How it is: Chapter 9

In middle school, Timmy’s feeling for Valerie just continued to grow. Before, it was just because Valerie chose him and Tarou over their female classmates. But even during puberty, Valerie just blossomed. “Ugh, you two are so lucky you don’t have to wear a bra.” She groaned. “These things are like sandbags on my chest.” She was awkwardly referring to her bosoms. Both Tarou and Timmy were at a loss of what to say. Timmy was the youngest of three brothers and Tarou was an only child, so neither of them ever had to hear about bras, breasts, or periods before talking to Valerie. And since Valerie had very few female friends, she would just complain to them about her puberty-related predicaments, much to Tarou’s visible discomfort. Even then, Timmy was still intrigued by her. To him, she was always such an interesting person. At first, it was because she was the only girl who was not his mother who was close to him. But then those feelings, they expanded when he got to know her better. Hearing about her dreams and goals, and seeing the lengths she went to so that she could accomplish them, it was inspirational.

Valerie wanted to be a chef since she was really young. She used to travel with her grandparents throughout California, eating at fine dining restaurants, such as The French Laundry. By the time she turned 16, she was interning throughout her summers at a variety of restaurants. First, it was a local country club in Queens, where they all lived. But then, she started commuting to Manhattan to work for Mario Batali, and spent an entire summer in Chicago with her uncle, working under chef Stephanie Izard. Timmy still remembers that summer. It was before their senior year and Valerie was away the entire time. They would call every week, just to catch up. “So, how’s Chicago?” “It’s really cool! It reminds me of the city in a lot of ways, and I just love it.” She confessed. “I’m surprised by how not-homesick I am. That’s probably the biggest shock.” “Well, that’s great to hear!” Timmy was relieved, knowing that she was happy. “Hopefully, we’ll all be going to college together like we planned.” She laughed at them. “Definitely! Going to NYU with you and Tarou, it’ll be the best four years of my life.” He chuckled in agreement. Spending any time with Valerie was fun. She was a loyal and loving friend, and Timmy greatly appreciated that.

“So, I’m going to be competing on Warrior Chef, but that means that I’m switching to online courses to finish my education.” Valerie was sitting down with Timmy and Tarou. It was their senior year of high school, and she just heard back from the casting crew of the show. “Wait, really?!” They both looked shocked. While Tarou was excited, Timmy felt a little sad. He would not be spending their graduation together with her. But Valerie had already heard back from NYU, and got in with early decision. “I’ll see you guys on the other side of this experience, okay?” She smiled at them. “I can’t wait to hear about it!” Tarou grinned at her. “Unleash hell! Let them see what Stephanie Izard and Mario Batali taught you.” The Japanese boy chuckled. “Good luck, okay?” Timmy beamed at his crush. “Thanks, you two. I’m going to be sad that I won’t be graduating with you guys, but at the same time, this is really exciting and I can’t wait to compete! I want to make a strong impression in this competition from the get-go.” “Knowing what you can do, those other teenagers will not stand a chance. You’re going to be Warrior Chef. I know it.” Timmy assured her.

The concept of Warrior Chef was that high school students with an interest in the culinary field would compete in several challenges to determine a winner. In her season, Valerie was one of 16 high schoolers, and one of eight girls, to be competing. Much to her delight, she was able to start the competition on a strong foot, the entire first round and more importantly, the respect of everyone in that season. Everyone knew that Valerie was the strongest female cook. In the end, she wound up winning a total of eleven challenges. Valerie had the entire summer to work under Janice Arrington and slowly forget about losing the competition. While it was hard then, what helped her get over the pan was not thinking about it. She did not have the entire nation harping her on social media over her decisions at that point. Reliving the rounds going up to the finale, it actually bolstered her confidence. Valerie felt that no matter how she was portrayed in that final challenge, she would have enough fans and support to keep her going. But it was just comments of disappointment and judgement. Everyone thought she was an idiot. Nobody supported her decision to stick to dessert.

The one person Valerie would really want to speak to was Tarou. Since they were young, she always felt like she could relate to him. Then seeing him transform from what he was into an aspiring model, that was when her feelings turned romantic in nature. Tarou came off as confident and capable, but since they grew up together, Tarou was never nervous or afraid of her. He supported her as much as she supported him. Valerie knew that a relationship with Tarou, it would only help both of them grow as individuals and as a couple. But she did not want Timmy to feel uncomfortable, especially when the three of them were friends for such a long time. It was a major factor for why she always refused to confess her feelings to him. That, coupled with her fear of him rejecting her. Especially in the state she was right now, the last thing she needed was for yet another person she admired to tell her that she was not good enough.

Meanwhile, Tarou finally returned to the room from his event. “Hey, can we please talk?” He looked at Timmy, whose eyes were still red from crying earlier. “No. I don’t want to.” “What?” “I’m not ready yet.” He shook his head, before going back to ignoring the taller male. “What the hell do you mean you’re not ready yet?” Timmy did not respond. At this point, he felt like Tarou was being emotionally and verbally abusive to him. The constant yelling and screaming, it was beginning to take a toll on him emotionally. Just looking at Tarou, it made him uncomfortable. “Well, alright then, you fucking baby.” The model was already exhausted, and the last thing he needed right now was for Timmy to, per usual, treat him like shit or an obstacle. He did not need to be this protective of Timmy, and at that point, he decided it was for the best to keep his distance. “Hey, Alex. I just wanted to let you know that even if I do get the event coordinator position for ACU, I have to decline.” Tarou sent that message via Facebook to the president. “Oh, thank you for your honesty.” Alex sent back. The mode knew it was burning a bridge, but he did not care. The last thing he wanted was for Timmy to feel even more suffocated by him. Timmy was an immature brat who needed time to adjust to everything. Tarou was starting to realize just how inexperience the smaller male really was with life compared to him and Valerie. And a lot of that inexperience came from the Japanese boy smothering him with protection.

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