad, I appreciate that you are supportive of my dating life, and thank you for finding potential husbands for me.” She gritted her teeth at that word. Oh, to say she hated it was a massive understatement. “I’ll take you up on your proposition, and I will even meet with them. If I find Mr. Perfect, great, but if I do not, can you please promise me that you will never do this again?” She sighed. “Fine. And I’m confident that you will find a perfect man. I have chosen four of the best bachelors in the greater D.C. area. I guarantee you will find a husband, or I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.” He reassured his frustrated daughter. Finding a husband was not even on her list of priorities. She just wanted to shut her father up.

October was wrapping up, and again, that meant another episode of Namie’s favorite drama series, month end at the Ritz Carlton. People would turn to glue during month end, and as stressful as the experience is in the moment of, looking back on it in retrospect is always hilarious. The Director of Revenue Management, Melinda, would often be so exhausted that she would talk to her stuffed turtle on her desk and have it talk back to her. Heather would actually start doing Pilates exercises in the middle of the accounting office, While the front office was not typically affected by month-end as much, they would still be pulled in by the accounting and revenue management departments to discuss certain expenses and why they should not be giving out certain things for free. While they were the Ritz Carlton, and were therefore “Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen”, they were a business first and foremost, and businesses need to be profitable, not charities. Needless to say, Namie would always find herself amused by the antics of her coworkers, while she would typically be the most mentally prepared for month end. However, this was the first time she had actually made a mistake. A mistake large enough to have David pull her aside for questioning.

“Namie, so why did you send this purchase order for $80,000?” “Wait, $80,000? Wasn’t it supposed to be $800? Yeah, for the new furnishings, right?” “Yeah, it was supposed to be $800. Why did you pay 100 times the amount?” He frowned. “Oh SHIT!” The accountant realized her mistake. When she was inputting the invoice, she accidentally put two more zero’s as a result of forgetting to use a period to denote that it was actually $800.00, not $80,000. “Yeah, I’m going to call the company and have them credit us back $79,200. Look, I know you’re probably freaking out, but it’s okay. We make mistakes and learn from them. That’s what working in accounting is like. Don’t get too stressed about it. Month end makes us all turn to jelly.” He chuckled, walking off. But for her, all she could think about was making a mistake. She could have costed the hotel a lot of unnecessary money. $79,200 to be exact. That would be almost twice of her own yearly paycheck. No matter how much David reassured her, she hated the fact that she made the oversight in the first place. It is the little errors that snowball into titanic disasters, which is why she prides herself on being so meticulous.

“It was so embarrassing.” Namie sighed. She was in the cafeteria with Claire. “Look, I know you’re upset that you made a mistake, but David said it himself. It’s no big deal. The company will give you guys back the money anyways. Besides, you know your mistake and you have learned your lesson.” She patted her friend on the back. “But congrats on getting so many matches on Coffee Meets Bagel!” She teased the accountant on the app her father used to lure in so many men. “Thanks. I’m surprised that these guys would even want to talk to me.” She rolled her eyes. “ I mean, dating is fun. And you actually have men to date now, unlike me.” The beauty guru frowned. “But I just heard that Takeru might be leaving the company soon. Which means that there is a vacancy for the Front Office Manager position.” She began. “Oh snap. Do you think you’re going to get the promotion?!” Namie looked at her excitedly. “Most likely, yes. Jeanne already asked me if I am interested and I said yes, so they might be promoting me to a manager soon. Oh, trust me, I can’t wait. This is going to be so badass! Claire Feltault, Front Office Manager. At your service.” She giggled. However, she was admittedly stressed about the notion. While she wanted a promotion, Claire was worried that her lack of maturity and openness about her dating life would cost her the respect of her staff. “I’m pretty sure that Takeru would recommend you if you ask him to. You’ve got this.” Namie beamed, feeling happy for her work friend. “You would deserve the promotion too!”

It was finally Saturday morning, and Namie was wrapping up her practice for the day. “Good job, everyone! So our next showcase will be coming up next year actually! But then again, that’s in a couple months from now, if you really think about it. But anyways, I will be announcing who will be invited to perform soon, so keep your eyes peeled for that. Class dismissed!” Melissa shouted as the dancers dispersed. “Namie, you have been showing forms that I haven’t even taught you guys yet. What’s your secret?” The instructor eyed the accountant curiously, suspicious that Namie had been going to another studio in secret. “Oh, I have been practicing a lot and watching Koda Kumi’s music videos for references. She’s such a great dancer and uses a lot of waacking in her choreography, so it just clicked with me.” Melissa clapped her hands slowly. “Good choice in artist, first off. Mad respect for that woman. She’s a skinny Asian girl, but she knows how to twerk. Second off, keep up the good work. I can tell you now that you are definitely on the list for the next showcase. I’m impressed.” Melissa congratulated the brunette. “Thank you!” Namie beamed. “Wait, this isn’t just you trolling me, right?” “No. You actually made the list. Every class since the last showcase, you have been showing considerable growth. I would be dumb not to put you on the showcase. Also, have you heard about Caitlin and Georgia?” “No, what about them?” Thinking it over, Namie realized that she had not seen either of them for a while. “Both of them got scouted to become dancers for a very popular singer in America. I can’t disclose the name, but her last name is the size of a drink in Starbucks. And with that, I bid you adieu. Like seriously. I need to take a shit, and talking to you means that I can’t. Get out.” Melissa shooed away the stunned and somewhat disgusted aspiring dancer.

Damn real: chapter 9

It was the next morning, and Namie woke up grumpily to the smell of bacon and eggs wafting through her apartment. However, there was a noticeable absence of coffee, the aroma of another item that would normally accompany her breakfast. “Fuck.” She cursed to herself. Emiri must have been in her apartment this whole time. Walking into the living room, she almost hissed at the sight before her. Emiri, her husband, and two children were there. Her son and daughter, both still infants, were playing on her living room rug while her husband, Kenta, was on the sofa. Emiri was cooking breakfast, working furiously in the kitchen. “Morning, sleepy-head. Or should I say afternoon? You slept in a lot!” Emiri smiled. “Liar. It’s fucking 7am.” Namie growled. “Hey, language. Especially in front of the kids.” Her younger sister glared at her. “Says the group of robbers who broke into my house, used my ingredients, and are just planning to inhabit my living room without my consent?” She rolled her eyes. “Look, we don’t have a whole lot of time to salvage you. Plus, Kenta, the kids, and I, we all need to go to church soon. It’s almost 8.” She frowned. Namie could not tell if it was the skull-splitting hangover or the ringing in her head or just the fact that her little sister, the embodiment of her idiot parents, was trying to lecture her on how to live her life, but the accountant really wanted 8am to roll around so that she could eject them from her apartment. “Alright, breakfast is ready, Makoto, Yuzu!” The two children, no older than the ages of one and two respectively, eagerly waddled over to the table while Kenta helped hoist them into his lap. “You’re more than welcome to join us, Namie.” Emiri offered. “Well, it’s my ingredients. But I think I’ll pass.” “As you can see, my family and I, we are the picture perfect lifestyle. You should really reconsider how you are living your life. Being married and raising a family and a home, it is the most fulfilling job I could ever have had.” She smirked. “Oh wait, kids, eat up. We have to go to church soon. And we have to fly back to Utah in the night!” Namie was in disbelief. Her parents flew out Emiri and her family just for a day to try and make a point to her.

“Oh my gosh! Jerry proposed to me!” An 18 year old Namie looked up to see her roommate at the time, Jenny, showing off her ring. Like Namie, Jenny was 18 and  college freshman at Birmingham Young University. “I’m so jealous. I still need to find myself a man first.” Their other roommate, Debra, frowned. “You’ll find a man eventually. You’re so good at cleaning up after yourself. It almost feels like we don’t even have a third roommate half the times because of how little of a mess you make.” Jenny pointed out. “Well, I’m sorry that I create a noticeable mess?” Namie frowned. “Oh, no, don’t worry, Namie. You might not be a good housekeeper, but I’m sure you have other qualities about you that make you a good homemaker. Besides, you are really pretty. I’m sure you’ll find a man in no time.” Jenny reassured her, although Namie was not in need of her reassurance. “Thanks, I guess?” She did not even mention anything about dating or finding a man. Yet, Jenny forced their conversation to feature that topic. Seeing Jenny, a young 18 year old, barely legal, getting married, it started to dawn on Namie how odd it was to marry at such an early age. Jenny was still naive and did not know a lot of basic things, such as how to use a calculator, pay her own taxes, or how to use Microsoft Powerpoint. Yet, this whole time, Namie was so used to young people being married, and with children. Her own mother, she was pregnant with her by the age of 20. The same with her grandmother. At the time, it sounded perfectly fine. But seeing somebody like Jenny, who was a complete airhead, passing that huge cornerstone in life, it was unsettling. It was at that point that Namie started to see the concept of dating and marriage differently. She decided that she was in no rush to get a boyfriend or get married. She wanted to focus on herself.

“Yeah, your mother was not in the best relationship with my parents.” Uncle Juntaro sighed. “Wait, because she converted to Mormonism?” Namie looked at him. This was back when she first met her uncle, and he was telling her about his relationship with her mother. “Exactly. Our family, the Ishigos, we were a heavily Buddhist bunch. Some of my uncles, aunts, and cousins are even monks in temples. So when your mother, my sister, Yuko, denounced her Buddhist ways, it really upset my mother. And when she announced that she was going to become a Mormon while she was studying abroad in America, that was when our family cut ties off from her. They view Mormons as really backwards people, and we were confused why she fell in love with a Mormon man and would so quickly convert, despite knowing how we all felt about it.” He explained. “We kept in touch at first and when you were born, I would used to get all of these photos in the mail of you. Our parents did not know about it. For me, she was my older sister. Yeah, she did something bad, but she was my sibling, and I still saw her as my family. But then the photos and letters stopped, mostly because I had moved from Hokkaido to Taipei, and eventually, I moved again to D.C., so she probably just did not know where to send the photos and letters to anymore.” He sighed. “I think she must have moved too, because when I tried to send letters to her address, I could not find her.” He frowned. “But we both have our own families and we are both happy. It was such a shame that she kept your entire Japanese side of your family a secret from you, but I’m glad that you found out eventually.” He grinned.

Finally overcoming her hangover, Namie was getting brunch with Wei, who was shocked to hear that her other cousin was in town. “Well, you know how I feel about Mormons. Granted, mom and dad would always tell me about what kinds of 18th century values people in that religion have, but even without him imposing his opinion on me, I still believe that myself.” She shook her head. “How old is your sister again?” “She turned 22 this year.” “Holy fuck. And she has two children and is married?” “Yeah, that’s her.” Namie sighed. “Oh shit, she said she was going to grab lunch with me soon.” She frowned, looking at her texts. “Make her come here. I want to meet this girl.” Funnily enough, Emiri had no idea who Wei was, despite them being related. A lot of it had to do with the fact that Wei’s side of the family was obviously not in contact with Emiri, but the performer did not care. It took about half an hour more, but eventually, Emiri, Kenta, Makoto, and Yuzu all made their way over to Blue Duck Tavern, where the two young women were. “Good afternoon. I am Kenta, Namie’s brother-in-law. This is my wife, Emiri, who is also Namie’s sister, and our two lovely children, Yuzu and Makoto.” Wei tried her best not to recoil at the sight of them. Kenta himself was around the same age as Wei and Namie. “Nice to meet you. My name is Wei Ishigo, and I am Namie’s friend.” She intentionally omitted the part about being related to the sister, as she did not want to draw any additional attention from the young family. “Nice to meet you. Can we join you guys at the table for lunch?” “Well, isn’t that why you’re here?” Namie frowned as the four took their seats. Needless to say, it was an awkward, but in Wei’s eyes, hilarious meal.

Damn real: chapter 8

Phones were ringing and everyone in the hotel office was tense. It was the worst time of the month for the administrative level, and that was month-end. For Namie, that meant making sure she counted all of the front office and food and beverage employees’ banks and keeping the money in her vault even. “Alright, so counting all of the paid outs that I have already done, with the quotes, that makes me have $80,000 exactly.” She smiled to herself, locking up the large vault behind her. She was able to finalize her bank for the end of the month and it felt incredible. Stretching as she left her office, she smiled to herself. “Good luck, everyone! I’m taking off for the day!” She smiled, waving to her still-stressed coworkers. Her favorite part about leaving work was that she was so close to the Georgetown Waterfront. Before Uber-ing back home, she could take a moment to relax and admire the view of Virginia from across the river. “So many ducks.” She frowned to herself, taking note of the large crowds of brown and green birds polluting the water. “Time to call an Uber, I guess-” Before Namie could click on her app, her phone started ringing. It was her dad. “Ugh.” The accountant fought the temptation to answer the call before deciding to be a decent person. “Hello?” She tried her best to not sound angry, despite the fact that even the mention of her father made her blood boil. “Hi, Namie. So your mother and I have been talking about your marital status, and we both believe-” “I don’t want to get a husband right now, okay? I’m happy with my life and I don’t need to define myself as a person based on who I am dating. Bye.” She hung up the phone, unable to hear another second of her father’s chauvinistic nonsense.

Even though the month itself had ended in terms of the calendar timeline, month-end itself was still a multi-day process. Namie did finish all of her month-end work, but she still needed to follow up with every step that she submitted, making absolutely sure that every report was sent out so that she could put the nightmare that was the month of September. “Another month end, another day.” Namie had sighed to herself. An entire month had passed since the showcase, and she had been practicing every single weekend. One artist in particular really appealed to her, Koda Kumi. She was a J Pop singer and dancer, and Namie had been practicing the choreography from her songs in her free time, since there were a lot of waacking elements in her music videos and live performances. However, the phone calls from her parents, they did not stop. Ranging from her mother crying about Namie potentially not going to heaven to her father yelling at her for making her mother cry, or for adamantly defying his male authority, she could hardly be bothered to care. While yes, the accountant did harbor guilt for making her mother cry, she did not understand what they rationale was behind her needing to get a husband, especially given that she had already relinquished her Mormon beliefs and therefore, did not feel the need to go to heaven or anywhere after she dies. However, her parents did not give up on their convincing. “Did you buy the tickets yet, honey?” Mrs. Merrimen looked at her husband. “Yes, dear. The flight leaves tomorrow afternoon and arrives at night in D.C.” He confirmed.

“Alright, thank you all for coming down to our month-end celebration!” The Human Resources coordinator, Jeanne, smiled as all of the employees made their way down to the staff cafeteria. “So for our Associate of the Month for September, we wanted to award somebody who had been on our team for a little while now, and she had really stepped up in the finance department, being able to close the month effectively and with little to no real trouble. And that person is… drum roll please!” She called as some of the workers began hanging on the lunch room table to effect a drum. “Namie Merrimen, our general cashier! Congratulations, Namie!” The brunette was shocked as Claire sniggered. “Wow! Thank you!” She smiled. In the four years she had been working with The Ritz Carlton, she had never won Associate of the Month, so this was a huge honor for her. “You really captured the Ritz and Marriott spirit.” Jeanne congratulated her, handing her a glass statue with her name carved into it, along with the phrase “Associate of the Month.” It felt surreal. “Well, thank you all so much for nominating me for this. It is a pleasure to work with all of you and I look forward to continuing with that.” She took a bow. “You earned it, Namie!” David smiled at her. “Easily one of the best cashiers we have had in a while. You should be proud of yourself!”

“Cheers!” The three clinked glasses and downed the vodka. Wei, Claire, and Namie were at a club on U street, taking shots to celebrate being done with month-end. This occasion was cheekily dubbed by Claire to be their month-end after party. “Another round, on me.” Wei told the waiter, who walked over to the bar. “This bitch, she’s the real deal. Associate of the Month at the Ritz Carlton? Hells yeah, she deserved it. She earned it!” Claire sluggishly shouted. Despite her showering Namie with praises, because of how loudly she was speaking, it almost sounded as if the front office supervisor was yelling at her. “Thanks!” Namie laughed, taking another shot. After all of the idiocy her parents were putting her through about her dating life, she could really use a lot more alcohol. She did not want to go home sober, that was for certain. “More shots! On me!” Claire squealed as they finished another round of vodka. “Let’s go with some tequila this time!” She told the waiter, who was amused by the three’s semi-drunken antics. “Alright, coming right up.” He walked away again. “Oh, he’s cute. But he definitely looks gay. That’s not the face of a straight man. Why are all of the good men in this world gay or taken?!” Claire cried loudly as the waiter returned with their drinks. “Uh, I don’t think I feel comfortable answering that, ma’am.” He frowned, inching away. “Whatever. Have a good life!” She shouted after him before taking another shot.

The drive home was a blur for Namie. She did not remember anything other than being told that she should Uber home, and telling her Uber driver how to turn into her building because it was a confusing thing to do given that the pavement of the driveway and the sidewalk were painted the exact same color, though she was used to having to explain that, time and time again. Stumbling out of the car, she fumbled around with her purse. She was not seeing double, but rather, quadruple at this point. Definitely way too many shots, but it was a Saturday night, and Namie was proud of herself for taking ownership of her youth. “Namie?!” The half intoxicated brunette looked up to see a girl in her early twenties standing outside of her apartment, disgusted at her behavior. “Emiri?” She blinked, at first thinking she was still seeing things. “Holy shit, I must be so drunk right now, if I am imagining you here.” “You’re not imagining. You are drunk, but I’m real. Our parents told me about what happened and they got me tickets so that I can come over to talk with you. I think you have a problem. Well, other than being a blatant alcoholic.” She fanned the air in front of Namie and pinched her nose. The accountant was too drunk to roll her eyes, but she was definitely annoyed to see Emiri here.

Damn real: chapter 7

“This is it!” Namie squealed to herself at work. “What are you all excited about?” Claire crossed her arms in amusement at the skittish cashier standing in her office. “Melissa’s going to announce who will be in the line-up for the showcase tomorrow. I feel like I’m going to be in it!” She was already thinking ahead to what kinds of routines she could do for this. Melissa had only started doing showcases for the waacking classes, and prior to that, Namie never bothered to actually attend one before, so she only could imagine what the experience must be like to perform in one. “Jesus, if you were this excited about cashiering and accounting, you would already be a Director of Finance, Associate of the Year already.” The front office supervisor rolled her eyes. It was true, though. As good of a job as Namie did being a cashier and accountant, it was not her passion. Numbers were always a strength, but doing the job did not necessarily fulfill the hopeful dancer in the way waacking had. “Either way, congrats on making the showcase. I’m sure you’re going to kill it. What date was it going to be again?” “I think it will be August 31st?” “Oh, so like in a month from now.” Claire noted on the calendar. “Yeah, I just can’t wait, though! I’ve already been putting thought into what kind of song I would perform to, the routine, everything.” She was extremely excited.

“Alright, so I will keep this announcement short and quick, because we have already had such a long practice today anyways.” Melissa called as everyone gathered around her. “So here’s the five performers I’m going to enlist for my end-of-summer showcase.” She placed the list on the wall behind her. “Now go check it out while I step off to the side. I’m too lazy to read it off.” The Chinese girl yawned, walking off. “Congratulations to you all. Blah, blah, blah, there’s no real losers here, only winners. You get that shit.” Almost immediately, everyone ran up to the list to see if they qualified. Scanning through the five names, Namie’s heart dropped. She was not one of the five. “Yeah, I got it!” A girl, Caitlin, smiled. “Same here, girl!” Another girl, Georgia, laughed as the two walked off. “Hey, Melissa, can we talk for a second?” Namie went over to her fatigued instructor. “Yeah, what’s up?” “So last week, you seemed to make it sound like I was going to be in the showcase, but why wasn’t I selected?” The air filled with a queer silence at Namie’s question. “Well, besides you just putting yourself in one of the most awkward positions ever by asking me this, I had to go with seniority. Look, you can dance really well, but you started at my studio a lot later than some of these other guys. Look at Richard. Richard had been dancing under my tutelage for over 5 years. Is he a better dancer than you? Hell to the fucking no. But I need to respect that he’s been putting in the effort.” Despite hearing this explanation, all Namie could comprehend was that she was not chosen and that people who were less qualified than her were. Hearing that, the accountant angrily stormed off. “Next showcase? We’ll see if that’s even a thing for me.” She shouted at Melissa as she slammed the door shut. “Jesus. I need a fucking drink right now.” Melissa sighed, walking to the nearest store to procure some alcohol, despite it only being 11 in the morning.

“Fucking Melissa, not giving me a spot. And letting people like Richard, Caitlin, and Georgia in over me?!” Namie growled, tackling open her apartment door. It was preposterous to her. “What the hell did they do right to deserve being in the showcase over me?!” She shouted into an empty apartment. “I worked so much harder, I put in so much more work, I am so much more talented, and even Melissa said that! Just because of fucking seniority? That’s some serious bullshit!” She jumped into her bed, ignoring the fact that she was still sweaty from dance class and running. “I can’t even deal with this right now.” She rolled around in her sheets. Generally, she was a lot better at being passed up with these kinds of opportunities. She gave up Harvard and Deloitte before. But in those two instances, she was at least given the offer and therefore, the ability to reject them and step away from these possibilities herself. In this case, Melissa outright rejected her. That feeling of being rejected as opposed to doing the rejecting, it genuinely hurt. Especially knowing that she did nothing wrong, except join the studio later than all five of the people who were allowed to showcase over her.

“This is so dumb.” Namie growled, taking a swig straight out of the pinot noir she was supposed to be sharing with Claire and Wei. “Hey! That’s everyone’s wine! Great, now I have to grab a new bottle.” Wei rolled her eyes, rolling off of Claire’s sofa to retrieve another one. The three were having a wine Wednesday because Claire and Namie were both having horrible weeks so far. While Namie was rejected from the showcase, Claire’s issue was that her love life was looking barren, per usual. “He was so intimidated by the fact that I have three million followers on Instagram! Fucking shit, not my problem that he got super scared.” Claire wailed angrily. “You tell him, girl. If he can’t handle being judged by that many people, then that is his problem, not yours. He’s a major pussy. You don’t need that in your life. You’re not even a lesbian!” Wei shouted, clearly having three or four more glasses than she should have had. “I might as well go for women at this rate. All of the men I have been on dates with are either pigs or cowards.” The auburn-haired girl crossed her arms angrily. “Like why the hell did I not get it? She said that I’m more talented.” Namie was still trying to wrap her head around Melissa’s decision to not cast her. “Okay, look, if you feel like you deserved to be there, the best way to go about that, do what I do in the front office. Kill them with kindness. Even when somebody is being a huge DILDO to you, and trust me, there are some huge dildo people out there, just be super nice and they will feel like complete SHIIIIT!” Claire burped as she finished that sentence. “You both have clearly had too much to drink.” Namie shook her head, pulling the alcohol away from Wei and Claire. But what the intoxicated Claire said made perfect sense. Namie needed to be the bigger person, and be supportive of her classmates, no matter how unhappy about the situation she was. Being this brooding and negative, it was not healthy for her in the long run.

It was an admittedly awkward feeling at first. Namie had not seen Melissa since she stormed out of the studio angrily. And now she was going to attend the showcase with Claire and Wei. Sitting in the back of the crowd, the accountant sat nervously, unsure of how to feel about the entire experience. “Don’t worry. You’re here to cheer on your classmates and let them know you have the capacity to admire all of their hard work.” Wei reminded her. “Sh! Guys, the showcase is going to start!” Claire pointed out the dimming lights. The three girls quietly turned to the stage and saw the first act, Caitlin, approach the stage with a couple other dancers. The music started, and she started to move. Namie had never really paid attention to anyone else in her class. But seeing Caitlin’s arms and legs dancing to the beat of the electronic dance music in the background, while she started to come alive on the stage, it was breathtaking. Caitlin was like a bolt of lightning, her movements electrifying as she continued to dance along the stage with her backup dancers. At the end of the performance, she ended doing a flip with the help of the other dancers, and they were met with an immediate applause from the audience. It was incredible.

Georgia was the next performance, as she got onto the stage with two backup dancers. The song that Georgia chose was more reminiscent of an 80’s R&B track, but nonetheless, she was able to capture that funk with her arm movements in particular. Her dancers were mirroring her every motion as she began gliding along the stage, her legs seemingly standing still. Georgia was using just her feet while her arms were drawing the audience’s attention. It was a clever trick, Namie had to admit. The three suddenly started to increase the speed of their movements, as the song quickly changed into an upbeat remix of the same tune. The three started to incorporate leg movements and jumps, as they started to bounce along the stage sporadically, before finishing with, surprisingly enough, a mini pyramid, with Georgia leaning across her backup dancers, who were in mid-pushup position. “Wow, she was this good and I never even noticed.” Namie sighed. This entire experience, sitting through the showcase and watching her classmates, it was eye-opening for her. She never realized how talented these other dancers were until tonight.

The showcase ended with the crowd applauding the dancers, and on their way out, Namie, Wei, and Claire bumped into Melissa, who was seeing everyone off. “Oh, look who’s here. Are you going to tell me how shitty the people I chose over you were?” She raised an eyebrow at her. “On the contrary, I wanted to tell you how amazed I was by all of their performances. I never really noticed how good everyone was until I got to see them perform the way that they did.” Namie admitted. “Look, I know that I was immature and the way I stormed off, it was not professional. But if you are willing to still have me as a student, I promise not to have any more hissy fits, okay? I’m sorry for the way that I acted.” “Apology accepted, Namie. And another thing, for the next showcase, I would love to have you in it. And no, you are not being awarded for throwing a bitch fit and making a scene in the classroom. But rather, you are good and if you do keep up the work, then I will have every reason to justify putting you in there. So do we have a deal? Keep coming to class and working hard, and I will promise you a spot.” “Honestly, I don’t know if I deserve it, given how talented they all were, but I will work hard so that I can one day match their level of talent.” “Sounds perfect. Then I shall see you next week.” Melissa smiled as the three left. Namie was beaming from ear to ear at the notion.

Damn real: chapter 6

“Namie, do you have the reports ready?” Her Director of Finance, David, popped his head into her office. “Yes. I inputted everything into PeopleSoft and I cross-referenced it all with the Savie reports. Nobody who I audited was short this month.” Namie recited her findings. Aside from getting change for people, Namie is also in charge of making sure that the physical money on-site of the hotel stays consistent and that she keeps all transactions recorded. It was a fairly challenging job, because she had to keep track of all day to day operations from a financial standpoint, and she had to also audit the allocated amounts of money, also called referred to as their banks, of every person on the operations side of things. At this point, month end was approaching, And that was the worst for everyone on the administrative side of things. Deadlines and goals needed to be met. On Namie’s side, that meant she had to make sure everyone who has a bank gets audited so that they are not embezzling money and so that the values of the transactions match those in the banks. She had audited the banks of Liam, Claire, and Peter, the In-Room Dining Supervisor, but she still needed to do the entire front office team as well as the In-Room Dining Operators by the end of the week. Pulling up the schedules of everyone she needed to audit, Namie quickly devised a plan so that by Thursday, she would have all of the banks accounted for, and from there, she could double-check everything so that she can be ready for month end.

Opening her safety vault, Namie sighed. The majority of her bills were $20’s or higher, which meant that she needed to make a change request soon. Counting off her larger bills, Namie placed almost all but one of each $100, $50, and $20 bill into a bag. Grabbing the change request form, she walked over to David’s office, and had him sign off on the bills and her specific requests for what quantities of bills she was requesting. “Wow, you need a lot of $5’s. I hope you have enough in the vault still.” He chuckled as he put his signature on the paper. “I’ll make sure to write that I put in a change request for this amount before I send in the bag to the Garda guy.” She announced before leaving. Garda was the company in charge of transporting their money to and from their actual bank account. Whenever Namie had an excess of bills, she would send the excess to Garda. Additionally, whenever she requested changed, she would need to send her bigger bills to the company, and they would send their usual pick-up representative to give her the change corresponding to her specifications. Nervously, Namie sealed the bag that contained close to $5,000 of bills, and placed it back in her vault so that she could hand this to the representative tomorrow. She was hoping that she could receive her change by month-end, but realistically, it might not be until a few days later that she would actually be handed them.

Urgently, Namie ran up to the front office and to her expectations, she found Melvin, one of the Front Desk Agents she still needed to audit. “Melvin, could I bother you for a second for a bank audit?” She asked as politely as possible. “Yeah, give me a second to grab my vault I’ll meet you in front of your office?” He said. “Sounds wonderful. See you there.” She smiled, pulling up her list. Today, she was going to audit Melvin and Hayley from the Front Office, as well as Lindsay from In-room Dining. In a perfect world, she would breeze through all of these audits, but unfortunately, there were a lot of front desk agents who worked part-time, and were only available at certain time on certain days. “Hello, I’m here from Garda for the bank pick-ups.” Namie saw a tall man wearing a bulletproof vest standing in front of her office. “Oh, perfect.” She quickly grabbed her door, and pulled out the bags she was sending to the bank for the day. “Here you go.” She handed them off to him. “Thanks, ma’am. Have a nice day!” He waved goodbye as he walked out. “Thank god I caught him in time.” She sighed to herself. The Garda representatives only stay for 15 minutes before leaving, because of how tight of a schedule they run on. “Hi, Namie. I’m here now.” Melvin walked up to her, holding a large dark blue bag. That contained all of his bank money. “Perfect. Come inside, it won’t take more than 5 minutes.” She promised as he walked in. By the end of the day, Namie managed to count not only the three banks she wanted to, but with permission from David, she was able to check some of the other banks as well. However, she also needed Heather, the Accounting Manager, there to monitor her while she is counting the banks, just to guarantee that she is counting them accurately and honestly. With Heather’s help, Namie was able to finish almost all of the banks, with the exception of the Front Office Manager, Takeru.

“Thank god!” Namie sighed in relief. It was Friday, and the Garda rep handed her a bag of bills. It was her change. “You are a lifesaver. I was so nervous about sending the change request so late into the month, but now I can count a complete bank!” She smiled. The main reason why she held off on sending the change request was because the hotel would also have to pay a fee, so Heather instructed her not to sent it unless she had at least $3,000 of bills needed to be exchanged. Granted, Namie was negligent in that, waiting for an additional $2,000 to accumulate before submitting it, but at least she was able to get the change back in time. Counting through the bills, she smiled, confirming that the change was exact per her request. At this point, all she had to do was assemble the binder for the month, with all of the bank audits, each day to day transaction, and the final vault count. From there, she needed David to sign off on it, and then she would be good to go for the month. “Month end, you weren’t as bad as I expected.” She smiled to herself as the Garda representative walked off. And now, she could enjoy her weekend.

“Alright, class! Well done!” Melissa clapped her hands to dismiss the dancers. “Good job, Namie! You’re really a natural at this!” She smiled as the accountant began walking out. “I know you’ve only started dance classes recently, but you’ve been doing really well for somebody who has never done dancing before.” “Honestly, I just follow the beat and think about the steps. Other than that, I let myself really get into the music.” Namie admitted sheepishly. “You have definitely been getting the hang of a lot of these forms faster than some students who have been with me for years. Keep up the good work, Namie.” “Thanks, Melissa.” She beamed as she walked out of the studio. Work had been very lackluster lately, but being told that she was doing well in classes, it was the lift she needed to keep going. At this rate, she might actually be selected to perform in the showcase, and that would be an incredible opportunity. It was a week from now, when the announcement will be made of who would be performing. In Melissa’s own words, she had been  showing more progress and promise than people who have been there years over her four months of being there. The more she thought about it, the more excited she was becoming. If she could pursue a career in dancing, that would be such an amazing opportunity. She could envision herself on the stage, before crowds of people, being applauded for doing something she has begun to fall in love with.

Damn real: chapter 5

Finally arriving at the studio, Namie eagerly made her way to the dance room, where she was with several other aspiring waack dancers. “Good morning, everyone. Glad to see that everyone made it to today’s class.” Melissa walked into the room, eyeing everyone. “Alright, so let’s get the warm-ups aside right now, and then we can get into the forms.” She suggested. As they began doing their stretches, all Namie could think about was what form they would be learning today. Waacking was already an art that was considered “lost” in that it had only survived through few performers. It was an exhilarating feelings being able to learn something this unique from somebody as talented as Melissa. Last weekend, they learned how to do steps while folding their arms behind their heads and backs. The week before that, they were learning how to fold their arms in. “Today, we are going to learn how to incorporate leg movements in with the arms and the hip movements we learned in the first month of class!” Melissa announced. Namie nodded eagerly, racking her brains to recall what they were doing back then. She remembered doing the technique that involved thrusting with her arms and hips, as well as when they were practicing moving their arms along their entire bodies. “Okay, just follow me.” With a click of a remote, the radio turned on, as Melissa began demonstrating. “1, 2, 3, and 4!” She counted, moving her arms while taking steps at the same time. “Let’s do that first. And we’ll keep doing it until we get faster.’ She decided on the spot. Everyone began to shortly copy.

“Good job, everyone!” Melissa clapped her hands as the waack class ended. “And also, before you all go, just a reminder. We will be having our dance showcase in a few months. Only the best dancers will be chosen to perform, so try your best and keep up the good work in the following classes! And if you’re wondering why you should want to be involved in it, just keep in mind that some of the biggest mainstream artists and producers actually recruit dancers from my studio. They will be attending the showcase, that much, I can guarantee you. That being said, good job, and I will see you all next week.” The instructor adjourned the class. Everyone got up and started to leave the studio. “Namie, you did wonderful, per usual. I can’t wait to see how much more you improve in the following months.” Melissa grinned suggestively. “Thanks. I’ll keep trying my best!” Upon hearing her compliment, Namie was hoping that she could be in Melissa’s showcase. To think that she might have an opportunity to dance full-time, and to leave behind her career in accounting, it felt surreal. But being able to do something she was good at and loved would be a definite improvement over just doing something that she simply was doing to give herself a sense of monetary worth beyond her almost million dollar, self-made fortune in stocks, or that she was going to be more than just somebody’s wife.

“Wait, you mean she’s not still in Utah?!” Mr. Merrimen was fuming red. Just one week ago, his eldest daughter, Namie, graduated BYU, and this whole time, he was under the impression that she was still there, packing up her things. But that was not the case. She apparently moved to Maryland just a day after her graduation and had been living there, with Yuko’s brother, this whole time. “Yes, dear. She just moved into her apartment in D.C. earlier this morning.” Yuko reminded her husband. She told him how she let Namie decide her own life choices and be her own person. However, all Mr. Merrimen could think about was how betrayed he felt by both his oldest daughter and his wife. “I promise you, she’ll come around to. Just give her time.” She tried to calm him down. “Don’t you even dare talk to me about this. You’re the one responsible for ruining our daughter’s future. She’s never going to get a husband now.” “Dear, why does it matter if she has a husband?” “She’s not going to stay young and attractive forever. I refuse to let her purity wither with old age. What sensible Mormon young man is going to want to marry an old bag?” He glared daggers at her when he said that. “She’s never going to heaven if she never has a husband who will let her!” Yuko rolled her eyes at him as she left the living room angrily. He was not listening to her, but what could she do about it? He was the man she married for the green card, and that was the religion she married into.

A much younger Namie was unpacking her few belongings into the apartment when she received a phone call. “Oh shit, it’s dad.” She sighed, as she put down a small cardboard box. Albeit nervously, she picked up her phone. “Hello?” “Why are you not in Utah or back in Idaho?” His almost hushed tone was filled with a deep-seated furiousness that just made Namie uncomfortable. “I’m going to live my own life. If you want to stop me, you can try. But even mom doesn’t know which building I live in, nor am I going to tell her what kind of job I’m working in. So you better just give it up, dad.” She replied, trying her best to fight the urge to just submit to his desires and return to Idaho with her tail between her legs, head bowed in shame. “Why you little-! Don’t you dare talk to a man in that tone!” He barked, his voice ringing in Namie’s ear as she pulled the phone away from her head. “You’re going to fail and when you do, you’ll realize how much better your life would be back in Idaho! I’ll be waiting for you to come back home!” He growled. “Wait all you want. I’ll never come back.” And with that, she hung up her phone. It did not matter to her, what he said. She had committed to moving to D.C. at this point. She signed her lease. And on top of that, she was now more determined than ever to make a career for herself out here in the greater D.C. area.

“Dear, I know you’re mad, but she will come around eventually. She’s young. Let her make her own decisions. I did, and that’s how I met you, right?” Yuko pointed out to her husband. “That’s true. But I needed to give you a little push so that we could get married after our first date. I need to make sure that she has a husband. Even if he’s all the way out there.” Walking out of their bedroom and into the living room, he pulled out his phone. “What kinds of dating apps can I use here?” He pondered aloud as he started looking through them. He was determined to find her a husband, preferably a Mormon husband, or at least somebody willing to convert, and force her to move back to Idaho or Utah with him. However, that was years ago. Mr. Merrimen did not go through with his plans, and he did accept that Namie was going to come around eventually. However, he did not stop pressuring her to find a husband. He wanted to make sure that his little girl would not go to hell because she dyed unwed or a sodomist. He was going to be damned if even one of his daughters ended up in hell because of youthful impulse. Many times had Yuko needed to talk him out of flying over to D.C. and tracking her down himself. It was hard to see his daughter doing something that could jeopardize her entry into heaven and not do anything about it. But he knew that being physically forceful would only drive her away completely. So for the time being, he stuck to weekly phone calls, reminding her to get a husband.

Damn real: chapter 4

“So what are you planning to do now that you’ve graduated?” It was Namie’s graduation ceremony, and she was approached by her Accounting Information Systems professor, an elderly man named Dr. Hale. “I think I want to become a CPA.” Namie smiled. “Oh, no, she’s not. She’s going to get married to my friend’s son.” Mr. Merrimen interrupted as he walked up to the two. “Dad, I’m not getting married and becoming a housewife. What part of that can’t you understand?!” Namie frowned angrily. “You’re going to be a housewife because I want to be a grandfather before Emiri goes to college.” He growled. “Excuse us as we talk in private, Dr. Hale.” Namie grabbed her father and walked away. “You’re making a scene in my graduation.” She was furious at this point. Years and years of being told by her father that she was going to be a great mother one day, it was frustrating. He completely disregarded her credentials. Throughout high school, Namie had done exceptionally well. She even got into Harvard as an Applied Mathematics major, but was forced to reject it because her father told her she needed to enroll in BYU or else he would cut her off financially. And even when she was valedictorian for BYU’s School of Accountancy, and was offered a job at Deloitte in  as a junior accountant, Namie could not take the offer because it was in California, and her father did not want her to leave the area. However, this was the last straw. She refused to be humiliated like this any further. “Honey, the dean wants to talk to you.” Mrs. Merrimen, sensing the rising tension, walked over and broke up their argument. “Alright, fine.” Mr. Merrimen frowned as he stormed off to talk with the dean. “Here, dear.” Mrs. Merrimen slipped her daughter an envelope. “What’s this?”

Mrs. Merrimen paused before giving her daughter a truthfully apologetic look. “I know you already rejected your offer from Deloitte, and I knew that something like this would happen. So I took the time to buy this for you.” “What is it?” “Your ticket out of here. It’s a plane ticket. I want you to go and live with my brother” “Huh?!” Namie was surprised. Her mom hardly ever spoke about her family. “I just got back in touch with him, because our mother died.” This was all news to Namie. She did not even know what her other grandmother was like. “And then I heard you rejected Deloitte, so I only knew it would have been a manner of time before this had happened and you wanted out of this lifestyle. I know you are a smart girl, sweetie. You worked two jobs in college, and made a mini fortune for yourself with your stock investments. You don’t need to stay here with us. I want you to go far, far away from here, and be happy. So go, and live with my brother and his family in Maryland for a little bit. You deserve a change in scenery.” She smiled at her daughter. She did not want her to give up everything, just like how she did, just to make a man happy. “Mom! Thank you so much.” Namie hugged her mother as she hid the envelope quickly in her robes. “Dear, if I may, I have a suggestion.” “What’s that?” “Go back your things quickly. Your flight is tonight, so you need to head over to the airport as soon as you can. Live in the D.C. area, away from your father for a little bit. That’ll help you grow up and be the independent woman you want to be.” She smiled. “Thanks, mom. I won’t forget this.” Namie whispered. She was touched by her mother’s sudden need to be supportive of her dreams. “I had to bite my tongue when you were forced to turn down Harvard. I could not do anything when you were forced to turn down Deloitte. I am not going to stand here and watch my smart, talented daughter turn away another opportunity.”

“Hello?” Namie knocked the door of the house skittishly. She had never even met her mother’s side of the family before. They were never brought up, so Namie and Emiri just assumed they had all died or something. “Hello.” A tall Asian man opened the door. “Namie Merrimen, is that you?!” His eyes widened in surprise. “Uh, yes? Are you Juntaro Ishigo?” “I haven’t seen you since you were a little kid! Yuko, your mother, she’d sent me pictures of you as a baby a long, long time ago. But wait, it’s pretty late.’ Juntaro noted the dark skies hanging over his Maryland house. “Come in. Your aunt and cousin are actually setting up dinner right now.” Namie cautiously stepped into the house, unsure of how to feel about the entire situation. Her aunt? Her cousin? This is all still so new to her. “Hi! Welcome to our home!” A slim, attractive Asian woman greeted her as the college graduate entered a decent sized dining room. “You must be Namie! Oh, you’re so gorgeous. I’m your aunt, Xiaohua!” Xiaohua? Namie thought to herself. The woman in front of her had a very…not-Japanese-sounding name. “Oh, you must not have heard much about us. Well, your uncle, Juntaro, he is your mother’s younger brother. And he moved to Taiwan for work, where we met. We actually have a daughter that’s really close to your age. Wei! Come out of the kitchen and say hi to your cousin!” She called. “Okay, mom!” Another incredibly attractive Asian girl, around her early 20s, walked into the room, holding a large pot of stew. Quickly, she placed it down before giving Namie a huge hug. “Oh, I’m so glad to have finally met you! I’m Wei, your cousin!” While Namie was used to getting a warm reception from her own family, that is, when her father was not pressuring her into getting married, it was almost strange to receive that same treatment from these three, essentially, strangers. However, it felt nice. She was gracious to know that there were three people that she could trust moving into a completely new environment.

Despite her warm reception, Namie only stayed with her uncle, aunt, and Wei for a week before settling in Sky House by the Waterfront. And shortly after, Wei also moved out to the Georgetown area, just to be closer to her recording studio. Occasionally, the two girls would go back to Maryland for visits, and also became close ever since. Wei, being an only child, was grateful for having a sister-type figure in Namie, while Namie was used to being a sister, being an older sister to Emiri anyways. Namie struggled to find a job, however. It was hard for her to get employed initially. Even though her stock investments were financially sustaining her, she still wanted to work. She personally believed in working hard, and not just sitting idly, doing nothing. That competitive edge is what helped her achieve so much in her life already. In her eyes, going through what she had and knowing how accomplished she could have been, it set off a fire in her belly. She wanted to make a name for herself and prove to her father that she can be much, much more than just a housewife. Shuddering to herself as she logged onto LinkedIn, she began her job search, sending out resume after resume and filling out different applications. “No, for the last bloody time, I’m not a protected veteran!” She growled, submitting what felt like the 50th online application. “Oh, crap. I think I sent in the wrong cover letter.” She frowned, slamming her laptop shut. It was getting really late at this point, and she decided to call it a day.

However, she did get a callback. A hotel, the Ritz Carlton, had reached out to her for an interview. She applied to be a General Cashier, and after several rounds of interviewing, and admitting that she has no hotel experience, was lucky enough to land the position. She was being paid $20/hour to count money. While it was not terribly glamorous, it was the first offer she received, and Namie decided to commit to it, rather than wait for anything else. While adjusting to working in a hotel environment was hard at first, she slowly came around to it. She interacted with her co-workers a lot more, and eventually met Claire, who had been a recent hire for the front desk. The two bonded over the fact that they were close in age, both had Boo the Pomeranian backgrounds on their phones, with Lilly Pulitzer phone cases, and enjoyed buying their make-up from Sephora. It was an immediate friendship. While she only had two friends, being Wei and Claire, Namie was starting to enjoy her independence from her parents.

Damn real: chapter 3

“So who are you?” It was a few months ago, and a slightly younger Namie timidly walked into the dance studio with Claire. They were walking into the studio mid-session while Melissa was standing in the back of the room, teaching her class. “We’re here for dance lessons.” Claire stated. “Well, you’re either late or early. I’m in the middle of teaching these middle schoolers ballet, so I’m assuming you’re here for the next lesson, which is waacking?” The dance instructor referred to the crowd of 12 year-old girls who were clad in tutus. “Oh, shit. Well, we’re sorry. We can just watch as you finish up.” Claire shied away, dragging Namie with her so that the two could just sit in the back of the room. “Smart choice.” Melissa rolled her eyes, as she returned to tending after her class. “Geez, she’s a bit… snappy.” Claire frowned, crossing her arms unhappily. “Says the pot to the kettle?” Namie laughed. “Oh, shut the hell up. You’ve never had to work a night shift in your fucking life. You’d be just as moody if you had to work back to back shifts. It sucks.” “This isn’t about Melissa, isn’t it?” The half Japanese accountant raised an eyebrow at her friend. “No. It’s fucking Johan. Scheduling me like that repeatedly. It’s like he just wants to me to blow up at him and get fired or something.” Claire was referring to the front office supervisor at the time, who went on to be fired after the entire front office went on strike from being fed up with his inability to treat them with the decency of a human being. “I’m sure he’ll get his comeuppance. He clearly is in over his head. Liam wants him to go too.” Namie reassured the beauty guru. “Alright, thank you all for coming in this week. I expect to see you guys next week, practicing the form we went over.” Melissa shouted, startling both girls.

“Welcome to introductory tap dancing for adults. I am your instructor, Melissa, and I will try my best to make you all expert tap dancers by the end of the week.” “Ugh, I swear, Liam just wants us to suffer.” Claire whispered to Namie. Cardio was her least favorite thing to do. “So why are you guys here?” She looked at the relatively full room of young adults. “Well, we’re here because our friend and co-worker, Liam, told us about you.” Claire revealed. Liam recommended for the two to try out tap dancing as a fun way to relieve stress, and sent them to Melissa’s studio because he was friends with her. “Oh, you two work with Liam Peters?” Melissa’s eyes widened. “Yeah?” “He’s…horrible in bed. I swear to god, I can’t even believe I lost my virginity to him. Well, my butt virginity anyways. Oh. Wait. We can save that conversation for later.” The instructor realized that she horrified the entire class with her incomplete anecdote. “But anyways, next person, please!” A young man with short brown hair, a sharp nose, and high cheek bones stepped forward. “My name is Niall, and I have a passion for the performing arts. I love to play violin, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to learn tap dancing too.” He shrugged. “He’s cute.” Claire giggled, admiring his features. “He’s probably gay.” Namie crossed her arms and rolled her eyes. “Well, good sir, if you ever want to take my vag-inity, feel free to let me know.” Melissa offered, much to everyone’s disgust. “Oh, shut the fuck up! I’m going to teach you all how to be amazing dancers! You’re all in my fucking domain right now! Bear with me and all of me!” She shouted in anger. “Well, I don’t think my girlfriend would appreciate that, but I’ll definitely keep that in mind.” Niall chuckled. “So he’s not gay.” Claire laughed. “Totally a cover up.” Namie frowned.

“Now that we’ve got warm-ups out of the way, let’s start.” Melissa got up. They had finished introductions and their leg and arm warm-ups and were moving on to the actual dancing exercises. “So to start, we want you guys to just relax. I’m going to play the music, and demonstrate how to follow the rhythm with your feet and your hands.” She pulled out a remote control and turned on the stereo. “One, and two, and three, and four.” She demonstrated, tapping her feet against the ground while also buckling her knees to the beat. “This is stupid.” Claire rolled her eyes. Namie, however, was soaking everything in and mimicking Melissa perfectly. For her, there was something about counting the steps, motions, and beats, that really resonated with her as an accountant. “Everyone, look at Namie. She’s doing it perfectly. You go, girlfriend!” Melissa shouted before going back to demonstrating the exercise. The half-Japanese accountant could not help but smile as she continued to following. “Hey, don’t smile unless the routine calls for it! Breaking character like that will get you in a lot of shit if you were performing. Keep the mood of the music and artist in mind. It is fucking Drake right now. You’re supposed to be serious or indifferent at best!” Melissa frowned. Immediately, Namie replaced her grin with a look of general disinterest, much to the amusement and satisfaction of her overzealous dance instructor.

After their dance class, Claire laid sprawled on the floor, completely exhausted. Namie, on the other hand, was a little sweaty, but not nearly as fatigued. There was something about moving to the music that really resonated with her. “Hey, you.” Melissa walked up to Namie as the half-Japanese girl looked horrified. “Oh, hell no. You are not going to tell me about how you had butt sex with my co-worker. I can’t un-picture it.” Namie held up her hands as she tried to back away. “Oh, Jesus fucking christ, grow up. It’s the adult class. We’re adults who do adult things. Get over it.” Melissa rolled her eyes. “But that’s not why I’m here to talk to you. I already said most of what you guys needed to hear about Liam. Just don’t have sex with him unless you want to lie there like a plank-” “You’re doing it. You’re talking about it!” Claire groaned from the ground. “Oh, shut up. But yeah, Namie, was it?” Melissa looked at her. “Yeah?” “You’re a natural at this. I actually have been holding an exclusive class for exceptionally talented dancers, but it’s on Saturday mornings instead of Sunday afternoons. It’s for a very rare style, waacking. I would like to extend my offer to you for attending my classes.” Melissa offered. “Oh, but only if Claire can do it with me.” Namie tried to bargain. “Claire? She can’t even handle introductory tap dancing. I doubt she can handle the waacking classes.” “Namie, you should just go for it. She’s right. Dancing is so not for me…. I’m going to kill Liam for this.” The front desk worker growled angrily as she tried to get up from the floor, but to no avail. Her legs were too sore. “So what do you say? You have natural talent and I want to teach you something that I’ve learned from my experiences as a back-up dancer for singers around the world. I can open up the world of dancing to you in ways that you can’t even imagine.” Melissa looked at her. “Okay. I’ll take you up on that. Dancing with you in that lesson, it was fun. I want to continue.” Namie decided. “Teach me how to be a waack dancer.”

Damn real: chapter 2

Earlier that week, Namie was having a weekly Skype call with her parents, who lived in Jefferson, Idaho. “Namie, you need to get married soon. Emiri already has two kids!” A 46 year-old Caucasian man with blonde hair and blue eyes shouted. He was Tanner Merrimen, Namie’s father. “Dear, don’t be so forceful. She will find the right man eventually.” A small Asian woman in her early to mid 40s, Yuko Merrimen, tried to calm down her frustrated husband. “Emiri just so happened to find her special someone earlier. It is no big deal.” She reassured him. Emiri was Namie’s younger sister. By the age of 19, Emiri had already married her husband, Kenta Yamamoto, a then 19 year-old half Hapa who she had met in Birmingham Young University. He was a failing musician, which meant that Emiri herself had to work odd jobs to support them. By the time she was 20, Emiri was pregnant with her first child, a daughter whom she named Yuzu. And recently, Emiri gave birth to her second child, a son named Makoto. Mr. Merrimen was not happy to see that his older daughter was so behind on the family trend, given that the fact that both Emiri and Yuko got pregnant with their first children by the time they were 20. Namie, on the other hand, was horrified to see her sister throw away her career in engineering or applied mathematics to be a housewife and working for minimum wage. “You need to get married soon. You’re already 26 and you’re still single? That’s not good for you. You won’t stay young and beautiful forever.” Mr. Merrimen warned his daughter, much to her thinly veiled frustration at his extremely shallow remark. She understood that he wanted her to be happy, but Namie did not know if marriage and motherhood would truly make fulfill her need to have a life’s purpose. She simply knew that trapping herself into a committed relationship and trying to have a family when she does not even fully understand who she is as a person yet would be a rash mistake. She did not want to bring her children into a world of confusion when she could not even fully comprehend her own goals and passions.

“No fucking way. I can’t believe he said that about you!” Wei was furious. “‘You won’t stay young and beautiful forever?’ I’m sorry, but this man, I can’t believe you even share 50% of your DNA with him. This is just wrong. He’s not a good person in the slightest.” “Well, we can’t all get lucky with our parents.” Namie sighed. Unlike her cousin, Wei’s parents met when her father, Juntaro Ishigo, Yuko’s younger brother, fell in love with Xiaohua Ma, a Taiwanese model, when he was on a business trip in Taiwan for the PR and Marketing firm he was working for. The two were both very free spirits, and decided to immigrate to America to raise their family in a place unchained from Asian politics. As a result, Wei was raised to be very progressive, open-minded, and relaxed. She does not believe in the idea of arranged marriages in the slightest; if she were to marry somebody, he better be somebody she genuinely loves. She would not be wed for the sake of not being single, something that her parents greatly encourage and respect. “Why couldn’t I be born to your parents?” Namie frowned. “Because you lost the coin toss?” Wei laughed jeeringly. “Oh, shut the fuck up. At least I have stability in my life. You have to fly back and forth between here and Japan for work.” The brunette pointed out. Wei was an idol and cosplay model in Japan, meaning that she commuted between Maryland and Tokyo almost every three months for work. The only reason why Wei lives in the greater D.C. area is to be close to her parents, who live in Baltimore. “Hey, the life of a celebrity is hard. Plus, I’m about to start recording a new single soon. It’s hard!” Wei frowned. She typically does her recording in D.C., but she has to then send them over to her studio producers in Japan for editing. Having to wait on the time difference to hear back from them takes not only a while, but it leaves Wei in a very difficult position of being uncertain of what she can and can’t do within the twelve hours following a recording session, leaving her stuck in the studio until she can receive her feedback.

“Alright, well, I’ll see you later!” Wei smiled as she got into her car. “Are you sure you don’t want me to drop you off?” The idol offered. “Nah, I can just uber back.” Namie reassured her. “Alright, get back safely! Don’t die!” The half Taiwanese girl half joked. In truth, Namie’s neighborhood was surrounded by projects and run down apartments. It was definitely not the safest place to be past sunset. It was almost midnight already. “Ah, crap.” The accountant sighed, as she frantically called an Uber. She was not about to be shanked tonight. “I’m going to be so screwed for class tomorrow.” Namie sighed. But at the same time, the thought of going to class put a slight spring in her step as she rushed over to her car. While she was an accountant during the week, during the weekends, Namie took dancing classes. But not anything classic like ballet, despite how fitting that style of dance is with her appearance. Namie was practicing the unorthodox style of waacking. Waack dancing was the unrestrained contrast she needed from her otherwise by-the-book lifestyle as an accountant. Crawling into her queen sized bed, she tried to sound every bit of her conscience that was still keeping her awake. Her worries, concerns, fears, all being put at bay with her anticipation and excitement. Namie just wanted it to be 7 hours later, so that she could go to her class. And surely enough, the brunette drifted off to sleep. The only thing on her mind was her eagerness to get up and start dancing the next morning.

Surely enough, morning did come quickly. And Namie was already sporting her leggings and tank top, her brown hair tied back into a ponytail as she left her cozy Waterfront apartment. Namie preferred jogging over to her dance studio, which was just past the National Mall. Nothing like a mile jog to get her endorphins going for the day. Finally passing the monuments and large white federal buildings, Namie finally arrived at a decently sized one story building surrounded by glass window panes and black etchings. Melissa Chen’s Dance Studio. The owner and instructor, Melissa, was a tall Chinese girl who graduated from the Tisch School of Performing Arts in New York University. She has a voice larger than life, which was good for conveying instructions and suggestions, but bad for keeping the room quiet and composed. But it did not matter for Namie. Melissa was a great teacher, who helped her loosen up on the dance floor. When she is waacking, Namie is allowed to let loose. Her arms and legs go fluid as they become an extension to the beat she is listening to. She becomes an embodiment of the music and rhythm. All of her worries just melt away as the adrenaline just rushes through her head and keeps her moving.