How it is: Chapter 16

“So to begin today’s board meeting, let’s go over the money from our last event.” Alex started. ACU was meeting that same night Valerie and Janice spoke, in a classroom in the College of Arts and Sciences. He turned to Gary, who was ACU’s current treasurer. “Well, looking into our ticket prices, we charged $7 per person. Our attendance was good. We got 300 people, so that’s $2,100. And we promised each club that attended $100. We had 15, so they get $1,500 from us, and that means our club got a profit of $600!” He smiled. Despite Gary’s expression, everyone knew he was trying to avoid the major elephant in the room regarding the event. “But then there’s the additional costs. Facilities requires us to pay for the damages. And with the broken lamps and tables, that means we owe $750.” “Wait, so we lost $150 by doing this event?!” Alice looked shocked. “That’s… not good.” Timmy blurted, before everyone turned to look at him. He could tell that there was an awkward tension between him and his fellow officers at this point. “Well, at least the event was successful in terms of attendance. We can hold this again next year, and it’ll be just as successful, I’m sure.” Alex started. “Except almost every club refuses to re-collaborate with us for this…” Alice pointed out, referring to the feedback responses. The mood felt somber. And then it got worse. “No more ACU! No more ACU!” The officers turned to see a group of students, marching outside of their meeting classroom, holding signs with anti-homophobic messages on them, such as “Born this way” or “It’s the 21st Century, get with the times.” Timmy could feel his stomach sink with guilt at this point. “What the fuck?!” Alex and Holly peered through the classroom door window. They were being boycotted.

“Who the hell are you?!” Alex stormed outside and approached the students. “We are a part of the Gay-Straight Alliance.” A girl stated. “We don’t believe in what your officers stand for. The purpose of your club is to be all inclusive of Asians, yet you guys still think being bisexual is something to be afraid of. It’s disgusting!” She frowned as the other students continued marching in the hallway, holding up their signs and chanting. Alex was stunned speechless. Timmy looked in horror as a lot of the students in the hallway were glaring at him. “Get the fuck out of the hallway! You’re disturbing our meeting! I’m going to call campus security on you!” Alice threatened, grabbing her phone. She started dialing the number, only to be interrupted by one of the protestors. “Oh, they know. And it’s not disrupting your meeting if you’re not intruding on your classroom or physically harming you.” The male student pointed out. “We can get verbally disruptive, but so long as we do nothing to physically harm us, you can’t sue. Trust me, I’m a law student. I know this crap like the back of my hand!” “Shit.” The vice president cursed under her breath, out of options. “What should we do?” Gary looked at Holly and Timmy. He was normally the optimistic one, but in this case, even he was unsure of how to approach this situation. Unfortunately, the protests only got worse. This was only the beginning of a long, horrendous night for ACU’s executive board.

Suddenly, even more students started flooding into the hallway, many of which Timmy recognized. Amongst the crowd included Enya, Sara, and Melissa, as well as Akinori and Mari as well as the rest of the members of JBA, Vicky and her officers from the Modeling Club, the members of SSA, and the students from Tisch. At this point, they were surrounded, trapped, basically none of the ACU members could leave the room or go into the hallway with the sheer amount of protestors in that hall. And they all began to join in the protest. Had they not been there because of him, Timmy would have been amazed to see so many students rally around one cause. But in this case, he was horrified beyond belief. They were here to target him through his club. “Okay, what the fuck do you want from us? An apology?!” Alex roared. He was at his wit’s end. He was expecting today to be a simple meeting with a motivational speech at the end so that his club does not lose morale. Instead, it became his officers fearing for their lives, and the possibility of ACU being dissolved. As ACU’s president, this was a nightmare scenario.

“Alright, what are we going to do?” Holly whimpered, trembling. The girl was scared, exhausted, and starving at this point, having planned to get dinner after the meeting that they were still forced to be in due to the protestors outside. It had been three hours at this point, and everyone in ACU board was hulled up in their room, terrified. “Down with ACU! Down with ACU!” They continued chanting. Timmy was only half-listening to what everyone else was saying at this point. The Taiwanese boy was preoccupied with his own thoughts. He only wanted to be a part of ACU so that he could finally grow up. But in the process of becoming an officer, he managed to not only push away his closest friends, but caused harm to everyone he cared about. Valerie must hate him, especially if she heard that he called her a slut. Tarou must already hate him, because he refused to go to the Asian Cultural Awareness event, and he was okay with allowing so many of his friends from other clubs partake in this protest. And then his friends on ACU. None of them deserved to be put through this torment, especially because of his own dumb, impulsive mistake. “I’m not even sure at this point.” Alex groaned. He was getting fatigued too, from stress and anxiety. He did not want to be known at the president of ACU when it went under. That would be a hard thing to have to live with.

The board members sat in a circle, trying to figure out a proper solution. At this point, it was already midnight. “So we can go out there an apologize as a board?” The event coordinator, a sophomore named Sharon, suggested. “I think that might be the best course of action.” Alex sighed, resigning to any option at this point. The officers got up and quietly walked into the hallway. The protestors all went silent as they saw the entirety of ACU board standing before them. “Hi, everyone. So we all want to apologize for our officer, Timmy’s actions. He was being rash and did not mean what he said. We’re sorry.” Alex took a slight bow. Everyone else on board quickly followed. As he was in mid-bow, Timmy could feel that all of the protestors were glaring at him. “That’s not enough!” Somebody shouted in the crowd. “We don’t care if you apologize as a board. He’s the one who needs to learn a lesson for what he said!” Another protestor agreed. At this point, Alice and Alex looked at one another and exchanged nods, before turning to Timmy. “Timmy, I’m sorry. We’re going to have to ask you to resign from ACU.” Alex sighed, looking genuinely sorry to let go of such a devoted member. Timmy could feel his throat dry up as he tried to speak. The words just came out in croaks. “I understand. And I really am sorry for all of the pain and fear I caused everyone here.” He could feel the tears rolling down his eyes. “The person who made the comment, he’s no longer an officer. We just removed him from our roster, and we again deeply apologize to everyone who was offended by what he said.” Alice declared. All of the protestors, satisfied with the announcement, slowly filed out of the hallway. Following them, ACU’s officers. Timmy stood there, alone in the empty hall, devastated.

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How it is: Chapter 11

Sundays were typically a day of relaxation for Timmy, Tarou, and Valerie. For the former two’s case, they get brunch together, mostly because brunch meant that Timmy did not have to eat breakfast. But today was different. Timmy could not be around Tarou because he had work for the Asian Cultural Union. So Tarou ate alone that morning. “Man, this blows.” He sat alone in a cafe, reading a book to pass the time. “If I knew he was going to do this to me, I would’ve invited somebody else.” Meanwhile, Timmy was with the other newly elected officers, in the basement of an apartment. “So here’s your lists. Be back by 2PM.” Gary was handing everyone the papers. Their initiation involved a city-wide scavenger hunt for supplies, which would then be used to create posters for upcoming fundraisers and events. “Poster boards and sharpies.” Timmy’s list read. From there, they would have dinner, and finally, drink the night away. Timmy was excited. He was never a part of a club board before, so this was a very new experience for him. Tarou, on the other hand, was very concerned. He did not want Timmy to get another hangover, like in high school.

Valerie was still in her room at this point, feeling rather alone. Her only two close friends were Tarou and Timmy, but she never bothered to make too many other ones, mostly because she was so focused on her work. Suddenly, her phone started ringing. It was Tarou. “Hey, long time, no talk.” “Are you alright?” Tarou sounded worried. “I’m okay, why are you asking?” “Misaki told me about what happened. We’re both really worried.” The Japanese boy started. “Hold up, which ‘we?’” Valerie raised an eyebrow at that comment. “Me and Timmy! He’s been crying all night and he feels like shit about what happened.” “Honestly, Tarou, let’s not talk about Timmy right now.” The pastry chef sighed. The last thing she wanted to talk about was that very straw that broke the camel’s back. “Well, why did you do it?” Tarou started. He wanted to help Valerie get to the bottom of this. “I… felt stressed and trapped. Seeing how I lost on Warrior Chef, on national television, it was mortifying. And the comments, Tarou. Everyone thinks I’m this huge idiot. I feel like a joke whenever I’m cooking on the line.” She could feel tears starting to roll down her face. “Val, you’re an amazing pastry chef. You have always been such a passionate person about this industry. Those people, ignore them. They are just assholes who aren’t worth your time. You’ll prove them all wrong in the end. Remember how I was that fat, unattractive blob? Well, now I’m a model, 6’2”, and everyone else can suck my dick.” That comment got a laugh out of Valerie. “There’s the Val I know. You are a very driven and ambitious person, and I love that about you. But don’t forget to smile and laugh from time to time. I like it when you laugh and smile. It reminds me that you’re happy.”

A much younger Tarou was with Timmy, post prom their senior year. Timmy had taken too many shots on a dare, and was throwing up into a bag. “I swear, I will never drink again.” Timmy groaned as a gravely terrified Tarou helplessly held Timmy up. It was that very moment that made Tarou feel inclined to protect Timmy. He could not bear to see somebody he cared so much about in so much pain. He had to take care of the Taiwanese boy for the rest of the night, until his older brother, Henry, came to pick him up. Hearing that Timmy was going to be put through an initiation, Tarou already knew what to expect: drinking. And since Timmy was so young and impressionable, that was not going to end well. The Japanese boy could easily imagine his best friend, being peer pressured into drinking too much alcohol for his own good, and puking helplessly into somebody’s toilet yet again. It just started to stress him out as he waited anxiously in their room. As much as he tried to, Tarou knew that he could not fall asleep that night. Not until he knew that Timmy was safe. Luckily, Timmy did not drink much during his initiation, and returned having hardly consumed any alcohol.

“Hey, there’s going to be a video game convention coming up! Want to go together?” Tarou looked at Timmy excitedly. “Oh, sorry, I’m going with Gary and Alex from ACU.” Timmy frowned. “Well, there’s also an alternative spring break in Los Angeles! Want to do that?” “Sorry, I’m staying in New York to hang out with Alice and doing some event preparations for ACU.” As much as he tried to be a good sport about it, Tarou just felt hurt. Timmy was being insensitive about the fact that the Japanese model had been rejected by the very same club Timmy was prioritizing over him. In a lot of ways, it made Tarou feel replaced. It felt to Tarou as if ACU rejected him, so Timmy, being a part of the current board, also had to reject him. Tarou started to slowly doubt his own qualifications. “Um, well when will you be free then?” Tarou wondered, getting frustrated yet desperation stained his voice at this point. “I don’t know. Depends on when ACU needs me.” Timmy shrugged, completely indifferent to the Japanese boy’s feelings. The Taiwanese boy was not sure what else to really say in this situation. He just got into ACU, and he wanted to start off on a strong foot for the club that took a chance on him. But at the same time, his own best friend, they just salvaged their relationship, and it looks like it was being challenged yet again. But he felt like he made his bed, and it was high time to sleep in it.

Later that night, Valerie and Tarou were getting dinner together. “I haven’t had proper one on one time with you in so long!” Valerie smiled as the two hugged. “I know! It’s been forever.” He groaned. The two were at one of Valerie’s favorite restaurants, Prune. It was a small, intimate space, where the two sat cozily in the side of the entrance, tucked away from everyone else. “I’m glad that Misaki and Justin saved you though.” Tarou admitted. “But why didn’t you tell me earlier about this?” “I tried, but you were busy and never picked up my calls.” “Oh.” The model felt guilty. He had not been checking his phone recently, mostly because looking at it was stressing him out. The news of the elections, all of his events, and just seeing what felt like all of the Asian community quietly judging him, it was taking a toll on his emotional health. “At the end of the day, I’m just glad you’re here now, to talk to me. The one thing that really kept me from trying again was knowing that I had you as a friend.” Valerie admitted. “Oh.” Tarou did not know what to say to that. The model never had feelings for Valerie beyond platonic ones, and it sounded as if she was confessing to him. “I’m just glad you’re still alive. You’re an incredible person, Valerie, and I like spending time with you. It just reminds me how lucky I am to have such a talented and ambitious friend. Being around you, it makes me feel like I need to step up and do my best as well.” Valerie beamed at Tarou’s statement. Hearing that she had that kind of effect on him, that she essentially motivated him to try harder, it was refreshing to hear. “Anyways, what are your plans for spring break?” He looked at her. “Well, home is not that far away, but I’m planning to do some staging throughout the city.” She smiled.

How it is: Chapter 7

It was a Saturday morning, and that meant the day of ACU elections. Timmy and Tarou were both dressed in formal wear, and waiting outside of a classroom for their interviews. Tarou was given a slightly earlier time slot, but felt rather self-assured about it. “Alright, Tarou Shimizu.” A girl, ACU’s vice president, Alice, walked out. “Alright, I’ll see you on the other side.” He smiled at Timmy as he walked into the room. “Alright, so you’ll have just two minutes to do your speech, and then we have five minutes for Q+A.” Alex explained. “Alright, time starts now,” “Hi, everyone. My name is Tarou Shimizu. I am a rising sophomore, and I am currently studying Drama in the Tisch School of the Performing Arts.” He started. He noticed that most of the board was almost glaring at him. “And I am running for the position of Event Coordinator. So the reason why I feel like I am qualified for this position is that I am a very careful yet somewhat improvisational person. Working in the theatre, I deal with high-stress situations constantly, and I am always trying to make sure that I deliver perfection every time. Having that sort of perfectionism, I know I can translate that skill well into running and coordinating events. Being Japanese-American, I am proud to be Asian and I love the idea of being able to represent my country in the Asian Cultural Union. Thank you for your time interviewing me.” He took a slight bow. “And I would love to open the floor to questions.”

Immediately, a taller boy, Gary, raised his hand. “Yes?” “So you say that you are a perfectionist. How do you deal with failure?” “Well, being a perfectionist, I always try my best to deliver the vision I have in mind. Obviously, with failure, there are lessons to be learned. So long as you learn the lessons from when you fail, then that’s really all there is to it right?” Another hand went up, this time from a girl named Holly. “So what other commitments do you have?” “I… am currently the secretary in Tisch School of Arts’ student government, the treasurer for Japanese Business Association, and the vice president of the NYU Modeling Club, and I model too.” Tarou listed as Holly’s jaw almost hit the floor. He could tell that he just shot himself in the foot with that response. Every officer in that room must be thinking that Tarou would be too busy to commit any time to this position. “I know it sounds like a lot, but I love being challenged and multitasking and I will make this work.” He insisted, only realizing that what he was saying made the situation worse. He made the problem more apparent with that comment. “Alright, I think we’re done here.” Alex nodded his head at the rest of his board. “Yeah. Thank you for your time.” Alice ushered him out. “I totally screwed up.” Tarou whispered to Timmy, as he left the room mortified. Normally, Tarou was great with public speaking, but he knew that he fell flat on his face. There was no way he would be elected.

Alice brought Timmy into the auditorium next, where he stood in front of the mass of seated ACU officers. “Hi, my name is Timmy Li, and I am applying to be a sophomore representative for the following year.” Timmy started. “I love ACU, and I got to a lot of your events. I want to make sure that as your sophomore representative, that I can bring my passion and love for this club to any, if not, all of our members. I want everyone here to see this club as a family.” He finished. Almost everyone in that room began to clap. “Does anyone have any questions for me?” He looked around. “So we know that you also applied and got into the Taiwanese American Student Association. When it comes down to having events for both clubs, what would you do?” “I am event coordinator for that club, so I will have to make sure that the events are running, but if there are things going on in the same day, then I will try my best to make time for both.” Timmy assured them. “We will get around to that when, uh, I mean, if we get you on board.” Gary nodded in acknowledgement. “I think we know you well enough.” Alex insisted. “Thank you for applying, Timmy!” Holly grinned. “We look forward to having you on board- I mean, letting you know what the results are.” Alice giggled as she walked Timmy to the door. “Have a nice ret of your day, okay?” She closed the door slowly on him.

“Hey, can we talk about something?” Both boys have changed out of their outfits, and were just sitting in their room together. Tarou just felt like it was time to be truthful to Timmy. He felt really vulnerable after failing in the interview, and wanted to move past this mini episode with ACU. “What’s up?” “So, I was really nervous to say this, but I’m… bisexual.” Tarou sighed. “Yeah, I knew that.” “Wait, what?” “Justin told me.” He admitted. “And you didn’t feel the need to talk to me about this?” Tarou was starting to get visibly upset. “I figured you’d talk to me about it when you were ready!” Timmy growled. “This is always the fucking problem. You take zero initiative when it comes to instigating things.” Tarou rolled his eyes. “Look, I did not want to say this, but I was starting to think this way the moment we started living together, and knowing that you are bisexual, it only further convinces me about this. I think you have romantic feelings for me.” Timmy glared at Tarou, who was stunned speechless. That was not what he was expecting to hear. “Why the fuck would you suggest something like that?” Tarou was trying to not punch a wall or Timmy at that point. He was fuming. “Just the way you act around me. You’re so invested in my life, and it just felt like you wanted to get romantically involved with me. Normal friends don’t act this way.” Timmy squeaked as Tarou cornered him. “You and I aren’t normal friends! We’ve known each other for years! And you don’t honestly expect me to fall in love with you like that, do you?” Tarou stared right into Timmy’s eyes.

At this point, tensions were high. Tarou stood before Timmy, whose back was against a wall. “I’m sorry I didn’t say it earlier.” Timmy was starting to cry. Being confronted to this degree was making him extremely uncomfortable. He already had issues with privacy around Tarou, but this was taking that sort of discomfort to an even greater degree. “Look, I actually don’t know why you mean so much to me either.” Tarou finally sighed, backing away from Timmy. “I just always felt this need to protect you ever since college. You were always the person protecting me when we were kids, and I used to look up to you as an older brother. But then everyone in college saw it more like I was the older brother, and it got to my head. I wanted to be the person who could protect you for a change.” He finally admitted. “Tarou, you don’t have to protect me. I’m my own person, and you know that. Just be the Tarou I was friends with, not this crazy, angry, and constantly vulture-ing person, okay?” Timmy sighed, pulling his best friend and roommate in for a hug. “But Timmy, I’m actually a little scared now.” “Hm?” “I’m afraid that I do have romantic feelings for you. I know you’re into women, and that a relationship with the two of us would never work out, and I’m just hoping that what I feel towards you, it’s really platonic or that those recent feelings, they were paternal or older brotherly, not romantic.” Unfortunately, Tarou saying that just stirred an uneasiness in Timmy. To the Taiwanese boy, it sounded as if Tarou was trying to reassure himself that he did not have feelings for Timmy and was failing to do so.

How it is: Chapter 6

Timmy and Tarou were sitting together in their room when the former noticed a post on FaceBook. “Asian Cultural Union Spring Elections! Come Out!” The link read. He grinned seeing that. First semester, Timmy got rejected when he applied to be freshman representative, but now he has a shot at redeeming himself: he knew that if he applied, he would most likely get the position. “Hey, are you going to do that?” Tarou looked at Timmy, intrigued. Unlike Timmy, Tarou had never really bothered with ACU activities, mostly because he had so many other clubs and obligations. “Yeah, I’m thinking about running for their sophomore representative.” He admitted. “Hmm… what other positions do they have?” Tarou looked over the smaller male’s shoulder, looking at the link description. “Oh, they have an Events Coordinator position! I’d love to do that!” Being a very detail-oriented person, Tarou loved planning things out. “I’ll run if you do.” The model proposed. “Alright, then that’s a deal.” Timmy shrugged. Unbeknownst to Tarou, Timmy was secretly hoping that the Japanese boy did not get on board. Timmy wanted to finally get some space from the taller male to finally grow into his own. But with Tarou spending that much time around him, he felt like he could not do anything. Tarou would not change his ways, nor would he stop interfering with Timmy’s life.

Typically, Timmy would start the day being woken up by Tarou and then the two would have breakfast together in the dining hall. Today was still one of those days where they continued this routine. “Hey, what do you want?” Tarou smiled at Timmy as they arrived at the cafeteria. Whenever the two of them ate, Tarou would ask Timmy if he wanted anything in particular and go out of his way to get it for the smaller male, whether it was juice or a popular dish that had a long line. “Uh, just a breakfast sandwich is fine.” Timmy murmured. He was not hungry, but just did this to humor Tarou; even then, the Taiwanese boy had trouble finishing food when he was not hungry, and would find himself getting scolded by Tarou for not finishing. It felt like an abusive cycle, and just made eating with Tarou in general an unpleasant experience. “Sure. Did you want it with juice or?” The Japanese model eyed him. “Iced tea. The usual.” Tarou shook his head: he felt like it was inappropriate to drink iced tea for breakfast, but could hardly argue with Timmy on that. So long as the Taiwanese boy was eating properly, that was all that mattered to him. “Alright, sounds good.” Tarou grinned as he walked off. While Tarou went off to grab food, Timmy walked around the hall. He would typically find a table for the two, just to be productive with their time. Why do I keep doing that? Timmy began to question this routine. He hated eating breakfast and he did not understand why Tarou continuously insisted on it. Yeah, it is supposed to be the most important meal of the day or whatever, but if he never was raised eating breakfast, why start now?

“I’m full.” Timmy sat there, with a half-eaten sandwich. “What the hell, man! There’s kids starving in Africa, and you’re not even going to finish a single sandwich?” Tarou growled. The Japanese male did have a point. “Well, I don’t eat breakfast normally, and you know that, so what did you expect?” Timmy rolled his eyes at Tarou. “Well, if I’m going to go out of my way to wait in line, wake you up, and you don’t even finish the damn thing, then that’s just a waste, isn’t it?” He growled, slamming his hands on the table, and getting up. “Hey, hey, I’m sorry. Look, I’ll finish it, okay?” This was their typical routine. Timmy would try to finish breakfast, even though he was not hungry, just to keep Tarou from getting angry. But by that point, the damage was already done. Once you offend somebody, it becomes increasingly harder to appease them. “Whatever, I’m over it.” Tarou was fuming at this point as he stormed off. Timmy did not know what to do. It was not like he could turn back time and even if he could, what would he do differently? People were just complicated.

From there, Timmy would go into his coding class while Tarou would go into his vocals class. “Hey, how did you do on the last assignment?” Nate looked at Timmy: the two of them, along with Jeff, would sit together in the large auditorium in the College of Arts and Sciences. Despite being in computer engineering, Timmy took computer science classes as well, mostly because several of them were still required in his own major. Algorithms, it was their first class of the day, at 9AM. “I got an 89. How about you?” Timmy grinned. He was fine with an 89, just because it meant he could still get an A in the class with just a little bit more effort on the next assignment. “Nice! I got a 93!” Nate grinned cockily. “How’s that possible?! I got an 85.” Jeff rolled his eyes. Even though the three of them did their homework together, Nate would always somehow get the highest score of the three. Timmy and Jeff theorized that Nate would go back and add in additional information that he would withhold from the other two, but they had no way to prove that suspicion. Meanwhile, in the Tisch School of the Arts, Tarou was beginning his day with his music course, where he would sit in a small black room with his instructor, Joyce, and do vocal exercises in a small group of students. Singing was a lot of fun for Tarou, and since he was a performing arts major, he needed to have some musical background, just in case. It was better to be well-rounded like this. As Tarou practicing humming, Sarah sat there, sighing in awe. “He’s so dreamy.” She giggled quietly to herself, savoring the sight.

If there were gaps in their schedules, Timmy and Tarou would meet up for lunch with a combination of their friends. Today, they were sitting with Enya, Valerie, and Nate, back in the dining hall. “So, how were your days?” Valerie looked around. “I don’t want to talk to you, competition.” Enya glared at the other female. Since Valerie was childhood friends with Tarou, Enya, Sarah, and Melissa were all highly envious of her for her closeness to him. “Uh, what?” The pastry chef raised an eyebrow and scoffed at her. She could not believe what she was hearing. Enya was very direct about her feelings, and it has caused her a lot of conflicts and fights in the past. From Timmy’s point of view, he did not understand why Enya disliked Valerie, but was friends with Melissa and Sarah. Melissa, Enya, and Sarah all have blatant crushes on Tarou. To him, that was to textbook definition of competition, when separate parties and vying for the same goal. “Ladies, ladies, there’s plenty of room for the Nate-man.” Nate laughed. “Sorry, I’m not blind, so you don’t have a chance in hell dating me.” The Korean girl turned him, sticking her tongue out in disgust. “Oh. Well….” He felt awkward about trying to make a joke. “Rejected.” Timmy chuckled. “Sorry, Nate, you’re not a model.” Tarou winked, knowing full well that Enya was interested in. Despite his uneasiness around Enya, Melissa, and Sarah, he still could not bring himself to reject any of their feelings directly. The closest thing he could do was try to avoid them whenever the three of them were together: in any case, he could handle any one of them on their own, just not all three at the same time. Being evasive was as strong and direct of an effort as Tarou could make, given his immaturity and inexperience when it comes to romance. “Anyways, how was the food?” Tarou chuckled, trying to disperse the tension. “Terrible.” Valerie growled, getting up. “Sorry, would love to stay and be personally attacked by Enya, but I already have enough on my plate to feel bad about. Bye.” The hospitality student left before anyone else could say anything. “Uh… well then.” Nate sighed.

Valerie was frustrated. Enya had no reason to attack her like that. “Fucking Tarou, you moron.” She growled to herself. “Just reject them if you don’t like them! Leading them on like that, ugh.” She sighed, storming off to her room. She just needed to scream in a pillow right now. Being so stressed out constantly, it was taking its toll on her. As she unleashed verbal hell upon her pillow, all the girl could think about was Warrior Chef. Being a runner-up, she did not think that she would have taken losing so poorly. But all she could think about was how it felt like her pastry cooks constantly looked down on her for not being a Warrior Chef like Namie or Janice. “I’m a good chef. I know I’m a good chef.” She looked at herself in a mirror. “I got this far in my career because I am passionate about this. I love making beautiful desserts, and I love making good food.” She just remembered when she was five, cooking an apple pie with her grandmother. That was the first time she made a dessert from scratch, and it was an eye-opening experience. To think that butter, the thing she ate with toast, could create something so delicious, it made her start to think about the different possibilities about what you could do with flour and butter. And that creativity only blossomed when she met Thomas Keller and tried his food; seeing ingredients presented in such a refined, delicate manner, it inspired her to pursue a career in hospitality. Calming down slightly, she smiled.

After lunch and their remaining classes, Tarou would go to whatever meetings or events he had for the day or go to model. Today, Tarou was at his meeting for the Modeling Club: as vice president, he was in charge of facilitating meetings, and when it comes to executive decisions with the president, Vicky, the two of them consult back and forth on ideas for future events. “So you think we should go with the smaller venue?” Vicky looked at him. “Yeah, I saw it already, and given that we are accommodating 50 people, not 200, then wouldn’t it make more sense? Plus, if we cannot get 200 ticket sales, or at least 150, then the venue will look empty, and that will just not look good for us.” He insisted. “You have me there. This is why you’re such a good VP, Tarou.” Vicky smiled at him. During that time, Timmy would be either volunteering or watching Netflix, and Tarou would then meet up with Timmy for dinner. “How was your day?” Timmy would begin. “Terrible. I’m tired, I still have shit to do, and I just want to sleep.” He yawned. While Tarou would be exhausted and hate life, Timmy would be bored or for the most part, unfulfilled. He envied that Tarou could be so preoccupied and busy with so many things. As irritated as the model would make him with his basically bipolar attitude, he had to admit there was a tinge of jealousy knowing that Tarou could be so much more accomplished, given how little self confidence the former fat kid has.

How it is: Chapter 4

“Thank you for attending our meeting!” A tall boy named Alex, a junior and president of the Asian Cultural Union, waved goodbye to all of the members in the classroom. Timmy was just leaving a general meeting for ACU, but noticed the time on his phone. It read 4:30PM. “Oh, crap! I need to call an Uber.” He got out his phone and logged into the app. The meeting was a lot of fun and he was too sidetracked by all of the activities going on to keep track of the time. He knew, looking back, that it was irresponsible of him. He needed to be there before 5. “I can’t be late for this! I’m a volunteer!” Running into the car, he was quickly whizzed off to the Y.E.S. office. Timmy was a volunteer there, working mostly on tutoring elementary to high schoolers and helping them get into colleges. Two of his closest friends co-volunteered there with him: Vincent and Justin. Vincent was a fellow freshman, studying business at NYU Stern and biology in NYU’s College of Arts and Sciences. His other friend was Justin, a former graduate student who studied computer science in CAS as well. Because of their similar majors, Timmy looked up to Justin in a lot of ways. He saw Justin as an older brother figure because Justin worked with artificial intelligence, a department that he could potentially see himself doing one day.

“Alright, so here’s what we’ll do today. We can spend the first hour on Algebra 2, and the second hour on World History.” Timmy was sitting with two high schoolers, Hannah and Jake, helping the two of them with their homework. Timmy had always loved volunteering and helping others. There was just something about being able to give back that made him feel like a better person, or at the very least, somebody who can make a positive difference for the world. “Oh, that’s how you graph a parabola?” Jake was stunned as Timmy explained his homework to him. On the table next to him, a slim Asian boy with bleached blonde hair, which was Vincent, sat with a high schooler, Jeremy, excitedly going over his English 2 assignment, which was to read and answer questions on the Shakespeare classic, Othello. Vincent, being a brother of the community service fraternity, Alpha Pi Omega, enjoyed doing volunteer work in his free time, especially because it was a much more rewarding outlet and stress reliever than partying or drugs. Unfortunately, those were things a lot of other students lean towards. Vincent and Timmy clicked on that note, because both of them greatly enjoyed volunteering together and tried to stay away from slippery slopes. For both of them, it was enriching to give back to those who needed it.

“Hey, you two.” A tall Chinese boy, Justin, waved as he walked into the tutoring center. “Oh, you’re late.” Timmy shook his head. “Well, I wasn’t even supposed to come in, but somebody needed help teaching World History.” He smirked at Timmy, who shrugged. “What? It’s a lot easier to teach the subject with an old geezer such as yourself.” He cackled, much to the irritation of the now-former student. “Shut up.” Justin rolled his eyes, sitting down next to Timmy, and looking over Hannah and Jake’s assignments. “Alright, so we’re going over when Japan invaded China during World War 2.” He started. Seeing Justin reminded Timmy oddly of what Tarou was trying to be. Justin, and to some extent, Alex from ACU, already filled the role of being an older brother figure to him, yet Tarou insists on looking after him and making sure that he’s okay. It was frustrating. He was almost 19 at this point, and the last thing he needed was for somebody to be a helicopter parent to him during college. These were supposed to be his four years to grow up and learn to be an adult. How was he supposed to do that when there was somebody constantly breathing down his neck? At least with Justin and Alex, they gave him the space to grow, and being around them was fun. Being around Tarou, it was stressful for Timmy.

The three were walking back from the Y.E.S. office together when Justin bumped into a really attractive Asian girl with long, wavy, brown hair. “Hey, babe.” He leaned in and kissed her on the lips. “Hi, pookie.” She smiled eagerly. at him. “Um, Justin, did you purchase a mail-order bride or something?” Vincent questioned aloud. Both college freshmen were puzzled at the sight of Justin, this broody nerd, acting romantic with somebody that attractive and exuberant. “Well, that’s rude.” She turned to the oldest male. “You never told your friends about me?” She winked at the younger boys. It was obvious that Justin’s girlfriend was the flirty type. “Oh, well, this is my girlfriend, Misaki.” He gestured to the brunette who was clinging onto his shoulders at this point. “Nice to meet you guys!” She beamed mischievously. Timmy could already tell that this girl would be a very energetic character. “I’m Timmy.” “I’m Vincent. Nice to meet you.” They exchanged handshakes, although Misaki burst into another fit of laughter. “This is so funny. Jeez, kids these days, acting so formal and uptight. Whatever happened to being youthful? You two remind me a lot of one of my co-workers.” She laughed. “Co-workers?” The freshmen looked at the couple. “Oh, Misaki works at Logan Photography as a model.” Justin explained. “Wait, so you’d know his roommate then?” Vincent pointed at Timmy. “Wait, what’s your roommate’s name?” She looked over at Timmy, almost anticipating the right answer. “Tarou. Tarou Shimizu.”

“Oh my god! That’s hilarious! I just saw him!” She jumped up and down excitedly. Jeez, how does anyone think with her screaming like that constantly? Timmy and Vincent exchanged looks. Her voice, it just drowned out all sound. “Wait, and you’re his roommate?” She raised an eyebrow at him. Slowly, Justin connected the dots: earlier, Misaki texted him about one of her college-aged co-workers coming out as bisexual, and wanting to keep that a low profile because he was living with a guy. “Yeah. We’ve been friends since we were in kindergarten.” Timmy explained. Out of all of his friends, the 18 year old stuck with Tarou for as long as he could remember. “Oh jeez.” Justin sighed. “Babe, let’s get going.” He linked arms with his girlfriend. “It was nice meeting you both!” She waved as the two walked off. “Later, Timmy! See you, Vincent!” Justin waved. “I wonder how the two of them could even be together.” Vincent shook his head in confusion. “Yeah, they’re polar opposites.” The Taiwanese boy laughed. Suddenly, Timmy’s phone buzzed. It was a text from Justin. “Misaki told me not to say anything, but I got to look out for you. Tarou came out to her as bisexual.” Upon reading that, Timmy could feel a sense of uneasiness, creeping over him. He started to question every moment where Tarou interacted with him, specifically his intentions behind being so caring. That was something he felt better off not knowing.

Timmy was in a field of flowers with Valerie, laughing together. “Oh, Timmy. You’re such a great guy. And I’m so lucky to call you my boyfriend.” She giggled. “I’m the luckiest guy alive to be dating somebody like you, Valerie.” The two leaned in for a kiss, when suddenly, Valerie’s face morphed into Tarou’s. “What?” Timmy recoiled in shock. “WAKE UP!” Tarou screamed. “Ugh, it was a dream. Thank god.” The smaller male got up to Tarou’s alarm. Every morning, Tarou would be the one making sure that Timmy would wake up on time, brush his teeth, get changed, and get breakfast in the morning. “Ugh.” The Taiwanese boy groaned as he was brushing his teeth. His roommate was always trying to enforce this morning routine, even though he did not particularly care to be woken up at 8:30AM every morning. Timmy himself admits that growing up, his parents did not really eat breakfast, nor did he or his two siblings. He just was not hungry that early in the morning. But Tarou insisted, much to Timmy’s frustration. This sort of stubborn behavior was new for Timmy. He had never seen Tarou, who was typically easygoing, so adamant to follow a routine like that. So then the two would get breakfast together in the dining hall and then head off for classes. Knowing that Tarou was interested in both genders, it made Timmy feel uneasy. Perhaps all of this time and commitment that Tarou devoted to him, it was something more than just the older brotherly love that he was claiming it to be?

“Aw, is he your little brother?” Enya smiled. That comment took a slightly younger Timmy by surprise. Back in high school, everyone knew that Tarou was more of a follower while Timmy was the one who took the lead. “Wait, little? I’m the older one! And we’re friends! We’re not related! We’re not even the same ethnicity!” The Taiwanese college freshman was flustered. He did not know how to react to that kind of comment. Trying to regain his composure, he just stopped speaking. At that point, it was too late. Enya was already flirting with Tarou, who seemed equally uncomfortable. The two of them were so used to Timmy being the one in charge, the more mature and intelligent person. So for Tarou to be seen in that light instead, it almost made Timmy’s blood boil. He was frustrated. It felt like his own qualifications and capabilities were being stripped away and that he was left with nothing going into his first year of college. And it continued to be that way for the first semester. Everyone kept on assuming that Tarou was the older and more mature person, even though Timmy knew that Tarou was fragile and sensitive. Despite that, Tarou continued to be offered so many different kinds of opportunities, while Timmy was either ignored or faced rejection; when he applied to be ACU’s freshman representative, they forgot to follow up with him on his interview time because of how unimpressionable he was at first. Timmy was the only general member who consistently went to events, even when the attendance would otherwise be just the officers. For the Taiwanese boy, ACU felt like a good escape from this nonsense that was Tarou being such a revered figure, just because of his looks. Timmy just could not accept the fact that Tarou was capable or mature, because the Tarou he knew and befriended all those years ago is nothing like that.