How it is: Chapter 17

That same day, Tarou was at work with Misaki, talking about the former’s current living situation after they finished another photo shoot. “So you two aren’t living together anymore?” The older model frowned. She was surprised to hear that Timmy had problems with Valerie and Tarou. “Yeah, and that’s why I’m living on Valerie’s floor at the moment.” The male model nodded. “I see, I see.” Had Timmy not been such a close friend of her boyfriend’s, Misaki would have most likely used her one favor from the yakuza to call a hit on the Taiwanese boy. Just the thought of somebody being that immature, inept, and cowardly, he was asking for at least, a slap to the face. Shaking off her dark, violent thoughts, the older girl looked at her friend. “I think Timmy is a complete and utter coward. Just the way he treated Valerie, it was sickening. Then to hear from you that he called her a skank or slut or whatever, that was uncalled for. And that’s just his beef with Valerie. The way he treated you was completely rude. It was homophobic of him to say that your sexuality made him uncomfortable. It’s not like you made advances on him, did you?” She looked at him, nervously. If Tarou had indeed acted with romantic intentions, then this situation could get very ugly. “I saw him more as a little brother or a son, but for him, he only saw my sexuality when that became a topic. He could not shake the thought or fear that I might be romantically interested in him. And his uneasiness towards it, it made me question my own feelings towards him as well. But seeing him act that way, it just reaffirms that this is why I saw him as a little brother or a son. It’s because he is less emotionally mature than I am.” Tarou summarized. “I see. And it makes sense. Him not knowing how to react to and live with somebody like you, it caused him to act really irrationally.” The reason why Misaki was able to make such detailed observations was because she was a psychology major in college, before deciding to become a model full time and abandon the psychology path entirely. There was something about being able to observe others and understanding their intentions and interpretations of life that piqued her interest.

After heading out of the agency, Misaki and Tarou were having dinner at Tarou’s favorite restaurant, Ngam; Tarou and Misaki both adored the chef, who was a model herself, and just enjoyed the elegant takes on Thai cuisine served at the establishment. Tarou sighed, feeling a little uneasy. Even though he was at one of his favorite restaurants, he was not feeling hungry. He was worried about what was happening to Timmy. “Hey, what’s wrong?” Misaki looked at him, visibly concerned. Tarou had been spacing out for a while. It was unlike Tarou, especially when he was a former fat kid, to leave a meal virtually untouched. “I’m just out of it. I’m still getting over what Timmy said about Valerie and how he outed me like that.” Tarou sighed. He did not think that anything could hurt him. But he wrong. Timmy’s words hurt. Seeing her friend this way, Misaki could not bring herself to feign smiling anymore. “Look, you two need to talk. Do you want me to tell Justin about the whole situation?” She offered. Tarou shook his head. “He’s not ready. I don’t think he’ll ever be ready to be confronted. He’s a fucking coward.” The model scowled. He was angry at this point. What did he ever do to deserve this treatment? It was not his fault he was born bisexual. Timmy’s immaturity, it was just ridiculous. Tarou was in disbelief that somebody he looked up to, somebody he grew up with, could have come along so little in life. Slowly, Tarou began to piece together the dots: his involvement with Timmy, or specifically, his smother of Timmy, had caused the Taiwanese boy to become so sheltered and immature. All of this time I tried to protect him, I only caused him harm. He started to realize. Yet, Tarou did not resent himself. How was he supposed to know that this sort of overbearing behavior was okay? He was still a student himself. He had a lot left to learn.

“Hey, what’s wrong,, babe?” Justin looked at a distraught Misaki. She was still shaken by Tarou’s recent behavior and attitude. It was later at night, and the couple were in their apartment. “It’s just frustrating. These guys, they’re legally adults. But they still act like such sulky teenagers.” She frowned. It was bothering her how badly affected both of these boys were acting. “I get how you feel. Timmy’s life has been going to shit because of this. Word got out about how he acted, and he got kicked out of ACU.” Justin explained. “Huh?” Misaki looked at him, perplexed. “Yeah, he just texted me. It did not sound pretty. Apparently, there were over two hundred protestors boycotting an eboard meeting because of him.” “Whoa.” The model was not sure how to feel about this. On one hand, it was amazing to see that this many people cared about Tarou, or at least, what Tarou stood for. On another hand, Timmy was only 18, and he is being punished for being inexperienced, rather than narrow-minded. Misaki knew that even though he was immature, Timmy was not a bad person. He just was sheltered, therefore naive. “How’s he taking the end-result?” She looked at Justin, greatly concerned. “Not well. He told me he needed time alone.” Justin sighed, crossing his arms. He wanted to help Timmy, but he did not know what to do either. Whenever he got like this, Timmy would be impossible to reach. The Taiwanese boy would shut himself off from society. It was unpleasant to say the least. “What should we do?” He looked at Misaki, who was equally at a loss. “I think we need to talk to Timmy. And let him know what Tarou is feeling. Even if he is not ready to talk to Tarou, he needs to understand what’s going on.”

A week had passed since Tarou had been kicked off ACU board. The boy had shut himself into his room, only leaving for class. He felt mortified. Being removed from the club was already humiliating. He felt as if all of his hard work was unraveled in just a manner of minutes. Looking at Tarou’s empty bed, the Taiwanese boy felt himself flush with anger. Unable to contain himself, he slammed his fist into the stripped mattress. It bounced slightly as he left a deep impress in the fabric. “Fucking shit.” He cursed underneath his breath, ignoring the stinging in the side of his palm. He just needed to get off some steam. The thought of Tarou, it was concerning, yet aggravating. Why did somebody feel the need to be so controlling over him? He felt like he could not even breathe. Tarou was suffocating him. Ignoring the smell of the rotting pizza boxes piling up on his floor, the boy tried to drift off to sleep, or at least humor the notion: how can anyone sleep when they feel so constantly scared? Suddenly, Timmy’s phone started buzzing, much to the boy’s shock. It was Justin. “Hello?” He answered hesitantly. “You. I need to talk to you.” It was a woman’s voice. Misaki’s to be exact. “Uh…” The boy debated hanging up his phone, but he could not bring himself to. He feared the exact repercussions of angering Justin’s girlfriend. “Tarou’s devastated. I know you don’t care because you’re a heartless son of a bitch, but you need to know that the way you treat people, it needs to change. The fact that his sexuality made you uncomfortable, and on top of that, you treated him like crap when he was one of your closest friends! You pushed him away for a group of next to complete strangers, when he would have done anything for you. Do you not feel any shame for that?”

Timmy was not quite sure how to feel. Misaki, unlike the majority of his friends in the Asian community, was extremely upfront and direct. She did not sugar coat her words or statements. The Taiwanese boy was just taken aback, because of how unused to this treatment he was. “Well?” Misaki pressed again. She was still on the phone with him. “I’m just… I just need time. He’s exhausting. Looking at him, it just brings up a lot of anxiety and stress for me. I can’t feel safe or comfortable. I-I-I-” Timmy felt himself starting to break down into tears. There were too many emotions for him to process. Being around Tarou just made him extremely uncomfortable, and trying to unravel and comprehend everything Timmy was feeling at the thought of him, it was exhausting. “Look, I’m sure you’re not a completely shitty person. But you are being really selfish by not considering how your actions affect those around you. That’s the bottom line for what I’m trying to convey here. I believe that you and Tarou, you guys can make up and work it out. It might take time, even therapy, but I know you guys can do it and salvage your friendship.” Misaki reassured him. Timmy could hear what Misaki was saying, but he was still trying to recompose himself. He’s had more emotional meltdowns in the past two weeks than he has ever had in his entire life. He did not want to make a habit out of this behavior.

“Do you think I was being too harsh on him?” Misaki looked at Justin as she hung up the phone. “Well, you were definitely blunt. And honest.” Justin smirked. “But don’t worry about it too much. Somebody needed to tell him to be more considerate.” He sighed. As much as he cared about Timmy, Justin knew that the Taiwanese boy was old enough to be responsible for his own actions and decisions. He needed to take responsibility for the way he was treating others, or at least the way he was communicating with them. “Well, at least you agree that Timmy’s being a little pussy ass bitch.” Misaki sighed. As a model, she is used to dealing with passive aggressive, fake, and two-faced behavior all the time. Timmy’s attitude reminded her of that, and if she could stop another young adult from becoming like one of those monsters she works with, then the model would do whatever she can to end the vicious cycle. “Well, it looks like it’s getting really late. Let’s go to bed, babe.” Justin yawned, stretching his arms. “Yeah, let’s do it.” She sighed, getting up from their couch, and heading off to their bedroom.

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.

How it is: Chapter 15

It was Thursday, early in the afternoon. “Hey, how are you?” Janice and Mako looked at Valerie as she stepped into the kitchen. They could both tell that she looked exhausted and bothered. “I did not get a lot of sleep last night. One of my best friends who had a crush on me, he basically bullied me into trying to kill myself, and then he called me a skank in front of everyone I knew.” Valerie clammed up at that point. She felt like she spoke an uncharacteristically large amount, given how quiet and reserved she normally was at work. She felt her entire right arm convulsing with rage. It was one of the few times she wished she was a butcher at the restaurant. She could really use a cleaver on something at the moment, just to blow off some steam. Imagining that the pig or chicken carcass was Timmy, since both of those descriptions suited him at this very moment. “Here, come with me.” Janice pulled her aside. The executive chef looked greatly concerned at what she was hearing. “Wait, but I have prep to do-” Valerie tried to interject. “Mako, you’re in charge! Keep making sure that prep is going on schedule! It’s a Thursday, so we aren’t going to be as busy, so you guys should be fine without us for a little bit.” She shouted. “Alright, chef!” Mako called back as the two girls walked into the restaurant’s seating area. “We can’t have you going into service like this. We are going to talk a little bit.” Janice explained.

“Alright, so I just need a second here to unravel what’s going on. So you’re saying that you wanted to kill yourself?” Janice looked at her. “Yeah.” Valerie sighed. “Why?” “It happened around the time the finale aired. All of the comments, saying how I was an idiot, it was just coming back to haunt me. And it was because I made desserts only on that finale, and I make desserts here, so work was a constant trigger.” She started. “Okay, well that was you over a year ago, alright? You were a dumb 17 year-old. You’re going to make mistakes when you’re that young. Hell, I make mistakes now, and I’m 26!” Janice confessed. “What?” Valerie looked at her in surprise. “Yeah! A couple services ago, I accidentally look a ramekin full of sugar to the pass, and sprinkled sugar on the venison loin. I tasted it, because it did not feel like the malden salt, but at that point, I had already put it on the meat, and we had to re-fire it.” Janice rolled her eyes. “But in your situation, trust me, I know what it’s like. Yeah, I won my season, but the way I won it was too controversial. People kept on telling me that I did not deserve to win, and that I was a gimmick. I got eliminated fourth, and only got back in because of the Redemption Creativity Challenge in the last round. It sucked. But I just started to ignore that, worked my ass off, and that’s why I got a Michelin star.” Valerie nodded. It was surprising for her to actually have this time to speak with Janice on a one on one basis.

“So what exactly did your friend say that made you try to act on these thoughts?” “He said that I would go from being a joke to a has-been.” Valerie frowned. “Look, you will only be a joke if you let others get to you like that. You are a hardworking and determined young woman, and that’s exactly why I promoted you to executive pastry chef. And I know you probably think this, but I did not promote you so that you can copy and replace Namie. I wanted you to lead the pastry department with your own techniques and vision.” Hearing that was a huge relief. “Thank you, Janice.” Valerie smiled. “Stop thinking about what others say about you. I don’t know about your personal life or decisions, nor I should ask, since it’s not workplace appropriate, but if they want to call you a skank or whore, don’t listen to that. Even if you are promiscuous or whatever, your work ethic and passion for your industry, that’s what they should be focusing on. People who spread rumors, they have too much time and insecurities on their hands. Don’t stoop to their level. Don’t let what they say get to you. Confidence comes from working hard and gaining experience. Doubt comes from sitting around, being too sensitive and unproductive. You have so much experience already, I just want you to take that and own it.” What Janice said, it was eye-opening to Valerie. “You’re right. I need to. Thanks, Janice” Valerie nodded. The two got up and returned to the kitchen. “And that friend of yours, cut him off. He’s not worth your time or attention. He owes you an apology. Until he gives you that, just forget about him. Focus on other things, and honestly, don’t wait around, expecting an apology either. Do things with your time.”

“Hey, feeling better?” Jacky looked at Valerie as she walked up to the pass with her cherry dessert. Like they suggested, Valerie opted for a honey-goat milk-vanilla panna cotta instead of the yogurt, and it tasted phenomenal. “I’m feeling good. How about you? How have you been?” She smiled. “I’ve been alright. You know, living the chef life.” They chuckled together, as the two walked back to their respective stations. “Alright, so next order. Three ube doughnuts, followed by that, two olive oil cakes.” Valerie read off the checks. “Heard!” Daphne and Megan chimed in. For the first time in a while, Valerie felt in control. Orders were coming in, and being sent out with no issues. Megan, Daphne, and her, they were working together seamlessly. I got the doughnuts out of the frier, and I’m tossing them in the cinnamon-sesame sugar right now, chef! Give me 30 more seconds!” Daphne cried. “30 seconds, heard!” “Here, chef!” Daphne handed Valerie three bowls and the components to go into it, which the chef quickly plated up. “Daphne, bring these two the pass.” “Got it!” The cook walked down with the three bowls on a sheet tray. “Here’s the olive oil cake, chef.” Megan presented Valerie the two plates. The chef quickly finished the plating on those as well. “Alright, Megan, bring those up to the pass.” “Thanks, chef!” Megan smiled as she walked up with the two desserts.

“Man, that was probably one of the best services we had in a while!” Megan smiled. “Tell me about it.” Daphne grinned. The three were cleaning down their station, and celebrating a very successful dinner service. “It’s good to have the Valerie we know and love back.” They looked at her. “Thanks, you two. I wouldn’t be the chef I am without such amazing pastry cooks. Literally everything you two brought up for me was perfection.” She beamed at the two older women. It was remarkable to think about how Megan was 27 and Daphne was 43 with a son, that the two would give her, a 18 year-old, so much respect. When Valerie was first promoted to chef, she was nervous. Even though she worked there longer than Megan had, she felt that Daphne was deserving of the promotion. “Say, Daphne. How come you did not take the promotion to executive pastry chef?” She looked over the mother. “Well, Janice and Namie did ask me, but I rejected the offer. Yeah, the pay is nice and all, but I have a family to raise too. If I was the executive, then I would have to be too preoccupied with menu planning and coordinating with Janice. And then don’t get me started on those events in the summer. You’ll have to travel a lot and it’s going to be a major pain. I’d prefer to just stay in New York with my family.” She sighed. “Besides, Ben’s getting to a difficult age. He’s 12 and thinks that he’s the boss of everyone now. I’d rather be here, keeping him in his place.” Keeping him in his place, huh? Valerie thought to herself. We all have a place where we fit in and thrive…

How it is: Chapter 14

“Wait, so you slept in the hallway?” Valerie looked dumbstruck and horrified. She was eating breakfast with Tarou in the dining hall when the model told her what happened the night before, sans Timmy’s feelings. “Well, you don’t need him. Here, grab some of your stuff. You can sleep on my floor.” The pastry chef offered. “Thanks, Val.” Tarou smiled. It felt good to know that he had somebody to rely on when things got tough. That person used to be Timmy, but now Valerie was starting to be more like his rock. And she felt the same way with Tarou. “No problem. Hanging out with you is a lot of fun.” She admitted. “I missed being able to just goof off with you.” The girl giggled before stopping herself. She was not one to giggle. It felt really unusual to her. And then it started to settle in: she just asked the boy she had a crush on since freshman year of high school to live with her. Were there not steps that preceded this? Valerie felt like she skipped ahead of a lot of cornerstones in a friendship or relationship and just plunged into the deep end. The girl started to feel awkward at her own proposal, but she knew that, her feelings for him aside, the model needed a place to stay, and she could offer him one. Tarou, on the other hand, was oblivious to Valerie’s feelings for him. He just felt vulnerable and helpless, and needed somewhere safe to shelter himself from Timmy.

Valerie’s single room was not terribly big. Granted, it was designed for one person, and in Manhattan, where rooms were small to begin with, it would be about the size of a walk in closet. It was later in the afternoon, after class. Tarou settled in a mattress pad on the floor. He did not care about the space. The room was only going to be where he slept. “Are you all-good?” Valerie looked at him. “Yeah.” He nodded, as the two walked out of their now-shared room. They both had work and needed to head out. Unbeknownst to both of them, they were seen by one of Valerie’s floor mates and an ACU officer, Holly. The girl looked intrigued, seeing Timmy’s really attractive roommate walk out of Valerie’s room with her. At first, she did not pay much attention to it. She assumed that he was just going over to hang out. Until later that night, when she saw both of them walk back into Valerie’s room as well. “Oh my god, they’re fucking.” She gasped in horror. Grabbing her phone, she texted Timmy. “I just saw your roommate. He’s hooking up with my floor mate, Valerie.” In his room, Timmy picked up his phone, and read the text. “WHAT?!” He screamed, slamming his fist into his wall. It left a fairly deep dent, chipping away the paint and revealing the brick beneath it. Timmy did not care though. As much as his hand hurt, his heart hurt more. He felt genuinely betrayed.

The next morning, a lonely Timmy got out of bed. He had very little sleep that night. He was too angry. Eyes red from crying, he quickly got changed. Looking at Tarou’s empty side of the room, he frowned. “Fucking bastard.” He growled, cracking his knuckles. A part of him wanted to throw the empty bed out the window. It would have made him feel a lot better. But he had to get that out of his system. Today was the day for the Asian Cultural Awareness Event for ACU. As sophomore rep, he was in charge of representing the club during this event, and had to be composed. If he let himself slip and lose composure here, then that would make a horrible first impression for his first ever event as an officer. He worked this hard to get on board, attending every event and getting to know every officer. It had finally paid off, and now he just wanted to continue working hard to make ACU the best club he can. At this point, aside from his computer friends, ACU was all the boy had left. He was not going to lose this on top of Valerie and Tarou. He could feel himself shaking from anger again at the mention of their names. Logging onto FaceBook, he pulled up Tarou’s account. “Block user?” A small window popped up. Hesitant at first, the boy clicked the “Yes” button to confirm.

For the Asian Cultural Awareness Event, it took place in the Rosenthal Pavilion, a large room normally equipped with several round tables and windows that overlooked the city. In this case, the round tables were removed and replaced with rectangular booths, each representing a different country. “Wow, we really got every club. Even JBA! And they never want to do things with us!” Alice giggled. “Yeah…” Timmy sighed. If it was not for Tarou, the Japanese Business Association would not have agreed to coming. “Hi.” A tall, tanned junior, Akinori approached Alice and Timmy. He was Tarou’s president. “Thank you for having us.” He bowed politely. Even though he was being amicable towards Timmy and Alice, the presence of the Japanese Business Association just made the Taiwanese boy uncomfortable. He felt uneasy because of how close the club was with Tarou; there was a part of him that was worried that Tarou had already told his fellow officers in the club about his current situation with Timmy. “Well, if you need any other help, feel free to ask Timmy or any of our other reps!” Alice smiled. “Alright, I’ll be sure to!” Aki grinned, walking off. “Hey, what’s wrong? You looked kind of… out of it.” She looked over at him. “It’s nothing. I’m just a little tired is all.” Timmy lied through his teeth. Timmy normally hated lying, mostly because he was not very good at it; keeping a straight face was a constant challenge for him, and it felt morally wrong. But in this situation, what else was there to do, other than lie?

The event started to drag on forever, or so it felt for Timmy. No matter where he was, he constantly bumped into JBA officers, who would constantly mention Tarou to him. “Hi, I’m Mari. Nice to meet you. I’m the freshman representative.” A small girl smiled at him. “Hi. I’m Timmy.” He grumbled. “Oh! I think Tarou mentioned me to you.” She giggled. “How is he?” “I don’t know.” Timmy froze. He was not sure what else to say, so he accidentally said the truth. “What do you mean?” She raised an eyebrow. “Aren’t you like his roommate?” She pressed. Timmy started to feel a lump form in this throat. “He’s not living with me right now. I did not want to live with somebody who’s bisexual. And he’s sleeping with that skank baker, Valerie!” He burst, unable to hold the truth back anymore. Unfortunately for him, the officers of ACU, JBA, and the Singapore Student Association overheard him. “Valerie? Like Valerie Ang? And with Tarou, JBA’s hot treasurer? No way.” One of the girls in SSA whispered to her friend. “Wait, so they’re dating? And I didn’t know he was bi. That’s actually pretty interesting.” Akinori looked at his sophomore rep, Taichi. Unfortunately, the rumor spread through the entire hall, with everyone thinking that Tarou and Valerie were having sex. “What?!” Melissa, Enya, and Sarah screamed. “NO! TAROU!!!!” Melissa flipped over a table as Enya put her leg through a nearby cutout. Sarah just began sobbing hysterically. “YOU LIED! YOU TOLD US YOU’D SAVE YOURSELF FOR MARRIAGE!” Despite escalating the situation, nobody stopped Melissa and Enya’s rampage. Everyone in the room was too preoccupied, being repulsed at Timmy’s statements. “I think we should leave.” Somebody suggested. And then surely enough, all of the other organization’s officers and event-goers left the venue in a rush.

“Well, that was shit.” Alex growled. The ACU officers had to stay after the event to clean up the mess Enya, Melissa, and Sarah caused. The entire room was a mess. The floor was covered in torn up posters and broken glass. Two wooden tables were smashed into pieces because of Melissa, who was a black belt in krav maga, decided to unleash hell upon them in a fit of rage. In terms of the event, it was a complete failure: all of the other clubs were unwilling to collaborate with ACU again because of the incident. Not only for the commotion that Tarou’s fan club caused, but also because of Timmy’s comment on Tarou and Valerie. “We do not condone homophobia. We will never work with ACU again. Have him issue an apology to his roommate.” Read one of the feedback responses, from the Taiwanese American Student Association. All of the clubs were sent a survey to fill out once the event was over, and these were filling in quickly. “He was born bisexual, he did not choose to be that way, nor should he be treated like the plague because of it. For a club that promotion inclusion, you guys should know better.” This was what the Chinese Student and Scholars Association stated. “How dare one of your officers call somebody a skank. We know Valerie personally, and she is nothing close to promiscuous.” That was another comment, this time by the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality. “This is a nightmare.” Alice sighed, pinching her temple. This event was the definition of a PR nightmare. “Hey, Timmy, how are you feeling? You know you can talk to us about these kinds of things too.” Gary looked at the shaken freshman. “Yeah, we elected you because we wanted you in our club. If other clubs don’t want to work with us or whatever, then it’s their loss.” Holly reassured him as well. But Timmy was still mortified. No matter what Gary and Holly said to comfort him, he felt entirely responsible for the chaos that ensued. If only he had kept his mouth shut. “It’ll be okay.” Holly and Gary hugged him.

“Wait, he called me a skank?” Valerie received a FaceBook message from one of her friends, Alexa, in the NYU Hospitality Facebook page. The two were still in her room together, later that night, getting ready to sleep. “He outed me?!” Tarou could feel himself feeling nervous. Apparently all of the Asian community’s officers knew that he was bisexual now. “Wait, look at this.” Somebody had uploaded a video of Timmy and Mari at the event. “Aren’t you like his roommate?” She asked him. “He’s not living with me right now. I did not want to live with somebody who’s bisexual. And he’s sleeping with that skank baker, Valerie!” He shouted back. The video cut off at there. The model turned to his friend. He was not sure what exactly to say. “Well, he’s dead to me.” She rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. Tarou was still speechless. Not knowing what to say, he decided to scroll through the comments. “This homophobic little shit needs to be expelled.” “Where does he get off, calling somebody a skank?” “Well, peace, ACU. I’m not going to attend your events anymore.” Suddenly, Tarou’s phone stared going off. He was receiving a ton of messages. “Are you okay?” “The Gay-Straight Alliance wanted to interview you.” “I just saw what happened on FaceBook. He’s the worst.” There were at least 50 messages that read along those lines. It was overwhelming. And then the model noticed he received an invitation. “You are invited to join the group, Boycott: ACU and its derogatory ways.” Looking at the page, it already had 200 members, including all of the officers from JBA, SSA, TASA, KSA, NSMH, CSSA, the Gay-Straight Alliance, the Modeling Club, and a lot of students from both the Hospitality and Performing Arts schools.

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 8

Valerie was on break when she received a text from Timmy. “Hey, so what’s wrong? Why were you so angry on Friday? Do you need to talk?” She ignored the text. All she could think about right now was finally nailing a perfect service. Even when she was walking down the street, she would get people asking her how it felt to be the first runner up to ever mess up to the degree that she did. Everyone, even on the Warrior Chef sites, were commenting on how she made Warrior Chef history in one of the worst possible ways. All over the internet, she was being called an idiot for not following the challenge rules and that she just threw away the title. It was humiliating to hear that. “Argh!” Valerie fumbled with her Vitamix blender, causing the violet sorbet base to spill onto her station and floor. “Crap.” She groaned, cleaning it up. Everything she tried to do, it was not working. She could not cook or think in these conditions. But she just had to endure it for another night, and then relax tomorrow. It would be her day off, so she could just put all of her thoughts and worries behind her.

“Hey, why have you been sucking at service lately?” Jacky finally confronted Valerie on her recent performances in the kitchen. Valerie was usually a strong pastry chef, clean, efficient, and productive. She was a capable leader too, normally having a strong gasp over her staff and making sure that everyone was on track with their usual tasks. But as of the past week, she had been dropping things, over seasoning, spilling sauces, using the incorrect garnishes. To Jacky, he felt like the person standing in front of him was not the co-worker he knew. It was the right time to confront her about this. Dinner service was over, and Valerie was on her way out while Jacky was heading into the locker room to grab his things. “I take it you haven’t seen the finale yet?” Valerie huffed angrily. “Oh, well, no. I haven’t had much time to.” He shook his head. “Wait, you lost?” He raised an eyebrow. “Well, no duh. But it was not the losing part that’s getting me down. It’s how I lost.” She walked off, not wanting to talk about it. “Hey, wait! Val! Wait!” Jacky shouted. It was too late. Valerie was already gone from the restaurant and on her way home.

The walk back, all of those comments she read on the internet were still ringing through her head. It made losing that much more difficult of a pill to swallow. “Come on, think about the positives. Think about the things that make you happy.” She told herself. She needed a distraction. “Timmy and Tarou, I need to talk with them right now.” She got out her phone, and tried to give Tarou a call. No answer. “Oh, right! He’s got that Modeling Club event tonight.” She frowned. “Alright, let’s try Timmy.” She dialed his number. “Hey, what’s up?” Timmy picked up the phone. That should have been expected. Timmy was never as busy as Tarou anyways. “Sorry about being so moody all the time. I was just going through a lot of shit. You know, losing the finale, and being projected on national television as an idiot or somebody trying to rely on copouts, it is a really hard pill to swallow.” She started.

Timmy was alone in his room while Valerie was making the call. Tarou was doing his Modeling event, which meant that he was having a really quiet Saturday to himself. He was excited to be talking to Valerie. He really enjoyed having time alone with her. But at the same time, he was a little nervous. She must be in a really vulnerable emotional state at that moment. The last thing he wanted to do was make it worse. “Well, you lost. But what can you do? Yeah, everyone is going to call you an idiot or a dumb ass, but you know that you are not that person anymore, right?” He asked her. “Well, duh, I know, but how do I get that across to everyone else?! I can’t even go down the street or show my face in school without somebody making a comment about how dumb I am! And all I can do is laugh it off!” She screamed. “Then keep doing that! Eventually, it’ll die down, and nobody will even remember you at all.” “Yay, that’s what I want.” Valerie hung up the phone, as Timmy’s heart sank. “Crap, I just pissed her off even more.”

“Useless. Fucking idiot.” She slammed her hand into the wall. “The only person who would get me is Tarou, not Timmy. Timmy’s still a child. Tarou, he actually gets what it means to be stressed and fail.” She was still alone in her room, mumbling to herself at this point. The one thing she regrets now, more than ever, about putting work first was how few friends she has from it. In Warrior Chef, all of the girls looked to her as the strong, dependable type. She was used to having that sort of dynamic with them, so calling Claire or Coco was out of the question. They would not know how to react if somebody that they looked up to was in this sort of emotional and mental state. Work, she did not want her personal issues to leech into the restaurant. She did not want her coworkers thinking of her as some overtly emotional girl who needed consoling. In the kitchen, nobody has time for feelings or egos. You just had to keep going and put your emotions on hold. Even though Janice might understand what she’s going through, why would somebody as important as Janice Arrington, who is her boss on top of it all, want to talk to her about the aftermath of being on a reality show? That made no sense to Valerie.

Meanwhile, Timmy was alone in his room, sobbing into a pillow. He felt horrible about what had just happened. Both of his best friends, he could feel rifts forming between the three of them. Valerie in particular, Timmy always had a crush on her. She was one of the first and few girls he had ever spoken to, and as much as he tried to keep their relationship platonic, there was always a voice in the back of his mind, telling him to just try dating her. She was hardworking, confident, independent, driven, and these were all qualities that made her so attractive to Timmy in the first place. Watching her compete on Warrior Chef just reminded Timmy of why Valerie was such an incredible person. She was a proven leader, taking charge in a lot of the team challenges, winning quite a few of the challenges with her impeccable pastry and savory skills, and while many people were calling her an idiot for sticking to her guns and making only pastries in the finale, Timmy felt like that was just Valerie representing herself. She was always the type who did things her own way, and this was just another shining example of that.

“Ew, why are you hanging out with them? They’re boys!” A 5 year-old Valerie was being confronted by her female classmates, who were not terribly happy to see her hanging out with Tarou and Timmy. “You’ll catch their grossness!” Another one whined. “Shut up. Girls, boys, it doesn’t matter. Hanging out with them is fun, and they’re not annoying like you girls are.” She spat, walking too to Tarou and Timmy. “Sorry about that, they were telling me to not be friends because you’re boys, but I told them that they suck.” She giggled. Hearing her say that was touching for Timmy. He was nervous that Valerie was going to ditch the two of them to spend more time with the girls in their class. But instead, she chose to be with them, because she liked spending time with them more. It was at that moment that Timmy started having feelings for her.

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.