How it is: Chapter 1

“Hey.” A small Taiwanese boy with short black hair and a square shaped jaw stepped back into his grimy, dimly-lit dorm room. Laying on the occupied bed was his roommate and childhood friend, Tarou. Tarou was a tall, decently build Japanese boy with clean features, round brown eyes, and dark hair that was often swept to the side. Many people could already guess that he was a model from one look. “Hi, Timmy.” He yawned, before going back to looking at his laptop. Timmy had just finished another week of his freshman year in college. Being a computer engineering major, he was always bombarded with homework and assignments. Coding, programming, algorithms, it was all just one big mess of numbers that he had to sort out. But that was what he enjoyed about it. Being able to create something digitally, organizing and structuring text into actual visuals, it was a lot of fun for him. And then there was Tarou, who was a drama student, and a part-time model. Tarou was always busy doing performances, ranging from singing to performing, and in his free time, the Japanese boy was at an agency downtown, the New York branch of Logan Photography, doing shoots in the trendiest outfits. The two lived together in this crammed NYU dorm room, and they were both constantly stressed out with different things. “Hey, so I’m going to be out studying with the guys tonight.” Timmy started. He had another assignment, which meant another all-nighter with his computer friends Jeff and Nate. “That’s fine. I’ll be hanging out with my fan club.” Tarou joked, referring to a trio of girls who would follow him around the moment he set foot in public. He actually would never approach any of those three harpies willingly. “You really should just settle for one of them, or be honest with them. Leading all three of them on like that, it’s not right.” Timmy frowned. “Eh, like I care or have time to sit down and talk to them about feelings.” Tarou shrugged. He was too immersed in watching a music video on Youtube that featured him as the male lead.

“Honestly, how do you do it? Your roommate sounds crazy.” A tall but lanky male, Jeff, looked at Timmy. The two were sitting with their friend, a tall but muscular youth, Nate, doing their computer science homework in the library. “I just don’t get it. How can anyone put up with somebody who’s basically a sociopath?” Nate frowned in agreement. “Sociopath is a harsh way of putting it.” Timmy shrugged. He was referring to how Tarou would lead on several girls, causing him to have quite the following amongst female students in the greater New York area. “He just doesn’t know how to handle so many girls liking him at once. Plus, when we were kids, he wasn’t terribly attractive, so he’s just not used to be seen that way.” Timmy explained, realizing his own bad habit of omitting certain information. “Wait, Tarou used to be ugly?!” Jeff and Nate looked at each other in disbelief. “Yeah! Haven’t I ever told you that before?” Timmy fished out his phone and started flipping through his photos. “Oh wait, here we go.” He stopped at a picture from middle school of a noticeably younger Timmy standing with a stout, overweight boy with an acne-riddled face and large glasses that obscured the upper half of his head. “THAT’S HIM?!” Both of them yelled, completely shocked. “What the hell happened to him? Did he get hit by a truck and then use plastic surgery to rebuild his entire body?” Nate pondered. “No, that’s obviously not Tarou, right?” Jeff theorized. “Nope, that’s him. This was back in 8th grade, when he was still a fat blob.” Timmy answered.

“Hey, Timmy!” A chubby 12 year-old boy ran up to him. They were both in middle school, specifically the black top, walking towards their next classroom. “Tarou! Calm down! You’re already out of breath!” Timmy was right. The Japanese boy was panting and sweating profusely as he finally caught up to his friend in the hallways. “Wait, why are you waiting? Keep moving! We’re going to be late for English!” Tarou huffed. “Alright, alright.” The two started to walk. “But what did you want to talk about?” Timmy eyed his sweaty friend. “I just wanted to say hi!” Tarou laughed, wiping off his forehead. “Hey, you two!” The boys noticed a slim Singaporean girl, Valerie. “Tarou and Timmy, T and T, you two are dynamite!” She laughed. “What the heck, Valerie?” Tarou rolled his eyes, unamused. “Actually, though.” Timmy laughed, appreciating the pun; Tarou would be the more serious of the two, while Timmy was much more easygoing, something that stands true even to this day. “And that was my attempt at being funny.” She shrugged before joining them in their walk to English class. It was funny to think about how they were friends from then even to now, at NYU. Timmy fondly chuckled at that memory. Even though living with Tarou now, it was stressful to him, he still knew that his friend meant well. He just did not understand why Tarou felt the need to hover over him all the time.  It made him feel like he was trapped and cornered. He had no freedom in his own home that was supposed to be their room together.

“Ugh, I just don’t want to do anything right now.” Tarou groaned to himself. He had the entire dorm room to himself while Timmy was off studying. Normally, Tarou would be swamped, being a secretary for student government in the Tisch School of Arts, the treasurer for the Japanese Business Association, and the vice president of the NYU Modeling Club, while modeling part time, all while being a second semester freshman in college. Looking back at his own journey getting to this point, he chuckled to himself. When he was younger, Tarou had little to no confidence: he was overweight, unattractive, and a lot of people ignored him because of that. Timmy was one of the few people who was there for him, since they were in kindergarten. Even during cross country and track, Timmy was the one who helped him through practice. If it was not for Timmy, he knew that he would still be that same overweight loser. He owed Timmy for his confidence. The two of them, in Tarou’s eyes, were inseparable for this reason. Whenever he was nervous, had to vent, had a problem, he would go to Timmy. But then when puberty hit, and Tarou wound up being the taller, better-looking, and outgoing of the two, things started getting weird. Everyone assumed that Tarou would be the older brother-figure to Timmy, and it got to the point where Tarou himself started to see that as well.

“Aw, is he your little brother?” A small Korean girl, Enya, smiled at the two. It was back in their first day of college. “Wait, little? I’m the older one! And we’re friends! We’re not related! We’re not even the same ethnicity!” Timmy frowned, half amused and half offended. “He’s Japanese, and I’m Taiwanese-Chinese!” He pointed out. “Oh. Well, you definitely look really mature and reliable.” Enya winked at Tarou, who was slightly confounded at her remark. It was really rare for anybody their age back in high school to say that to him, granted, everyone from high school had always known the two of them, and their general dynamic. Everyone knew that Tarou was this chubby little kid. Here in NYU, nobody knew that. “Trust me, a straight guy like you in the Tisch School of the Performing Arts, you’ll be really popular.” She giggled, running off. And everyone following Enya continued to assume that Tarou was this suave older brother to the smaller and seemingly timid Timmy. Even though Tarou was scouted to be a model back when he was in the 9th grade, he never really stopped to think about how he looked, and why it was so appealing to others.

“Hey, don’t do that.” Tarou looked at Timmy. It was the present again, so in this case, February. It was less than 30 degrees F outside. The smaller male was about to open the window to their dorm room, because it was getting stuffy and uncomfortably hot in their room. “Why?” The tired Taiwanese boy gazed over, only to be met with a worry-struck Japanese model. “You’re sick. I don’t want you to get a fever from being exposed to the cold.” Tarou frowned at his friend. The last thing he wanted to see was somebody he cared about making an easily avoidable mistake, and paying the price for it. “Oh.” Timmy quietly slumped his way back into his bed and went to sleep. This was just one of several instances of Tarou acting like a helicopter parent to Timmy. If it was not staying warm, it would be the way he dressed, making sure he ate three meals a day, that he would be on time to class, all things that a parent, not a student or peer, should ever have to concern themselves with. Making sure that Timmy was safe suddenly became the Japanese model’s priority. He never understood why at first, but he just had this urge to look after and protect the Taiwanese boy. It was stressful and exhausting to Tarou as much as it was aggravating and annoying to Timmy.

“Hi, I’m Timmy. Timmy Li!” A five year-old Timmy was smiling at a chubby Japanese boy who was in his kindergarten class, Tarou Shimizu. “H-hi.” Tarou nodded shyly in acknowledgement. The boy was not used to having friends, so seeing Timmy made him nervous. He did not know how to react to being in any kind of social setting. “I heard from Valerie, that really pretty girl in our class, that you were new to town, and I am too! I figured that us new kids got to stick together.” Timmy laughed, sitting down with Tarou in the sandbox. Timmy had recently moved to Queens from La Canada, California, just a week after Tarou had moved to Queens from Torrance, California. It was funny to Timmy that both of them were from Southern California, and that was what drew him to Tarou to begin with. “Yeah, I moved here a couple weeks ago.” Tarou shyly nodded. It was clear at that point, Timmy was the more outgoing of the two. “Hey, do you like Kingdom Hearts?” Timmy beamed at Tarou hopefully. “Yeah! I love it.” Tarou grinned sheepishly. “Want to come over and play it at my place sometimes?” Timmy offered eagerly. “Sure! I’d love to!” Tarou nodded, feeling at ease for the first time in a while: he was so used to being picked on that he was initially cautious of Timmy’s friendliness. But seeing that he was genuinely trying to be friends, it was touching. From that moment on, the two of them became and remained close friends. Almost to the point of being inseparable. That was, until college drama took its toll.

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Sky Bird: Chapter 6

“Alright, I hope you’re all ready for your skit projects!” Kawaguchi-sensei eyed his Japanese 2 class deviously. It was the Friday two weeks after the Malibu hike, and the class was wrapping up another chapter. “Oh crap.” Fanny crossed his arms and shook his head. Even though he had a theatre background, these skits were brutal: they needed to be entirely in Japanese, contain all of the grammar taught in the most recent chapter, and each person had to incorporate at least 10 vocabulary words taught in that chapter into their lines. Basically, a lot of things needed to be accounted for in this assignment. So it was horrible for everyone. And to make manners even less pleasant, Kawaguchi-sensei would choose the pairs randomly. Or in his own definition of that adverb, by choosing whoever he wants to pair together. “I’d like to see Puckchareon-san and Gomez-san together.” Sophia saw that her partner was Grant Gomez, a stout half Filipino, half Caucasian boy. “Well, could be a lot worse. I mean, Gomez-san tries really hard.” She sighed in relief. “Chiang-san, you will have Gong-san.” “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!” Fanny slammed the desk as he glared at Kawaguchi-sensei in disagreement. He was paired with Yubin Gong, a heavier Korean girl who had a fascination with her own reflection, cosplaying as anime characters half her girth, and making her hair shinier by not washing it, and not paying attention in class to the point where she would hardly ever get above a D average in most assignments. “Shut up, Chiang-san and make it work. What was that saying? In the theatre, the show must go on!” The bald teacher was having too much fun for his own good. “Ahn-san, you can work with…” Please pick me. Please pick me. I want to work with Carly! Kendall crossed his fingers. “Nelson-san.” Carly was partnered with Sharquiqui Nelson, a very sassy Afro-English girl who was somehow the sophomore class’s valedictorian, despite her vulgar vocabulary. “Mmmhmm! I know you just said my name!” Sharquiqui pursed her lips and shook her head in agreement. “And Skye-baka, you can work with your little sister. Maybe she could pick up for your slack.” Kawaguchi laughed, oblivious to Kendall and Megan’s earlier conflict. Wow, just my luck. I get to be with the unappreciative little sister. I’d rather have Gong-san to be honest. Kendall frowned to himself, frustrated at his bad luck. The one time he’d prefer to work with Yubin and he had to work with her instead.

“Hey, partner!” Yubin tried to talk to Fanny, who was visibly uncomfortable; Yubin was suspended for allegations of sexual harassment and blackmail; she threatened to leak nude photos of herself, claiming that they were photos of other girls, in an attempt to sleep with their boyfriends or just to take money from them. Despite that, the school board let her stay, because the superintendent felt that Yubin’s personality, being so different, could make her a unique individual in the school. As awkward as Fanny’s experience was, Megan’s was only worse. She was completely silent, while Kendall was writing the entire script on his own, his little sister just watching uncomfortably. “So what’s your script about?” Kawaguchi-sensei walked by the siblings. “It’s about a dumb little sister who needed to keep her mouth shut about the dumb things she said. And the older brother who decided to put her up for adoption.” Kendall began. “Oh, well that could be funny, but you’re not allowed to use dumb in your script. Sensei-privileges only to call somebody dumb.” He finished, walking off, still oblivious to their conflict. “Kendall, I know what I said must have hurt you, but what you’re doing with this project, I’m sorry, but it’s really immature and just as hurtful. Saying that I’m dumb and being disowned-” “Who said you’re allowed to talk?” He cut her off coldly. “Okay, that’s it. I’m sorry, but Kawaguchi-sensei, my brother is being a grade-A asshole to me.” Megan looked up. “Okay, younger Skye-san, normally I have to give a detention for that sort of language, but you do better than your grade-D dumbass brother in this class, so I’ll let this one slide. That being said, Skye-baka, why are you treating her that way? She’s your sister, not your slave. Respect her.” Kawaguchi scolded the male. The entire class went silent at that retort. “I’m sorry, Megan.” Kendall muttered begrudgingly, before looking back down at the script.

“And what I hope to accomplish by being the first Black female molecular biologist is to properly clone human beings. I would love to meet my great grandma Theodoralina, you nasty-ass bitch!” Sharquiqui snapped her fingers and bobbed her head. “Uh, I don’t quite get the reason why you needed to call me that, but I’m rooting for you, Sharquiqui. Your great grandmother Theodoralina must have been a pleasant person.” Carly laughed off the unusual title Sharquiqui had bestowed upon her, trying to not take it as an insult, but perhaps as a sign of affection? “Nah, she got shot like 50 times for trying to rob the National Mint. I just want to meet her so I can understand her crazy better. But whatever you say, yellow Cracker jack. But I managed to already write the script for this stupid shieeet. I knew he was going to do that, because he did that last year, and that fool is a predictable motherfucker.” Sharquiqui insisted, handing over the script to Carly. “Wait, what’s this about…” The Korean-Japanese girl looked at the paper, analyzing the text. “Wow… this is actually really deep. Honestly, this could be the premise of an Oscar-winning movie.” She was at a loss of words. Sharquiqui’s script was beyond reproach. It was a well-written epic with deep meanings, symbolism, and used all of the requirements. Inspired, Carly wholeheartedly agreed to use Sharquiqui’s script. It was the right thing to do.

“Away, foul beast!” Fanny hissed, crossing his fingers at Yubin, trying to form a cross at her. “Oh, I knew you wanted to finger me. Come here, you big boy.” The Korean girl tried to climb onto Fanny, who immediately raised his hand while pushing Yubin away with his other. “Kawaguchi-sensei, Gong-san is trying to touch me inappropriately!” “Chiang-san, try reporting that to the superintendent. It’s not going to do you any good.” The older Japanese man snorted, watching in amusement. “I am so taking krav-maga classes after this!” Fanny growled, trying to kick Yubin. Meanwhile, Sophia and Grant were quietly working on their script together. “So, Puckchareon-san, are the rumors true?” He looked at her. “Wait, what rumors?” She eyed him, curious but also nervous. “That you have a crush on Skye-san?” “Wait, so they think I’m a lesbian and cougar?” Her mouth went agape in disbelief. “Oh, no, wrong Skye-san. I mean Skye-baka.” Grant chuckled. “Hey, Gomez-san, you’re not allowed to use that word! Only sensei can!” Kawaguchi-sensei frowned. “But yeah, do you?” He looked at Sophia curiously. “Wait, why does this matter?” “Well, you’re like close to Ahn-san, and he’s obviously into her, so I was wondering if there was a love triangle, mayhaps-” “Just shut up, Gomez-san. That’s none of your business.” Sophia frowned. She was offended just by the fact that he being essentially a stronger would interrogate her on who she liked. That was just a violation of her privacy.

One by one, the pairs would recite their skits. Sophia and Grant’s skit was awkward, especially due to Sophia’s earlier scolding at Grant, but not nearly as bad as Fanny’s. Predictably, Fanny and Yubin’s was a cringe-filled act, where Yubin attempted to grope Fanny, who screamed for help in desperation. Megan and Kendall’s skit went over decently, after Kendall changed the entire script, making it a heartfelt apology, to which Megan accepted tearfully; the majority of the class was confused about why she was crying, but thought it was a touching sibling moment. And lastly, Sharquiqui and Carly’s skit left the entire class speechless. Even Kawaguchi-sensei, who was normally angry, critical, and sarcastic, was brought to tears of awe and amazement at how well-written and thought out the entire plot of their skit was, even dubbing it s new age Shakespearean tale. They received a standing ovation, to which Sharquiqui would scream obscenities over. Overall, Kawaguchi’s pairings wound up being for the best. Kendall was able to make up with his little sister, while Fanny failed his first assignment in Japanese 2, due to not finishing his skit while trying to fend off a lusting Yubin.

“So I take it you had a good day in Japanese?” Jared and Kendall were doing stretches on the track during soccer practice. The blonde normally had to cheer up Kendall because of how bad his experiences in Japanese are due to Fanny, so he was relishing this rare moment. “Yeah. Megan and I finally made up, and Fanny failed his first assignment.” Kendall snickered triumphantly. “Well, that fag deserved it. He’s been really rude to you, and that’s what he gets for messing up for your family!” Jared snorted. “Hey, wait, what did we say about calling gay people ‘fag’?” Kendall looked at Jared, frustrated. His homosexuality was not what made Fanny unbearable to him, so Kendall didn’t understand Jared’s continuous need to use that word. “It’s like using the n-word around black people. It’s rude.” The brunette finished. “Jeez, okay, I get it. Surprised that you’d be so against the usage of that word, but-” “It’s because I’m pretty sure that you are. And I want to be supportive of you.” Kendall assured.

“Huh? Me, gay?” Jared sputtered in disbelief. “Don’t worry, I knew for a while. The reason why you keep saying fag is because you want to not be associated with being gay. But I don’t care if you are or aren’t. You’re my friend either way.” Kendall smiled at the blonde. “What? I swear, dude, I’m not-” “I guess you’re not ready to come out yet. But I’ll be supportive of it whenever it happens.” The brunette insisted. “Okay, fine, I was hiding it. But for good reason.” Jared whispered to Kendall. “Wait, why? Just because you’re an athlete?” Kendall was curious about Jared’s rationale. “It’s because I am in a relationship… with Fanny.” He confessed, knowing full well how his best friend would react. “On… Fanny? Wait, why Fanny?! Are you fucking dumb?! You can’t be serious! This is a joke!” Kendall growled angrily. Terrified, Jared shook his head timidly. “What about Fanny is so appealing to you? He’s a rich, snobby, arrogant-” “You don’t see anything about Fanny other than his rude remarks and his money. But deep down, Fanny is a kind-hearted person!” Jared insisted. “He always offers to proof-read my papers for English 2, and he gives me help in Chem whenever I struggle-” “Wait, since when has Fanny been your tutor?” Kendall was angry. “I just went to him for help because Mrs. Johnson and Ms. Ling recommended him.” Jared admitted. “For how long?” The brunette glared at him. “Maybe for the past six weeks?” The blonde’s voice squeaked, him feeling increasingly more uncomfortable.

“Oh, look! It’s Kendolt and his friend!” Fanny laughed, pointing at the pair as him and the rest of the varsity boy’s team was running back to the school campus. “Fanny, the jig’s up. He knows.” Jared covered his face in embarrassment. “Oh shit, really?” The Chinese boy stopped in his tracks, dumbfounded. “Yeah. I tried.” Jared shook his head, defeated. “Well, Kendall, you can’t stop love. Jared and I-” “You don’t love Jared! You’re only in a relationship with him to spite me! Jared, I swear to god, Fanny is not-” “Shut up, Kendall! You’re one of my closest friends, but you have no idea how hard it was for me to have to stay in the closet. I knew you wouldn’t be supportive of this relationship, and that you’d let your hatred of Fanny completely override our friendship! Seriously, it’s either you accept us together, or lose me as a friend. Your choice.” Jared glared at Kendall while Fanny stood there, stunned speechless.

“You.” Kendall turned to Fanny. “You keep trying to take away my family and loved ones. You might be able to woo them over to your side, but you’re never going to fool me with your money and cheap tricks.” He spat, beyond infuriated at this point. No matter how happy he makes his own life, Kendall’s happiness was always overshadowed by Fanny’s. He could never have anything for himself. He could never live his own life, without knowing that Fanny has it better. And that frustrating, it was exhausting to Kendall. He was sick of dealing with Fanny and the people who like him. “Jared, it’s either him or me.” “Okay, that’s it. We’re done as friends.” Jared got up, and walked away, dragging Fanny with him. Kendall was fuming. First his little sister, then his own best friend chose this guy over him? All Fanny had to offer was his money. From what Kendall had seen and knowing Fanny since they were in grade school, the Chinese boy was rude, not smart, and just not a good person. He was always plotting something against him. It was like a strategy to systematically take apart his life. It was incredibly frustrating.

“Hey, man. Are you okay? I heard from Jared that you guys got into a big fight.” Matt was messaging Kendall on Facebook. The brunette was slouched, alone, in the living room of his apartment, still letting it sink in that he had just fought with one of his best friends. “Yeah, I’m fine.” The brunette began. “I’m just frustrated. Jared kept that relationship a secret, and then obviously, Fanny is just not a good person. He knew that Fanny wasn’t good for him, but he didn’t want to tell me because he knew I would state the obvious.” This was getting frustrating. No matter what, Fanny always seemed to find a way to win over people. “Maybe Jared didn’t want to tell you because he knew how you’d react? He wanted to spare your feelings, because he knew it would hurt you to know that your best friend is dating somebody you really don’t like.” Matt reasoned. “Either way, I think you owe Jared an apology.” “Hey, Chloe just told me what you did!” Megan stormed into the apartment. “Look, I get that we had that whole argument about Fanny, but it’s because we just don’t get why you dislike him and his family so much! Why, Kendall? What about him pisses you off?” “It’s because the Chiangs screwed us over!” Kendall finally admitted.