Damn real: chapter 22

“Congratulations!” Wei smiled at Namie. The two were with Claire and Niall at a restaurant, Ripple, enjoying a late night dinner. A few months have passed since then, and it was now late January. “Well, she totally deserved it. First associate of the month, then she gets recognized for all of her hard work, and she’s now basically running the finance team.” Claire smirked. Namie had just been promoted to Finance Generalist, meaning that she was one step closer to becoming an Assistant Director of Finance. “Well, let’s not forget about you.” Namie pointed at Claire. She had also been promoted to Assistant Director of Front Office, to the surprise of everybody at work. The previous manager, Takeru, had left the company to pursue a career as Director of Reservations for the Intercontinental Waterfront, so the vacancy meant that Claire, being the next in line as the supervisor, was offered the chance to step into the new role before Human Resources would have to find a new person. She took the offer with next to no hesitation, as it meant that with more work, there would be more distractions from thinking about Frankie. More responsibilities to drown herself in. “Yeah, it was not really an expected turn of events. I genuinely was surprised that they’d want me to do it.” She shrugged. Looking back on how hasty her decision was, Claire was doubting whether or not taking a career advancement was what she really wanted. It meant that she would have more obligations and longer hours, something that could potentially interfere with her job as a beauty guru. However, time was never an issue for her. Claire was able to work overnight, and still have time to record, edit, and plan her own videos. So this was just going to be another hurdle for her that once she overcomes, will just add to her already incredible resume.

“Well, we are all doing well, and that’s what matters. The two of you are dating, we both get promoted, it’s a great life.” Claire smiled while Wei and Niall rolled their eyes at them. “Meh, this coming from the girls who are now anti-relationship? Whatever. At least you aren’t judging me for dating your ex, Nams.” Wei shrugged. Even though it was initially awkward, Wei and Niall started dating. It started a few weeks ago, when Niall and Wei started talking more, first over the phone, and then eventually in person. The person who really won Wei over was Kimmy; seeing how caring Niall was towards her, she could not help but feel like he would be the perfect kind of guy for her. Despite formerly harboring feelings towards him, Namie could not be happier for her cousin. It was about time that she found somebody that made her happy, besides herself of course. Surprisingly enough, Wei and Niall were very compatible; both of them were really into performing arts, and Niall’s constant praising of and fawning over Wei only complimented her self-loving nature. He was a nurturing personality, while she was more independent and strong. Since they have started dating, Wei has been trying to use her connections to help Niall build more career opportunities beyond the D.C. Concert Orchestra.  Because of that, they both really brought out great qualities in one another. Niall made Wei a more caring person, while Wei’s newfound caring nature helped bring Niall and therefore Kimmy, more chances at a better life. “Well, we keep pushing each other, and that’s what I appreciate about it.” Wei shrugged. “We’re just happy that you’re both happy.” Claire and Namie reassured their friends. It was just refreshing to see somebody as outlandish as Wei find somebody who was such a perfect fit for her.

“Well, don’t forget! The next showcase is coming up very soon now!” Melissa called as the class was dismissed. “Namie, how often have you been practicing?” “Well, I try to squeeze in at least one to two hours each day after work, on top of the weekend classes.” She admitted. “And you’re happy with the song you chose? It was a JPOP song, right?” “Yeah, it’s Koda Kumi’s song, Damn Real. It’s a bit intense, but I really wanted to try it.” “Oh, I think I heard about it from my bisexual Japanese friend. He’s really into that artist because she’s all about sex and self expression. I got your number.” The dance instructor laughed as Namie stood there, impressed that Melissa knew that much about one of the accountant’s favorite artists. “But yeah, Damn Real is a bit slow. I have a remix I’d like to suggest, just to jazz it up. It’s the NINESTATEFLEX remix, and it’s bomb as hell. The beat is a little more suitable to waacking, but it’s up to you.” She shrugged. “I’ll listen to it and adjust my movements. Thanks.” Namie smiled, as she wrote down the version she would be later downloading off of the internet. Luckily, it was the weekend and she still had about a good six days to make revisions. And since it was a remix, not an entirely new song, the accountant knew that she could handle making those changes to her choreography by today, and adapt to the new steps by the end of Tuesday. Smiling to herself, she felt pumped. This was an opportunity to get her name as a performer out there in the greater D.C. area. The thought of becoming a full time dancer or performer, it sounded incredible. She already enjoyed the pace of learning how to dance, as well as being able to express herself as an outlet, so to have more opportunities to do so, and to get other people inspired to join in with it, it sounded increasingly like something she could pursue an actual career in.

“I hope she’s not nervous.” Wei and Claire exchanged glances nervously. It was finally the day of the end-of-winter showcase. Namie’s performance was somewhere towards the end, so the wait and suspense were eating away at both girls. “Oh, I’m sure it’ll be fine.” Emiri rolled her eyes. She was also getting impatient, because she was only there to support her sister. None of these other performers even mattered to her. “Wow, how are you even related to Namie and Wei? You’re like heartless of something.” Niall raised as eyebrow at her. “First rule of newly dating somebody, don’t shit on their family.” Emiri glared at him. “And also, I hardly consider Wei my family. Yeah, we’re blood related and all, but I hardly know her.” “She’s got a point there.” Wei agreed, not entirely enthused by the thought of being closely associated with somebody so straightforward and ruthless. “Sh! I think Namie’s performance is up next!” Kimmy looked at them. Out of all of the five, she had been the only one closely paying attention to all of the performances and the program in general. As she was an avid fan of Wei, Kimmy just appreciated the performing arts as a whole. So each and every dancer to have gone up on stage thus far has been a great inspiration to her. “We need to be quiet, especially if there are scouts in the audience. We don’t want to distract her or detract from her performance.” Niall realized aloud. He was right. And with that point, everyone else’s bickering came to a halt as Namie made her way up towards the center of the stage. She was draped in black, with fishnet leggings and a face dowsed in a heavy amount of eyeshadow and mascara, just to give her overall appearance more intense features to match the song she was about to perform to.

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Damn real: chapter 21

“And the associate of the month is… Namie Merrimen! Congratulations on clearing out all of your duebacks and handling the monthly audits in such an efficient matter! We have never seen anyone who finished all of the counts in just a week!” The general manager, a tall bald man named Ralph, clapped his hands as all of Namie’s coworkers joined in. “Well done, Namie.” David grinned at the accountant. “Thank you.” She had been the first member of the accounting department to receive this honor. It felt incredible, to say the least. “You earned it! See? Things are already turning around for you.” Claire told her as they started walking back to their offices. “I’m just so happy that we managed to finish everything so quickly.” Namie sighed in relief. Whenever she was having talks with Claire, they had been grabbing and counting the individual banks for each front desk agent, which was why she was able to get her monthly counts done so effectively. It had been a couple weeks since Namie had dumped Niall at this point, but she could not help but still feel bad for how she chose to break it off with him. Nonetheless, it felt wrong to apologize now. It seemed like he would have moved on since then. Saying anything at this moment could probably escalate the situation and cause tensions to rise. At least that was how the accountant saw things. Unbeknownst to her, the violoncellist was not ready to give her up from his life just quite yet. Shortly after he had been dumped, he reached out to the one person he was hoping to get answers from. And luckily for him, she told him all he needed to know.

“Hello?” Wei picked up her phone. The idol was doing her daily routine, which included walking around the city to stay thin, when her cell suddenly started ringing, the screen displaying a 617 area code. “Hi, is this Wei?” She recognized the voice right away. It was Niall’s. That’s right. 617 is a Boston area code. She reminded herself. “Uh, what do you want?” She paused, awkwardly. It felt really off-putting, talking to her cousin’s ex-love interest. “I just wondering if I could talk to you more about Namie. I wanted to talk to her, but I did not want to make things worse. And you’re her family, so you’d know what’s going on with her more than anyone else would.” “Why should you care?” “I just want closure. If she never wants to see me again, that’s one thing, but at the end of the day, I want to understand why she felt the need to dump me like that. Wei, I’m the one who got his heart broken here. I think it’s only fair I get some kind of explanation, right?” “Okay, fine.” She sighed, sitting down on a bench. “The thing about Namie is that she had always been the black sheep in her family.” “Well yeah. She’s not religious, and she was born into a Mormon family, right?” Niall pointed out. “Exactly. And her father was a sexist bastard who tried his best to weigh her down. She could have gone to Harvard, could have worked in Deloitte. But because of him, her chances at doing any of those were shot. To her, she views having a male figure in her life as a large burden. At least, that’s from what I’ve noticed. She’s afraid by committing to a guy, he might try to make her submissive, the same way her own father made her, her sister, and her mom.” After hearing that from Wei, it was all slowly started to make sense to the young man. He should not have taken Namie’s rejection so personally. It was not necessarily him, but just the idea of dating or being with a guy that was putting the accountant off. “I see.” He paused, still wrapping his head around this.

“Thank you, everyone. Great work!” Melissa clapped her hands as everyone got up and began filing out of the studio. “Namie, you keep dancing the way you are and you will crush it at the showcase.” She beamed at the cashier. “Thanks, Melissa.” She grinned back as she left the room. With the showcase still a while away, she had been practicing more and more throughout her week. She was thinking about using a song from her favorite Japanese artist, Koda Kumi, but she was still deciding on which one. Regardless, dancing continued to make her feel like a stronger person. As if nothing else really could distract her. Or so she thought. “Hey…” Much to her shock, just standing outside of the building was Niall. After their exchange, she was not entirely ecstatic to see him. In fact, she was terrified. What if he came here to attack her? Or berate her for breaking his heart? Granted, that would justified, given how suddenly she broke it off with him, and how little of an explanation she had actually given him. Bracing herself for the worst, she decided to dive into the belly of the beast, and be more upfront with him. Or at least she tried to, before he interrupted her train of thought. “I know you might not want to see me right now, but I need to talk to you.” He stood there nervously, awaiting her response. It took her by surprise. There were a lot of things Namie had expected him to say at that point. ‘You heart-breaking bitch!’ or ‘Teasing cunt-faced whorebag’ would be a couple of them, but his civil reaction was both nerve-wracking and slightly relaxing. She did not know if he was going to have a volcanic reaction down the line, unleashing his bottled up emotions, or if he was genuinely calm and making rational decisions at this time. “I think I owe you that much. Here, let’s go for a walk by the Jefferson Memorial.” She suggested, as they began walking alongside the Tidal Basin.

“So I spoke to Wei, mostly because I wanted to understand what you meant about your upbringing. I didn’t realize that you were basically imprisoned by your father for so much of your life. It must have been tough and degrading, throwing away everything to gain his approval.” Namie, albeit taken aback, tried not to get defensive or justify herself to that fact. “Yeah. But not anymore. Not for a while, actually.” “She told me that too. And that just made me admire you more.” He sighed, feeling defeated by his own emotions. “Look, I really do think you’re an amazing guy, Niall.” She began. “And I could see myself in a happy relationship with you. But at the same time, I don’t want to lose who I am to being with somebody else. If I do, then how was that any different than me trying my best to impress my dad? I’m just throwing away my identity for a man in my life. I don’t want that.” She sighed. “Honestly, relationships don’t have to be that way either. Now I’m not saying that you should be in a relationship with me because I am attracted to you, and you might be attracted to me. But I just want to broaden your perspective on that.” He reasoned. “There will be people who will like you, no matter who you are. Those are the people you want in your life. I’m not saying that I will be unconditionally attracted to you. I’m sure even I would have my limits. For example, if you decided to suddenly become a Neo-Nazi, we might have a problem there.” He pointed out. “But that being said, maybe we have been going about this all wrong. We don’t need to jump into anything. We could just start by being friends. I want to get to know you, simply because I think you’re an interesting person. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I want you to be my wife. Trust me, I’m in no rush to get married and have kids. Raising Kimmy, that’s already more than enough.” The artist finally concluded. “ I think that’s for the best, Niall.” She nodded in agreement as the two hugged. “I’m more than happy to call you my friend.”

Damn real: chapter 17

He’s a waiter. How much of a positive influence could he actually be? Namie thought to herself, staring at his number. She was debating heavily on whether or not she should call Niall. After four straight instances of being heartbroken or disappointed, as well as that entire revelation about finding herself, the accountant was not sure if she could handle a fifth bout of rejection. But Niall was different from the other four. He was not some Ivy League young gun, big shot. He was a waiter. Maybe that sort of humility from being in the service industry, it could make him a much more down-to-earth person? Somebody who is less about being some highly accomplished Millennial, but rather, just an actual human being with a real personality. It might just be her urge to just dip her toes into the dating pool speaking, but she did not know that for certain. She was itching to take a chance. “I guess life is too short to wonder about the hypotheticals.” She said to herself, putting down his number. “Because the hypotheticals could be the doors you wound up opening instead.” She grabbed her phone, and without any further hesitation, typed in his number. And with that, she sent him her first text. “Hey, it’s Namie. The girl who you gave your number to at Le Diplomat?” Nervously awaiting a reply, she put down her phone. He’s not going to answer. She told herself. And you know you don’t want him to. At this point, she was trying her best to convince herself that trying to pursue another relationship, it was a mistake. She did not want to be awarded with romance after all of the nonsense she had to put up with in the past year alone. And just when she came to that resolution, her rang buzzed. “Yeah, want to do dinner sometime? Or maybe just get a drink first.”

“Crap, I’m here way too early.” Namie sighed to herself. She didn’t think that she was going to arrive at minibar as early as she did. Traffic just did not exist, and her Uber wound up at the restaurant almost an entire hour before she was supposed to meet Niall for drinks. “Well, I guess I can go for a walk around the area.” She sighed, deciding that it was better to explore the area and take in the sights rather than stand and wait idly for time to pass by. Being between 9th and E St., she was surrounded by a lot of nice restaurants, granted the majority of them, including minibar, were all owned by the renowned chef, Jose Andres. Looking around for something that was not a restaurant, Namie stumbled upon the National Portrait Gallery. “Hmm it closes at the same time I need to meet Niall. Let’s do it.” She smirked to herself. Art was definitely not her forte, but it beat just strolling around the area, trying to waste time while being watched by nearby diners. Sitting inside of the silent museum, the accountant just tried to admire the portraits. “Ugh, this is boring.” She groaned to herself, unable to immerse herself in the pictures. Even as a kid, she was never good at art. When she was asked to paint an apple, she would try to paint an apple. For the most part, she was a very literal person, when it came to the visual arts, anyways. So the only benefits she really had from visiting an art-related establishment was the free air conditioning, and having a place to sit without warranting as much judgement. Deciding that the portraits were creepy, she decided to wait in the atrium of the building, free of all photos. There was one in particular of an old Caucasian woman and her husband that just irked the young accountant. The last thing she needed was the judgement from a possibly fictional, Conservative married couple. When 5:50pm finally rolled around, and the museum started to come to a close, Namie got up and left in a hurry. She neither wanted to be late, nor did she really want to stay in there for even another second.

“Oh, so you just hung out there for an hour?” Niall chuckled. “Yeah.” She confessed, embarrassed. The waiter was somehow able to pry out the going-ons of Namie’s earlier trip to the National Portrait Gallery. They were seated in minibar, each with a drink in hand and just trying to get to know one another better. “Well, note to self, don’t take you to anything with interpretive art.” He smiled goofily. “Unless you want me to look like a complete dumbass.” Namie laughed. “Nah, you’re good. I’m the art school graduate, and I can’t say I’m much better. Hand painting? Tried to do that as an elective and totally just failed.” He laughed. “Oh nice! What art school did you go to?” “I went to Berklee College of Music. I graduated from the Master of Music program, focusing on the violoncello.” “Wow! That’s incredible.” She smiled at him. “So, how about you?” He looked back at her. “Well, I studied accounting at Birmingham Young University.” “Oh. Wait, are you Mormon?” He paused hesitantly. “Oh, hell no! I refused to be brainwashed. I used to be, but I gave up on it because I was not looking to just be some guy’s housewife.” She sighed. “Well, I’m glad you’re not a Mormon anymore. They’re…really weird.” He sniggered. “Really weird is putting it lightly. Have you SEEN the sacred Mormon underwear? Now that crap is embarrassing.” She laughed. “Oh my god, I have seen them in a post on Buzzfeed. Yeah, not the most flattering outfit, especially for somebody like you.” He smiled. “Somebody like me?” Namie snorted, downing the rest of her drink. “Coming on a little strong there.” “Me or your drink?” The young man joked. “Well, both. But you’re not that bad-looking yourself.” “Anyways, before this date devolves into us just fucking and not really doing anything else…” He was trying to segway into a different topic. “What do you do then? Accounting?” “Yeah. I work at the Ritz Carlton as an accountant. And you’re a waiter at Le Diplomat?” “Yup. Well, I’m doing that while I’m waiting to be accepted into the D.C. Concert Orchestra. I take care of my little sister, because she’s only in middle school, so I needed to make some income while I was waiting.” He explained, clearly trying to not come off as an unambitious bum. “Oh, wow. Is it just the two of you?” “Yeah. But it’s been that way for a while now, so it’s fine.” He smiled.

“But an accountant at a hotel, huh? So we both work in Hospitality.” He pointed out. “That is surprisingly true.” Namie nodded in amusement. “But I’m not sure I want to do that for long. I really love to dance, but accounting pays the bills.” “I feel you on that. Trust me, I don’t want to be a waiter, but I have to.” “Yeah, you have a little sister to take care of. It’s understandable.” She nodded in agreement. “But once I get into the Orchestra, then I will be able to quit my job as a waiter and make my job my passion.” He grinned. Seeing his hopeful expression, it was almost invigorating for her. He was a young man who was actively pursuing his passion. Yes, he had to make sacrifices for his family, but that did not completely stop him from doing what he wants to actually do. “I think if dancing is your passion, pursue it. Find a way to make it into a job where you can make an actual income.” Niall suggested. “Wait, but don’t be a stripper. Like don’t get me wrong, you’re gorgeous, and you’d definitely be the most sought-after dancer at the strip club, but you’re too smart and capable for that.” He quickly added, realizing how badly his own statement could be misconstrued. “Ha!” Namie laughed, as the thought of becoming a stripper had not even occurred to her until he said that. “Don’t worry. I don’t be a stripper. Matcha Latte won’t be my stripper name or anything.” She teased him. “Matcha Latte? Wait, you’re half Japanese?!” “Yeah. Half Japanese, half White. I’m a hapa!” “Same! I’m half Japanese, half Spanish!” “Oh, dang! We’re both half Japanese.” She laughed. Namie could tell that Niall was mixed, but she could not figure out which ethnicities he was a mix of beyond Caucasian and Asian. “Ole.” He smirked, raising his eyebrow at her as Namie burst into a fit of laughter. She was actually enjoying the time she was spending with him. Niall was funny, sweet, and easygoing. And he was smart. All qualities that really appealed to her.

“So, how was talking to him?” Claire and Namie were in Namie’s office, counting Claire’s house vault while also discussing the details of the accountant’s encounter with their waiter. “He’s honestly the sweetest. And you were right to tell me not to judge a book by its cover. He might be a waiter, but it’s just to make more money on the side. He was a graduate of the Berklee College of Music’s Master of Music program! And he’s on the wait-list to be a part of the D.C. Concert Orchestra!” “Wow, so he’s not a complete loser like your little sister’s ex-husband.” Claire joked. One of Namie’s initial reservations about dating Niall was seeing how similar he was to Kenta in terms of careers. However, Niall was actually proving to be a more ambitious and successful musician. “You honestly should think about going for it, though. Goals or whatever aside, or being married or whatever aside, think about this as a chance to better learn about yourself. Dating somebody like him, who is following his dreams and pursuing his passion, you might learn a thing or two about what you want out of your own life, just by spending time with him.” The front office worker pointed out. She had a good argument there too. Namie was not sure what she wanted to do with her future, mostly because she was not passionate about just one thing. Maybe interacting with somebody who is passionate about something, in this case, music, and picking apart his brains and better understanding his process of thought, it could help her gain more insight on what she actually is and is not passionate about. And with that passion, she could finally decide what she wants to do with her life. Currently, she is working to live. But she wants to one day live for her work.

Damn real: chapter 12

Arriving at U street, Namie looked around, nervously. Her first meet-up was with a young man named Peter. From his profile, she gathered that he graduated from Cornell and Harvard Law, was 26, currently a lawyer in Virginia, and from the looks of it, Caucasian, with short light-colored hair and bright blue eyes. In a lot of ways, he resembled a Siberian husky. “Hi, Namie, right?” She was approached by none other than Peter himself, who was standing at the corner, waiting for her by their meeting place, a cafe called ThreeFifty Bakery and Coffee Bar. “Yeah, that’s me! Nice to meet you, Peter.” She smiled at him. She was relieved to see that he was at least taller than her. Up close, he was rather handsome, having smooth skin, a chiseled jaw line, broad shoulders, and muscular arms, which were slightly hidden by a long sleeve white button-up shirt. Namie quietly cursed to herself that she was letting her father win by being attracted to him. “So you just wanted to go and talk in this cafe, right?” He was referring to the cafe behind them. “Yeah, let’s go in.” Namie walked over to grab the door. “Hold on, let me get that for you. What kind of gentleman would I be to make a lady open a door for herself?” He chuckled, grabbing and pulled open the door. Unsure of how to respond to this, Namie just paused quietly before quickly thanking Peter and walking inside.

Upon grabbing a table and sitting down, the accountant did not know what to say at first. “So, from what I gather, you’re Mormon, right? Birmingham Young University.” Peter smiled. “Oh, no. I’m not anymore. I gave up on that religion the moment I realized it was sexist, anti-progressive, and preposterous in its claims.” Namie rolled her eyes. “Oh, okay. Perfect, actually. I’m in the same boat as you.” The lawyer admitted. The moment he said that, their date felt a lot less awkward and forced. “What made you quit the church?” She looked over at him, her interest piqued. “I just did not ever really get anything that the LDS Church was preaching. I thought it was ludicrous nonsense. We only ever went because my senile grandpa insisted, but the moment he croaked, nobody in the family really ever gave a shit anymore.” He laughed. “How about you?” “Oh, trust me, that’s a long story. Basically, I had the opportunity to go to Harvard and work for Deloitte, and in both cases, I got screwed because my dad said that I can’t become a successful accountant because I have to be married off to some man, and men don’t want an extremely intelligent woman.” She scowled. “Heh, it sounds like your dad is a really open-minded guy. Much feminist, he is.” Peter chimed in, much to Namie’s amusement. “Yeah, he’s a real peach. I graduated valedictorian, and even though I went to fucking BYU against my will and got a job at Deloitte, he still told me that I have to give all of that up and land myself a man. Just pisses me off beyond belief.” “Well, you’re still a very educated individual, and it’s great to see a talented young woman such as yourself changing society’s view on women in general. So good for you.” It was a very rare moment in Namie’s life when a young man actually understood her struggles and valued her efforts.

“Oh, my god, you’re right! She looks so dumb!” Namie giggled, trying not to fall out of her chair. It was their second date, with Peter taking her to an ice cream store in the Waterfront, Ice Cream Jubilee. The store was covered in large glass panels, which was perfect for people watching, a hobby the pair shared. Peter was making fun of a girl passing by the store, who had her hair tied in a large bun directly above her head, with a cone-shaped birthday hat placed perfectly on top of the bun. As Peter had pointed out, she looked ridiculous. “I know, right? What’s the point of even wearing the hat? Just wear your hair down or don’t put that hat on at all.” Peter chuckled. “So, if you’re not doing anything next weekend, would you like to come with me to go horseback riding? I know the owner of a horse ranch in Virginia Beach, so I can get us in for free.” He smiled. “That sounds amazing. I am so down.” She beamed, although fear slowly crept over her as the accountant realized that she has never ridden a horse before, and has no reference on how to do that. “You look nervous. What’s wrong?” “I’ve never gone horseback riding before.” She admitted. “I can teach you. Don’t worry, it will be like riding a bicycle. A living, breathing bicycle with four legs, a tail, and beneath that tail, a giant gaping pink anus that looks like a portal to another dimension.” “I’m eating still.” The brunette rolled her eyes at Peter’s last remark, referring to the cone of Thai Iced Tea ice cream still in her hands. “Whoops. Sorry about that.” He sniggered, clearly unsympathetic of her predicament. While they were the same age, Namie felt that Peter did have a childishness to him that she could not quite grasp.

“Have you never done this before?!” Peter chuckled as a stammering Namie nervously mounted her horse. “Well, no! You said we were going to Virginia Beach! Not that we were going horseback riding in Virginia Beach!” She frowned. They decided for their third date to enjoy the beach together, due to the weather forecast outright stating that it would be a very hot weekend. The accountant was wearing a long sun dress and flip flops, which was the right type of outfit for this unusually warm day in the fall, but not necessarily suited for riding a vehicle, or in this case, an animal. “Ha! Well, too bad!” He laughed as he took off on his horse. “Just learn to work with it. You graduated as a valedictorian, didn’t you?” The Southern male snorted. “Hey! That’s not fair!” She growled angrily. “Hmm, what was it to make the horse move again? ‘Woah’ was to stop. Giddiup?” She looked down on her chestnut colored steed, who brayed impatiently before taking off. “AHHH!” She could not help but let out a glass-shattering shriek as the horse stood off, darting past a cackling Peter. “THIS ISN’T FUNNY!” Namie screamed, genuinely fearful for her life. “Woah!” She shouted, finally remembering the purpose for that word. The horse immediately stopped, giving her a moment to catch her breath. “Not bad, not bad at all. Up top, champion horse-rider.” Peter stopped next to her, smirking as he held up his hand, expecting a high-five. Despite how impressed he was, the young man failed to realize how genuinely betrayed Namie had felt. It was humiliating, terrifying, and to the accountant, she started to see a truly immature and inconsiderate side of him that she did not appreciate in the slightest. “I just want to go home.” She frowned, getting off her horse. “Hey, wait!” “Save it, asshole. You could have killed me.” “It was a joke!” “If that’s your idea of funny, here’s a joke for you.” She turned around, glaring daggers at him. “Eat a fat fucking turd and drown in your mother’s menstrual blood. Goodbye.” She looked away and continued storming off, reaching for her phone to firstly block Peter’s number, and secondly, call an Uber. What a waste of a potentially wonderful weekend. She thought to herself.

Face-planting in her mattress, Namie frowned to herself. As fun as her initial dates with Peter were, she started to feel less and less attracted to him the more they interacted. Perhaps there was a reason for that? Was she being too picky? Shaking off that doubt, the accountant reminded herself of how inconsiderate he was. He took her horseback riding, and expected her to know how to ride a horse without knowing if she had any experience, and never even tried to teach her. In short, he basically risked her life, and was laughing at her the whole time. Maybe it was a misunderstanding? Maybe he did not realize how scared she was? Either way, her reaction, regardless of how anyone saw it, conveyed fear. But he still chose to take amusement in it and not help her. That was not somebody she wanted to spend even five more minutes, let alone the rest of her life with. The rest of her life? Currently, she is an accountant, entry level on top of that, not even working as a certified public accountant for a CPA firm, just a hotel. She was mostly paying her bills using inheritance money, and while she could theoretically live off of her fortune for the rest of her life, that would contradict her personality. The challenge is what makes life worth living. That was why she chose to pursue accounting. To prove that a young woman can handle finance. So maybe the next step was to become an accounting supervisor-type position? But then there was waacking. Was that going to become a priority or genuine obligation in the future? Or would it stay as a hobby? And what is the point of pursuing a hobby if it does not financially provide her with anything? And deep down, Namie knew that she loved waacking more than accounting. But was there a point in becoming a full-time waack dancer? Frustrating, feeling like she has to choose, Namie groaned to herself before turning on her laptop. Maybe some Netflix would help distract her from these thoughts plaguing her dreams, even but for a moment.

Waking up the next day, the feeling of dumping Peter was still fresh. Even though she was the one who dumped him, Namie could not help but feel drained and saddened, for she invested so much emotionally and mentally into developing a relationship with him, only to realize that he was an ass. In a relationship, she wanted to be with somebody who is ambitious, which Peter was, but also willing to help her become a better version of herself, consistently and continuously, something Peter obviously could not do, due to his own immature and sadistic sense of humor. In short, perhaps she was looking for somebody with at least the same level of maturity as herself? It was at that moment that it dawned on the accountant: why was she thinking so much about being in a relationship? Was she not against it this whole time? And looking at her own younger sister, and seeing Emiri quickly get into a relationship, followed by marriage, and then pregnancy, it was unsettling. While she is currently older than Emiri was, Namie could not help but feel put off whenever she thinks about her sister making such hasty decisions. And seeing that only made the accountant a bit more hesitant to take any of these dates seriously. “It’s only to shut up that asshole who married your mother, don’t forget that.” She reminded herself, getting out of bed. While Emiri was okay with conforming to those backwoods Mormon stereotypes, Namie was completely against fueling any of that nonsense. It did not matter if she shared the same DNA as somebody that ignorant, because she knew better than to fall into the same mistakes. “Natural selection. Survival of the fittest.” She smirked to herself, sarcastically. The dumb make blunders, while the smart learn from them. And the smartest learn while not even having to make the mistakes themselves. In this case, that was having a shotgun Mormon marriage and pregnancy. Oh, how she dodged a cannonball there.

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 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.”