Damn real: chapter 18

“So I never really told you about Franky, did I?” “Wait, your ex?” Namie looked at Claire. They were still in the cashier office, chatting. “Yeah, my ex. He was a giant catalyst to my beauty vlogging career.” “Wait, what?” Namie frowned in disbelief. “You’re telling me that one guy just completely sparked your like what, almost million dollar empire?” “Yup. Just one guy. Heartbreak, it’s an interesting thing, isn’t it?” Claire laughed coldly. She was clearly still upset at the topic of him, despite being the person who brought him up in the first place. “But yeah, Franky and I, we were together for eight years. We started dating right before high school, went to college together at Penn State. I studied Hospitality, he studied Kinesiology. I honestly did not know life without him, Nams.” Hearing that saddened the accountant. The fact that Claire devoted almost a decade of her life to a single person, and even to the point where she just relied on his existence to provide her with a constant, it was definitely making her question whether or not being in a committed relationship was a good idea. “But yeah, we broke up, because of that same reason. He told me that he did not feel like he changed or grew in college, because we stayed in the same city, same school, same relationship, and he blamed his lack of maturing on being with me. He said that I was shallow, narrow-minded, and immature. That I was a bad influence on him.” “But you’re kind of a badass. And you’re not shallow or immature at all. I’ve seen the way you handle people at the Front Desk.” Namie interjected, unable to hear her being being called such horrible things. “But I was not always like that. He was not wrong. I felt like I did not really grow up either. We were together for so long that old habits from middle school continued to surface and persist after all of those years. Honestly, that was probably was the main reason why I did not even get accepted into the manager in training program for Starwood or the Voyager program for Marriott.” She shook her head.

“But yeah, it really screwed with me emotionally, So I became a front desk agent and on the side, I became a beauty guru on YouTube. I started vlogging make-up tutorials and DIY make-up kits, and somehow, I went viral. One of the things I loved about doing make-up was that it made me feel beautiful and it hid away all of my sadness. Nobody could see how hollow or depressed I was in my videos, because they would only see my face being covered and hidden away with layers and layers of foundation and other shit.” She laughed. “I found validation with the Internet, but I could never really find love again after that. The concept of dating, being in a relationship, having a boyfriend, it just causes me to become the same immature 13 year old that dated Franky. It took about seven or eight times of being dumped for me to really start questioning if I should even be in a relationship anymore.” She sighed. “Claire, you will find somebody eventually, if that is the lifestyle you want.” “I do want it, Nams, I really do. But I don’t think it’s practical for me at the moment. I’ms still in the process of really finding myself. The make-up and beauty guru thing, it’s all really just a front. Even if I have millions of followers and subscribers, nobody really gets that I, as a person, I really don’t have that much substance or that many interests. That’s why I keep getting rejected by guys. They think I’m shallow, dumb, or just an easy hook-up. And it’s because I keep giving off that vibe. So before I toss myself into another date, I just wanted to really grow as a person, you know? I need to understand myself, and how I can make me a better me before I try to test the waters and get rejected again.” “That’s true. But don’t let a rejection stop you from being yourself, you know?” “At this point, it’s not going to. I am personally not happy with who I am, and that’s why I want to make the change myself. And if or when I decide to put myself back out there, it won’t matter if I get dumped or whatever, because I would know, without a doubt, that whoever it was that dumped me, it’s their loss, not mine.”

“But yeah, the main reason why I’m telling you all of this is that I think you are in a better place than I am to be in a relationship. If you think Niall is a good fit for you, I’d say for go it. Find a happy ending to your relationship.” She ushered the accountant as the two walked out of the cashier’s office. They were both heading out for the day as well; their conversation was running for quite a while, but neither of them were complaining about that. The two girls were so immersed in their chat that time did not really seem to matter. “Namie, you’re already in a place in your life where you can find a happy ending. You’re a lot more self-assured than I am, and you know who you are, where your lines are drawn, and you know what you want for the most part.” Claire did make somewhat valid points. The brunette did question her statement about knowing what she wanted. The accountant was still teetering between her career in finance or her dream as a dancer. The two were such polar opposites that she felt as if the commitment to either decision had an entire lifetime’s worth of weight behind them. The fact that she could not even make that choice, she questioned if she could be happy making a choice about whether or not to date Niall at the very least. What if they were happy because she was an accountant, but would he still be okay with her being a dancer? While he said he was supportive of her choice to do so, who knows how changing careers would change her as a person? She might let go of herself and become an entirely different person just because of the change in her environment, schedule, and obligations. That sort of change, would he be able to adapt to or handle it? Just thinking about that stressed her out.

At the same time, Namie wanted to finally find a happily ever after so that she could break the vicious cycle of meeting men on these dating apps and then not seeing any futures with them. Niall was different from them. He was not arrogant, haughty, or condescending. He was down to earth, caring, practical, and just a genuine person who was not trying to put on a facade to impress her. His humility and willingness to admit that he was being a waiter, it showed her that he does not feel ashamed. And unlike Kenta, he actually has the aspirations to become something more. His time on the wait list was almost over, which means that he would be an actual musician living out his dream sometime soon. And maybe she just needed to be around somebody like that. Or even just have somebody who is living their dreams actively in her life. Granted, Wei already fit that bill, but with Niall, she had the opportunity to see somebody make their life into a dream come true. He was about to find his good ending, and being able to witness or have a hand in that, it could give the accountant a lot more insight into what she wanted in her own life. It was definitely a gamble. But what was stopping her from pursuing this relationship? Her own expectations? Her fears? The prospect of wasting time and emotions on somebody who might not mean anything to her? At this point, she had done that too many times for it to matter anymore. “To hell with it, I’ll give him a chance.” She turned to an excited Claire. “I hope it works out for you two. I really do.”

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Damn real: chapter 16

“So she moved out?” Claire and Wei looked at Namie in shock. “Yup. She moved to Fremont, so basically Silicon Valley, and she’s an engineer right now.” Namie summarized. It had been two months since Emiri had left Kenta and Namie had rejected Layton. “But what about her kids?” “Apparently my parents are raising them. And they had to fight so hard with that fucking idiot’s parents just to keep custody of them. One of their neighbors, Ms. Keans kept on telling me on Facebook that they could not stop hearing all of the yelling and arguing from next door.” Namie laughed. “And speaking of the fucking idiot, how is he taking it all?” “Badly. But he did not even try to stop her, which is the funny thing. He chose to let her go, and now he’s all pissy because nobody there’s to financially support him?” “Wow, he’s… just a piece of shit.” Claire snorted. “Cheers to that.” They all raised their glasses in unison. The three were at Le Diplomat for brunch, while Namie was just telling them about her experiences with boys and the recent development in her younger sister’s life. “But get this. He told Emiri when she went to grab her things that she was going to fail, come back to him, and beg for his hand in marriage again.” She laughed. “And now she’s an electrical engineer, while he’s an unemployed bum. So I guess who’s probably begging for who now?” Wei giggled. “I… may have also told my parents somewhere in the confusion of everything that I left the church too, since Emiri upright told them that she denounced her ways first.” Namie smirked. “How did they take that?” Wei’s eyes widened in fear. “Eh, I hung up the phone and blocked their numbers. Last I checked, Ms. Keans told me that they apparently are going around claiming they have no daughters or children, just granD.C.hildren.” She rolled her eyes. “Whatever. You’re better off without them.” Claire assured her. “They were morons from the get go.” “Moronic Mormons. The alliteration in that saying speaks the truth.” Wei agreed.

“But speaking of better off without, how about your baes? How is that going?” “Well, I sort of just stopped doing dates entirely.” Namie shrugged. “Well, from what I’ve heard, maybe you should think about going out with Peter again? He seemed to the be the least offensive out of the four of them.” Claire did make a slight point there. Out of the four, Layton and Peter were the two Namie spent the most time with. “You could be dating somebody who is cute, capable, and smart. And in our industry, somebody who can pay the bills in the household is nice to have.” Claire pointed out. “Hey, not everyone can be famous Instagram beauty gurus like you, Claire.” Wei rolled her eyes. Despite her suggestion, Claire was actually more than capable of paying and supporting herself on her side career; she was only working in the front desk for fun, not because she has to. Granted, all three of them were in that similar situation. Wei’s two jobs put her well above upper middle class, while Namie can afford to live in one of the nicer buildings in the city on just her own stock money. “Well, I guess money aside, since that really doesn’t seem to matter to any of us, he did seem to make you the happiest out of the four? I remember how excited you were for each and every date with Peter.” “That was because he was the first boy I ever went out with. And there were other boys after him too, all of whom I rejected, so don’t forget that. Peter, he was such a prick.” Namie growled. There was a reason why she had no spoken to Peter in almost four months now. “He almost let me die during a date, and all he did was laugh at me. I’m sorry, but that screams ‘grade-A asshole’ to me. In bright, neon letters.” The accountant shook her head in frustration. That was the last time she was going to let her ex-father dictate her life. That man now meant nothing to her.

“Honestly, I don’t think that any of them are good for you.” Wei stated, much to Claire’s surprise. “I might be biased because we’re related, but you are too good for any of them. One is a jackass, one is an egomaniac, one is too horny for his own good, and one is a geezer. I’d say either keep looking, and this time, without your ex-father’s guidance, since he no longer has any pull or influence on your life anyways, or you could just focus on yourself. Forget about trying to win over these boys, and focus on winning over yourself.” Wei made a really good point there. In chasing after a boyfriend or a man, and seeking that validation from somebody who was both attractive and qualified, Namie had lost sight of who she was. She allowed herself to be defined by who she was dating and their accomplishments, and not her own. It echoed what she last told Layton, about trying to learn more about who she was and what she really wanted. She had not figured that out for herself, and it had been two months already. Granted, she could have been an accomplished individual, but she knows that with her potential, she can go on to achieve greater things. Perhaps, now is the time to focus on being better than a Harvard student or an accountant for Deloitte. If she could turn her back on those offers, as well as all four of those incredibly accomplished men, then she could become thing greater than the sum of them. Looking at Emiri, and seeing how far she can come in two months, turning her life around entirely, it was inspirational. But this was a message to her as well. She could do that, if she honed in on a single passion, and pursued it with all of her determination and focus. The big question that still needed to be answered was, what would that be?

“Here’s your check. And for you, here is something else.” Their waiter placed the receipt on the table before handing a piece of paper to Namie. “Huh?” She raised an eyebrow as he walked off. Unfolding it, she frowned. It was him name, ‘Niall’, written next to a phone number. “Oh my God, he gave you his phone number?” Wei gasped. “Girl, you need to lock that down. He is a cutie.” Claire giggled. “A cutie working as a waiter? Uh.. that sounds like a lack of life ambition.” The idol scoffed. “Oh, and I forgot. You’re Wei Ishigo, right?” Startled, Wei turned to see Niall standing besides her. Luckily, he had not heard what she said, judging from the large smile on his face, though it could just have been how good he was at putting on a friendly front. “Oh, yeah, I am.” She nodded, trying to shake off the fear. “Sorry about scaring you like that. I’m not a stalker or anything, I swear. But my little sister, Kimmy, she is a huge fan of you. Could I get your autograph for her?” He looked at her excitedly. “Oh, why of course.” She agreed as he handed her a pen and paper. “Thank you. It will mean the world for her.” “So her name is Kimmy with a ‘y’?” “Yes.” “Alright, here you go. Thanks for recognizing me. I’m honestly not used to having a huge fan base outside of Asia.” She smiled. “No, thank you. Your music is a huge inspiration to her. She’ll love this.” He beamed, walking off. “Oh, and before I forget. If you don’t want to call me or anything, that’s cool with me. Meeting Wei Ishigo, I think that makes up for getting a rejection, right?” He chuckled, turning away from Namie and embarrassingly walking away. “Okay, waiter or not, he is cute as hell. Four words for you, girl. Lock that shit down.” Wei laughed and she high-fived Claire in agreement.

Damn real: chapter 15

“Hi, are you Namie?” A tall, tanned Asian American male with gelled spiky hair approached her. It was Layton, otherwise known as the 35 year-old Namie was talking to on her dating app. “Yeah, that’s me.” Getting off from the stone bench she was sitting on, she stood up to get a better look at him. He was definitely handsome, but he also looked considerably older than her, which he obviously was, given the nine year age gap. “So, we’re just going on a casual stroll through the FDR Memorial?” He looked around, taking note of their location. “Yeah. Let’s just take it slow and get to know each other.” She smiled as they began walking and talking. There was something about Layton that was definitely attractive to her. While he was handsome, it was not necessarily his appearance. It was that sense of security, knowing that he was so much older than her, that made his appear like this grounded, mature, and almost charismatic person. It definitely helped that he was a senior financial analyst for one of the biggest banks in the country, making his work struggles identical to her own. “Yeah, every piece of back-up to our transactions, which were supporting my claims, just ruined because of the rain. And it was month-end, so you could just imagine-” “Oh, trust me, I know. With all of these cash policies in place, you need documents to support everything or else you’ll get written up or fired.” She added in, amused. “It’s like these companies just want us to hate working, I swear to god.” He sighed, as they made their way towards their fifth loop around the Tidal Basin. A couple hours had passed, but it felt like a manner of minutes to both of them. “Hey, I like where this is going, but I don’t want to rush into anything, is that okay with you?” She looked at him, hesitantly. Given his stature and age, Layton could very easily be the kind of guy who would try to coerce her into not entirely consensual acts. “Yeah, that’s fine.” “Thank god.” She sighed in relief, much to his amusement. “Can we maybe meet up again for another walk and talk?” “Sure. Same time, same day?” “Sounds like a plan.” She beamed, as they said their goodbyes.

“I had fun today.” Layton smiled at Namie as they stopped in front of the Washington Monument. They had continued meeting up for strolls and conversations since their first encounter, taking things very casually. “I hope we can keep doing this, you know? I want to know as much about you as possible.” It was that sentence that made something click with Namie’s conscious. With each conversation, Namie was starting to realize that the age gap between the two of them, it made committing to Layton feel very final. He was approaching 40, and assuming that he does get into a relationship with her, she felt almost obligated to marry him. And she was nowhere near ready for that kind of commitment. “I mean, I think you’re a kind, genuine, and good-natured person, but can I be honest with you, Layton?” “Yeah, what’s up?” “I think that I am not the person for you. Well, romantically anyways. I think you will find that special somebody, but she is not me.” There was an awkward silence at that point. “Look, you’re a great guy, attractive, smart, and most importantly, nice. But I am not looking to settle down yet. I still have a few years left where I can be free, roam the world, and really understand myself before I settle down and get comfortable in my own skin. I’m sorry it took going on these dates to realize that, but I wanted to be upfront about it.” She paused, worried that she might have hurt him badly. “Look, it actually makes more sense, the way you are putting it. And honestly, the age gap, it bothered me too. I felt like I was looking for something more long-term, but you’re still in the youth of your life. It would not be fair of me to take that away. I still remember my 20’s fondly, and I would not want you to wound up having to settle when you’re not ready. I understand that, and I respect that.” He smiled, patting her head gently before walking away. And with that, the accountant decided it was time to close the book to her love life for now. Especially when the month was closing soon.

“Alright, and that’s the last bank audit. I finished counting off the house banks, the duebacks are all given out, and that leaves…. the report!” She gasped, in slight shock. Namie had to generate and send out a report to the executive committee, essentially a board of directors, in the hotel, detailing every time somebody in the hotel was either holding too much money or was short of money. “Alright, and printed, scanned, and sent.” She sighed to herself, finishing up the last of her month-end adjustments. “Well, now that that’s over, I should have maybe five hours to nap, and then it’s off to dance class.” She sighed to herself. She had worked until 12am on Saturday, finalizing her reports, since the month was over on Friday this year. And she was going to be meeting up with Emiri and Wei for drinks later that night. Although it was more likely going to be her and Wei getting hammered while Emiri watches and sips a small carton of orange juice. Bloody Mormon. But she was her sister, and on top of that, not a complete spoiled, self-entitled brat like how Namie initially thought Emiri was. “Well, at least I can sleep.” She yawned, stretching her arms out. Life was going to be the same, with or without a man in her life. Even if she was dating somebody, she would still have to close the month. She could still have dance classes every Saturday morning. None of that would change just because she was somebody else’s girlfriend. At the end of the day, she loved that she was a hardworking accountant, first and foremost. Being able to prove that she can work for her money, on top of the money she already made in stocks, it was a serious feeling of validation for the young woman. “Business as usual.” She smiled to herself, finally arriving at her apartment, and passing out in her bed.

“You all did a wonderful job! You’re all clearly going to be on Glee as back-up dancers… oh wait, Glee was cancelled! Nevermind, you’re all going to be waiters and waitresses for the rest of your lives, except the lucky few of you who actually hit it out big and open your own dance studios, because Broadway is full of a bunch of self-entitled cunts who will push you off a stage, and then get you blacklisted from every production when you angrily break their legs with your Krav Maga skills to stand up to those bitches and let them know that you ain’t no bitch!” Melissa growled angrily, reciting a very dark chapter of her failed Broadway dance career, coupled with a hint of her dashed adolescent dreams of appearing on a now-concluded television show. The entire class awkwardly clapped to her backhanded compliment of sorts, or at least, that was how the majority of them chose to interpret it, before filing out one by one. “Namie, I mean it. You have the potential to go on cancelled-Glee. Keep trying and you won’t continue to have a shitty job as a janitor-” “I’m an accountant.” “Accountant, janitor, the only difference is that you clean up shit with numbers rather than people’s actual shit. But is that really any different?” Melissa eyed her, much to the accountant’s confusion. “Are you…drunk?” “Bitch, I wish. I took seven shots of vodka, but I’m nowhere near that stage yet. I can still feel my face. And my other parts.” She laughed heartily, walking away. That… was certainly an unusual class, even given how strange Melissa normally was. Nonetheless, it kept Namie awake and alert for the rest of her day. She needed that weird outburst of energy, since she was going to drink later that night, since her little sister was finally in town, and for once, she was looking forward to it.

“I’ll have a vodka soda. Two shots.” Wei started. “I’ll just have a gin and tonic.” Namie added. “One Irish cream for me.” Emiri told the waiter as the other two girls’ eyes widened in disbelief. “Wait, that has coffee…and alcohol in it!” Wei frowned. “So?” Emiri raised an eyebrow at her. “We’re out for drinks. What are you expecting me to have? A fucking hot chocolate?” Immediately, Wei and Namie exchanged bewildered glances. Mormons do not drink coffee or alcohol, a fact that they thought about before the two girls slowly came to the same conclusion. “So, besides some more obvious changes in your lifestyle, what else has happened since the last time I saw you?” Namie looked at her little sister, feeling proud of her for cutting ties with the church. “Well, I am thinking about divorcing that jackass, Kenta. He won’t let me pursue a career in engineering, and he’s expecting me to make ends meet as a receptionist, because he thinks that ‘women can’t handle managerial or higher responsibilities.’” She rolled her eyes, as their waiter returned to their table with their drinks. “Thank god, I needed this.” Emiri downed the entire glass in a manner of seconds. “Holy shit, Emi, pace yourself.” Namie gasped. “Don’t worry, if I am related to you, I must be a tank. One more!” She shouted at the waiter. “You know, I have been giving it a lot of thought. I got dual degrees in Applied Mathematics and Engineering. What did my idiot husband do? He went to BYU for Philosophy. And he’s not an aspiring musician who has literally booked zero gigs since he started. And the only reason why I can’t pursue any bigger careers is because he won’t let me not take care of the fucking kids. Piece of fucking crap.” She growled angrily.

It was a while later, and Emiri had somehow made her way back into her hotel room; thanks to Claire and Wei, she was able to stay at the Ritz with a ridiculously cheap rate. “That’s it. The bastard needs to understand that if I’m going to be paying the bills, I need to pay them my own way.” She grumbled angrily, pulling out her phone. “Hello?” It was Kenta on the other side of the call. “Hey, we need to talk.” “Dear, what’s wrong? You sound…like you’re under the influence.” “I’m quitting my job. I am so sick and tired of dealing with all of this shit-” “Well, honey, there’s a nicer way to put that. Poop. And of course you would be. But as a mother, you have to put up with it, because it is your duty as a female to bear and raise children-” “Shut the fuck up, you idiot. I’m not referring to their crap, which thank you by the way, for helping me clean up. I’m talking about you being useless in the household. Who pays the bills? Me, and on minimum wage on top of that. Who is raising the kids? Me. Who handles all of the chores? I do. What do you do, other than waste my electricity on your band, waste my gas because you decided to give your car up, again for your band, and most importantly, drive me crazy and depriving me of any obligation or right to live as a human being, because of your fucking band. So either you need to do more work in the house, or you need to let me pursue my dream of being an engineer. Because right now, I want to live in much bigger house so that I can get away from all of the shit you bring into it.” “And if I say no to either?” “Then I’m fucking leaving you. So make up your decision right now. My patience has run thin, and honestly, I would have no regrets just taking off.”

Damn real: chapter 13

“Alright, here we are at the National Mall. He said to meet over here.” Namie sighed to herself, standing outside of the National Museum of African American History of Culture. It was a very distinct building from the rest of the surrounding structures, being this modern glass complex, with multiple stories that staggered, covered in a webbed copper pattern. But the building’s unusual, and inoffensive appearance was not what had the accountant in such a nonchalant mood. She was meeting her second suitor. His name was Steven, a tall-looking Chinese American who was a 27 year old architect in D.C., and he graduated from Harvard Design School. Namie was actually surprised that her father had high standard in the men he paired her up with. Well, at least on paper. She reminded herself, thinking about Peter. Cornell and Harvard degrees could not even salvage his personality. He seemed to be snagging all of the Ivy League graduates, anyways. “Hi, are you Namie?” She turned to see none other than her date for the day. He was wearing khaki shorts and a purple short sleeve button-up. “Hi. You must be Steven, right?” She smiled at him. He grinned at her. For some reason, Steven looked more attractive to him when he had a straight face on. His smile, it had this childlike glee to it that bordered on looking cartoonish or goofy. “So where are we going today?” She was curious. He made her meet up with him at 8am on a Sunday, so it seems like they had a long day ahead of them, whether it was going to be tolling mentally, she would have to wait and see. At the very least, he did not seem like the kind of guy who would leave her at the mercy of a galloping horse.

“But yeah, going to the gym was exhausting.” Steven laughed, recalling the first time he had ever done a proper workout. “So many rotations. I could not feel my arms the next morning.” “Well, at least it shows that you’ve been working out.” Namie giggled. Steven was in peak physical shape. His arms and shoulders were toned, you could easily see the definition in his calves, and he seemed to have a toned stomach, though she could not completely tell due to the loose-fitting button-up covering him. In short, he was a very attractive Asian male. “So, why did you take me to the Smithsonian?” She looked at him as they waited in line to enter the museum. “Well, there was this display for the Hope Diamond that I definitely wanted to check out. And I figured that somebody like you would be really into that.” He explained. Somebody like me? She thought to herself. What sort of preconceived image did Steven have of her? They had only ever interacted on the app before this first date. “Yeah, don’t all beautiful girls like jewelry? That’s what my dad told me.” He chuckled. “Uh…. is your dad Mormon?” She nervously asked. That might be where this almost blatantly sexist conclusion may have come from. “No. We’re from China, so we don’t really know much about Mormonism there.” “Wait, so how long have you been in the States?” “Since college, so for about a third of my life. But I’ve been going to school at Harvard this whole time, studying architecture with a fine arts minor.” “Oh, cool.” Namie smiled, half expecting Steven to ask her about her educational background. But he never did. “Yeah, Harvard was definitely an interesting place. A lot of people who were very competitive. I never really got to date in college, because I was too busy studying for grad school. And then, of course, I get into Harvard for that as well.” He beamed proudly, although his boasting was met with a well hidden eye-roll from the accountant, who was finding Steven to be more and more narcissistic with each passing moment.

“Did you like the movie?” She looked up at Steven as they exited the IMAX Theatre in the museum. They had just spent a good hour walking through exhibits before ending the first part of their date watching one of the features, this specific one being about living in the wilderness. “The different landscapes definitely caught my eye. I could easily envision creating an entire utopia amongst the trees and caves.” Steven started. “I really thought it was pretty, the different sights-” Namie tried to interject, but to no avail. “I think with a basic irrigation system, they could easily start a self-sustaining community in that forest area right by the mountain range, and they could do it using the fresh spring water too. It’s a win-win!” The architect continued, ignoring the fact that the brunette had spoken at all. Either that or he was completely obvious to her trying to speak. “But yeah, it was definitely a thought-provoking piece. I loved it.” He finally finished. At this point, Namie was unsure of how to feel. Disrespected, on one part. But unlike with Peter, she wanted to try being a little more patient and tolerant, and communicate her frustrations, rather than just storm off angrily. “Look, I love the way you think, but I was trying to talk just a second ago, and you cut me off and kept talking. It was kind of rude, and I don’t really know if you meant to do that or not, but that was how it came off to me.” She explained, trying to sound as inoffensive as possible. “Oh. I’m so sorry. You see, sometimes, I just get so into these hypotheticals, and then I just go off on these tangents, thinking constantly about what I can do to make these hypothetical situations realistic and practical.” “It’s honestly impressive, the way you think. And I think it’s interesting. But please just be a little more mindful of those around you. We want to join in on the fun of discussing these kinds of ideas too, not get pushed away from it.” She laughed, deciding to see how the rest of the date plays out.

“So have you been to Rockville before?” Steven looked at Namie. The two were in his car, taking a drive to here for their dinner. “Actually, no. I heard there’s a decent sized Chinese-Taiwanese population there, but my cousin, who is half Taiwanese, she never really took me there.” She confessed. “Well, it has some of the best Chinese food in the area. And you can trust me on that. I’m from Beijing. I know good Chinese food.” He reassured her. “Oh, so when did you come over to America?” “Well, I was originally raised in Beijing until college. Went to an international school, then got into Harvard for undergrad and grad school.” “Oh, wow.” For Namie, she had been raised in the states all of her life. She could not imagine what it must have felt like to move to a different country and live the rest of your life there. Granted, her mother could probably relate, though she refused to bring up the details of her Japanese upbringing. “So what’s your favorite Chinese dish?” She pondered, trying to keep the conversation going. “I… like noodles a lot. They’re actually my favorite.” He admitted. “The chewy texture, you know? Plus the history behind them. I think it’s fascinating how the Chinese hand pull their own noodles. It’s incredible.” Slowly, the accountant was starting to pick up on something. Not once during this entire date had Steven asked her a question about herself. Even though she was attracted to him physically, she just felt like he was not even trying to know her. A part of her felt like he was patronizing her. As if he viewed her as less intelligent because she did not go to an Ivy League university, pursue further education, or had a job that paid six figures. The rest of their date, she continued to feel that same sense of distance and disinterest. But there was one thing confirmed from this for Namie; she needed to prove to herself and to those around her that despite going to BYU and working in a hotel, she had a brain.

“Hello?” “Hey, it’s your older sister.” Namie said after an awkward pause. “Oh, hey!” Emiri sounded awkward and taken aback, as if she did not really know what else to say in this sort of situation. But then again, their last encounter ended up with Namie scorning her for trying to impose her views on Mormonism on her, so that was to be expected. “I just wanted to call to ask how you were doing.” “Oh.” It was Emiri’s turn to take a pause. “Well, I’m honestly exhausted. Having to work full time, take care of the kids, it is draining. Trying to put on this perfect image too, I really freaking hate it.” She began, much to Namie’s surprise. She was not expecting Emiri to basically open the floodgates and drown her older sister in her life details just from that one question. “Kenta is useless in every way imaginable. He won’t pick up after himself or clean up whenever I need him to. He won’t even make meals for the children. I have to clean, cook, work, drive, because Kenta lent his car to his bandmates, and I have to pay the bills, because Kenta doesn’t know how to do that either. But if I need his permission to go to heaven, then I need to please him, in any way that I can. But can I tell you something?” At this point, the younger female’s voice softened to a faint, hushed tone. “Yes?” “I don’t think that I can take another second of this. I almost want to accept going to hell if it means that I can divorce him right now, take the kids with me, and leave.” Hearing that both delighted and horrified Namie. Perhaps the two were closer in personality than she had initially realized. “Well, as your older sister who is probably already going to hell since she doesn’t have a husband yet, I am all ears.” “I like doing this with you, sis. Can we please make this a regular thing? Like every Sunday?” “Every Sunday sounds great. Now back to the details. Come on, keep talking.” “Thank god.” Emiri sighed in relief as she continued her justified rant on being a full-time working mother and housewife.

Damn real: chapter 12

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

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

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

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

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

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

romanced: dream

A majority of us are raised in a society where we go to school, get a job, get married, have a family, and then our children continue that cycle. Where I am at currently in my life is post-going to school, but pre-getting a job or I am even further away from getting married; I have very little experience with relationships and romance in general. I only recently had my first relationship, and we agreed that the title was too… intense, and that we would prefer to stay as friends who date exclusively first, as we get to know each other better.

I am embarrassed to admit that I would actually want to be in a relationship. Not for the sake of being in one so that I am not single or to check part of another box off the unspoken to-do list of life, but more for the life experience that comes from it. Even if this relationship does not lead to marriage but rather ends sourly in a break-up, I don’t mind so long as I can learn something more about myself from the experience. Just being a part of the ride is enough to make me happy. To understand what it means to be somebody else’s significant other, while at the same time, being able to see a person as my own, it is important for me. I want to know that somebody out there who can make me feel and act that way exists.

The concept of love and relationships, it’s not something that can be approached logically. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why we as humans are always so fascinated by the idea. No matter what we try to find in somebody else as a mate, sometimes, our hearts may not always agree. Let’s say we want somebody who is tall, Caucasian, and muscular, but we end up in a relationship with somebody who is medium-height, African American, and scrawny. Yet, we are not un-attracted to the African American, despite them being not what we would prefer. And that is because of what they have to offer beneath the surface. While they do not physically resemble what we would want in an ideal mate, the personality and ethics of this African American appeals to us.

The concept of love has a lot of gray areas. For example, one might view a woman getting hit by her husband as domestic violence without any context. But what if the woman wanted her husband to hit her, because that was her kink? I’m not going to explore that idea more, because it is a very…awkward topic, but you get the idea. There are other emotions, primal, hormonal, and hard to understand in general, that cloud our judgement and make us act beyond reason and logic. Yet, that’s what makes being romanced such an exciting and terrifying journey. The unknown does not necessarily settle well with me, but being able to single out that special somebody out of the several millions of people in the world, it’s a wonderful feeling. And it’s a feeling that every human being deserves to have, or at least in the world of my featherlight dreams.

Road Movie: Chapter 5

“So, it’s the first day of winter break! What do you think we should do?” Dakota looked over at Phillip excitedly. “Stay inside, hibernate, drink hot chocolate, watch a funny movie?” Phillip chuckled lazily. The weather was horrendous, it was less than 0 degrees F outside, and he would like nothing more than to stay indoors where their heater was on. “When were you, Phillip Hopkins, the lazy one in our relationship?” Dakota giggled. It was not to say that either of them were particularly unambitious or lax individuals, but between the couple, Phillip was the bigger overachiever. “Go graduate college in 2 1/2 years, go to medical school, and work at the same time.” He growled, laying back in their bed. “Wow, wasn’t this me a couple days ago?” She giggled, poking him playfully. It was amusing to her that he was the one who got her out of bed, and now the roles were reversed.

Eventually, Dakota was able to drag Phillip to their living room, where they drank hot cocoa and were watching Christmas movies. “This kind of weather makes me wish I was a polar bear.” He chuckled,  as they put their hot chocolate mugs down on their coffee table. The two were sitting on their couch, snug up against the snow-covered window. “So you can hibernate?” She raised an eyebrow at him, trying not to laugh. “This is why we’ve been dating for six and a half years. You get me, Ducky.” “Of course I do, Philly cheesesteak.” She cuddled up against his arm. “Oh, look! Frozen is on right now!” He pointed out one of Dakota’s least favorite movies. “Ugh. I really can do without another bout of “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” or “Let It Go” right about now.” She quickly turned off the television, as if doing so was quarantining some kind of plague or disease. In this case, that disease would be called “Frozen-Fever.” Coincidentally enough, also the name of a short sequel to the same movie.

“I really just want to enjoy this break, you know?” The two mustered the bravery to finally leave their apartment building, journey through the snow, and explore the Lincoln Park ZooLights Festival. The Lincoln Park Zoo would be transformed every December from the usual zoo set up; it would become Chicago’s ideal image of a winter wonderland. Music, ice carving, carolers, and trees and structures decked out in Christmas lights, it was a sight to behold. Holding Phillip’s hand, Dakota smiled. She enjoyed these kinds of romantic dates with him, because they’re so busy in their day to day lives that they never really got to spend time together. Walking through the hall of light-covered trees, they continued to marvel the colors that filled the night’s sky and danced in the nearby water. The brunette was really happy at the moment. She knew that moments like these were rare, and in the near future, will happen even less as the two of them continue in their careers. That was Dakota cherished every second she spent with Phillip.

“Well that was a fun night!” Dakota giggled. The two decided to go to dinner at a restaurant, Parachute. They came across it from a recommendation by Virginia. The chef and owner, Beverly Kim, was close friends with Virginia because the two had met at a Korean-American Professionals Conference in the Midwest. “Wow, having friends in marketing rocks!” Phillip grinned goofily. They managed to get a table on a Saturday night, despite having no reservation, just because Virginia made a couple calls for them. “It really does! We get so many different connections and clients, it really opens up the world to so many opportunities.” Dakota nodded in agreement. “Look at the two of us. A marketing manager and an aspiring doctor. We’re such Millennials.” The brunette giggled. “That just means that the world is our oyster.”

“That was great.” Phillip looked like he was about to burp. “I’m stuffed.” The two of them were driving back to their apartment in Phillip’s car, a small black Chevrolet. Phillip was behind the wheel while Dakota was sitting in the passenger seat. “Hey, so I was thinking that maybe we could spend Monday going to a drive-in theater? John was telling me about Cascade Drive-In having a showing of The Lady and the Tramp and I know it’s your favorite!” He smiled. John was one of Phillip’s friends in med-school. “I’m down. But isn’t December 12th coming up soon?” She got out her phone. “Philly, it’s going to be on Tuesday.” She reminded him. “Yeah, don’t worry, I know that. I figured why not spend the day before with one of the two women I love the most in my life.” He shrugged. “You’re such a momma’s boy, I can’t even!” Dakota laughed jokingly. “But she definitely is lucky to have a son like you. Somebody who always goes out of his way for the ones he loves.” She finished, trying not to hurt Phillip’s feelings. “She raised me right, that’s for sure.” He agreed, as the car began to pull into the garage.

Dakota’s phone buzzed as the brunette was with Phillip in their apartment living room. “Oh, Frida sent me a Snap.” She was referring to SnapChat, which to almost everyone’s surprise, the 85 year-old knew how to use better than most high-schoolers. “Oh geez. She’s getting hammered.” The brunette laughed in excitement as the video played. Frida was in a club with flashing neon lights, holding a party yard cup, screaming. It was a sight to behold, and to anyone who did not know Frida, they probably would be very concerned at that point. But Frida was the type of person who could take 48 shots of vodka, go to work the next day, and still get her job done faster than anyone else. “I just can’t believe some of the people you work with. Especially your boss. She’s crazy.” Phillip raised an eyebrow in amusement. “How she never got internet-famous is a huge mystery to me.” “She probably doesn’t want the fame. She’s the type of person who does outrageous things not to be noticed, but more because she’s old and wants to enjoy living her life out.” Dakota explained, yawning. She was tired. “Alright, I’m going to go to bed.” She stretched, leaving the room. “Wait for me!” Phillip dashed after her, not wanting to keep her up with him being awake.

“We’re losing him! Quick, somebody hold him while I bandage him up!” It was a blur. All that could be heard was the blaring noise of a siren and the loud screams of people who were scurrying about the road. “We can save him! You need to hurry up!” “I’m trying my best!” “And what about her?” “She’s going to be fine compared to him. She might have suffered some minor head trauma, but she was not crushed by the door. He has definitely damage to his organs. The body is suffering from internal bleeding. And the way he is bent, that is not natural! We need to focus on him first!” The sound of the siren drowned out anything else. It belonged to an ambulance. A body could be seen, being carried on a stretcher into the white vehicle with flashing red lights. And then everything faded into black. Was it a dream? Or was it a memory?

Sky Bird: Chapter 22

“So you guys kissed?” Carly gasped. Sophia and Carly were getting brunch together on Sunday. “Yeah. It was so awkward.” Sophia put her hands on her face, embarrassed. “Oh, come on, it couldn’t have been that bad, right?” “Okay, fine. I really liked it and I thought it was sweet of him to drive all the way to my place to talk to me like that.” She confessed, putting her hands back on her lap. “So are you guys official? Or at least spoke since that night?” Carly asked before taking a sip of her tea. “Not yet. I’m really scared to.” “What’s there to be scared about?” The Korean girl raised an eyebrow. “You guys both confessed to each other. Isn’t the next step to start dating?” “I’ve never done this before, neither has he, so it’s just really awkward.” Sophia shook her head, trying not to blush. “Hmm… Well I still remember from when I used to date Damian, how he’d always take me on dates and stuff. Granted, we kissed after maybe the third date, so you guys are going in a very different direction than I did.” Carly chuckled. “Kissing before the actual dating? But I’d say just go on a couple dates with him. And if it doesn’t work out, just laugh it off and go back to being friends. Don’t let the romantic feelings make anything weird, okay?” “Alright, Carly. I’ll try. But if things go south, then what?” “Then we just cut Kendall out of our lives. Easy peasy!” She laughed.

“You didn’t talk to her since then?!” Jared and Matt looked at Kendall in disbelief. “Well…no? I’m not sure what to do.” Kendall sighed. He felt like he blew it royally. “Don’t say that. I’m sure she appreciated how straightforward you were, you know, driving to her place and talking to her in person? It shows that you’re a decent person.” Matt pointed out. “How did you and Fanny end up together again?” Kendall looked at Jared. “We started dating in the beginning of the semester. It was pretty awkward actually…” The blonde started. “Why was it awkward?” “Because it just happened for us. The first time, uh.. well… so I might have been checking him out in the locker room? He was taking off his shirt, and then I noticed his butt and how perky-” “Okay, can we please not get that much into detail?” Matt interrupted, clearly uncomfortable with Jared’s summarization of Fanny’s body. “Okay, but basically Fanny caught me checking him out. And he thought it was hilarious, because he had a feeling I was gay because I kept saying words like ‘fag’ and he had a feeling I was checking him out for quite a while.” “And?” Kendall was not quite sure where this story was going. “Well, he and I just started talking more and we started to go on dates. It was pretty thrilling at first, because it was all done in secret, but we started to realize how badly we needed to go public about it. Both of us felt like it was an itch that needed to be scratched, and that’s when we came out to you. Well, accidentally.” Jared chuckled. “But for the dates, did you guys just initiate it?” Kendall pressed, wanting to figure out how this whole concept of dating worked. “Yeah, we kept talking, and then I was like ‘let’s get dinner sometime!’ and then it happened. We kissed on the first date and everything.” The blonde laughed. “Alright, so I’ll just text her now.” Kendall sighed, pulling out his phone. “Hey, Sophia. Are you free for a meal anytime this week?” He sent. “Sure. What time?” She shot back.

“Kendall! Let’s go!” Gil tugged at his older brother’s arm. They were supposed to go to Little Tokyo to hang out together for the rest of the day. “Alright, give me a sec.” Kendall rushed to pull on his socks and shoes. “Okay, coming now!” The older brunette ran down the stairs and joined his little brother in the car. “Alright, let’s go!” The engine revved and the two left the apartment complex. “Why did you want to go to Little Tokyo again?” Kendall looked at his brother. “Mostly because I miss actual Japan.” Gil sighed. The middle schooler has been having Japan-withdrawals since spring break had ended. “Well, I’m with you on that. I miss Japan too.” He sighed. It truly was a wonderful country. And Little Tokyo would probably be the best approximation to it outside of Asia. “Hold on, I’m going to try to park.” Kendall saw a parking structure just off the Japanese Village Plaza. “Alright, and we’re parked!”

“I love this place!” Gil and Kendall were getting takoyaki from a small stand across the street from the Tokyo souvenir store. Sitting down on a bench underneath the large umbrella in the center of the plaza, the two brothers continued to snack on takoyaki while talking about life. “So for high school, Algebra 2 Honors, English 1 Honors, and Biology Honors?” Gil looked to his brother for class suggestions. “Yeah, that’s probably the best. And which sport were you thinking?” “Either football or cross country.” “Hm.. knowing you, try cross country. Megan, Chloe, and Fanny can look after you.” Kendall pointed out. “That’s true. Fanny’s on varsity so he can help.” “Yeah, I’ll try cross country, and if I don’t like that, I’ll try football or maybe even soccer?” He looked the brunette hopefully. “If you do soccer, let me know. Jared’s going to be captain next year.” “Will do!” Gil grinned.

“So what’s for dinner?” The younger Skye looked to his brother. They were still in Little Tokyo, but it was already night time. “How about Kula?” “Ooh! The revolving sushi place?” Gil’s face lit up immediately. The two made their way to the restaurant and put their names on the waiting list. While they were waiting, the brothers were admiring the array of paper lanterns that hovered over the plaza. It was breathtaking to see the white and red orbs illuminating the blue tiled roofs of the buildings nearby. This sort of view made Kendall wish he could move to Japan. Never has he felt so grateful to be part Japanese. “Oh, look, it’s our turn!” The two turned and saw the hostess calling their name. “Let’s get some sushi on our bellies!” Kendall patted his stomach jokingly. “Yup!” The two walked back over to the restaurant, and took their seats in front of the revolving sushi belt. It was so interesting, watching plates of sushi just move past them. But for some reason, Kendall just could not stop thinking about her. No matter what he tried to do to distract himself. He could only think about spending these memories with Sophia.

Sky Bird: Chapter 21

It was Friday afternoon, fifth period. “Here it is, Kawaguchi-sensei!” Fanny handed the bald man his flash drive. “The movie, delivered on Friday, as promised.” “Good job, Chiang-san. You saved Skye-baka’s grade!” He laughed. “Yeah, Skye-baka owes me his life.” Fanny laughed in a dramatic fashion. “You’re not allowed to do that! Only select princess-type characters in animes and dramas are allowed to!” Kawaguchi-sensei hit the boy in the back of the head. “Ouch. That fucking hurt.” Fanny groaned, walking back. “Alright, guys. So instead of watching a drama, we’ll be watching Chiang-san’s movie project!” He put the flash drive into his projector. “Alright, so here it is!” The screen projected the title “The Land of the Rising Love.” Snickers could be heard cross the room at the ridiculous title. “IT WAS KENDALL’S IDEA!” Fanny screamed, trying to avoid being laughed at by the rest of the class. Everyone else just rolled their eyes at him. The movie opened with Megan and Kendall, walking out of LAX. They were immediately greeted by Fanny, who welcomed them to the land of Japan. The movie started out really slowly, in Kendall’s eyes. They didn’t really aim for comedy unfortunately, so the brunette was worried people would fall asleep.

It finally got to the big scene. Kendall and Sophia’s kiss. The entire class gasped, as the two looked at each other, embarrassed by it. “Did you guys really kiss?” Kawaguchi-sensei paused the movie and looked at them. “No…” Sophia shook her head. “Lame. You guys should have just done it for the movie!” He shook his head. “Skye-baka! You’re the man! Grow a pair and kiss the pretty model!” “That’s what I said!” Fanny agreed, looking at Sophia and Kendall. “Take one for the team, guys.” “Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!” The entire class started to chant. “What the actual hell?” Kendall glared at everyone. That escalated really quickly. “No, we’re not. You can’t make us.” Sophia shook her head. The two were both starting to blush furiously. But the chanting wasn’t stopping. “Okay, fine!” Kendall growled, cupping Sophia’s face and kissing her on the lips. Everyone just gasped before going silent. That definitely stopped the chanting.

The rest of the day was awkward for Sophia and Kendall. The two did not speak since the kiss. It all happened so suddenly that Kendall did not know how to process it. He felt like the kiss was right. When their lips touched, Kendall just felt like Sophia was the person he needed to be doing that with. The feel of her lips against his made his heart flutter. But seeing how Sophia reacted, and the circumstances in which they kissed, he felt horrible. It was almost like being a rapist in that he did not get her consent to do that. He forced himself upon her. He genuinely felt like a terrible person at this moment. Quietly, he laid on his bed, pondering what will happen to their friendship. He did not know what to even say in this situation to rectify it. Dozing off, Kendall just tried to preoccupy his mind with other things.

“How dare you!” The girl in the white dress shouted at him. “My purity. My innocence.” She covered her face in shame. The flowers around her began to wilt. “It’s all dying.” She sobbed. The grass and trees joined the flowers, drooping and sinking into the soil. “Hey, what happened?” Kendall approached her. “I did not want this to happen. Not like this.” She sobbed from behind her hands. “Did not want what?” “The kiss. Not like that.” The girl placed her hands down. She was Sophia. The girl from his dreams. It was Sophia. “No. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to do it. The chanting, the pressure, it just got to me.” Kendall slowly walked over to her before falling to his knees. He gently placed his hands beneath hers. “You’re somebody who was always there for me. Somebody I could rely on to make me smile, laugh, and keep me calm.” He smiled at her, fighting back the tears. “Sophia, I think I might love you.” He admitted. “Kendall… I love you too. I have for such a long time.” She confessed. Suddenly, the grass began to sprout up again. Green started to flood the meadows and plants. “Kendall, she’s waiting for you. The real me. Go to her. And tell her everything you told me.” She smiled, getting back up.

“Hey, can we talk?” Kendall messaged Sophia. His heart was racing. He did not know what kind of response to expect. “Okay, sure.” Sophia sent back. “I’ll go to your place.” The brunette sent back. He got up and went into his car. He needed to see her. Arriving at Sophia’s apartment building in Westwood, he sent her a text. “Okay. Coming down now.” The girl appeared and got into the passenger seat. “Hey.” She seemed to be avoiding eye contact with him. “So you wanted to talk?” “Yeah. Sophia, I’ve known you since we were little. And honestly, I didn’t really think much of you beyond being friends at first. But I realize how kind, patient, and caring of a person you are, especially with me. You’re somebody who I genuinely appreciate. I really like, Sophia. That kiss, I’m sorry that I forced it on you like that. But it felt right to me.” The brunette confessed, terrified of what she thought of him. “Kendall… I’ve had a crush on you since you first defended me in the first grade. You’re somebody whose friendship I have valued for a long, long time. You mean a lot to me too. That kiss, it just confirmed what I had already felt about you.” The brunette blushed as he turned to face her. Their hands met, and then their lips.

“Oh, I need to get going. I’ll see you later, okay?” Sophia blushed, after their lips separated. She got out of the car, and ran back up to her apartment. Kendall felt happy knowing that Sophia reciprocated his feelings. He honestly did not think that he could date anyone after Carly and him never got off the ground, but he was happy with the end result. Sophia, on the other hand, was still in shock. She did not think that she would ever date Kendall. But it looks like that was a very likely possibility at this point. She finally got her Cinderella moment so to speak. Her proverbial prince charming had arrived, and swept her into his car. That sounded horribly inappropriate, but it was not remotely as illegal as it sounded.

Sky Bird: Chapter 7

“I just can’t believe him! I thought we were friends!” Jared was sobbing into Fanny’s shoulder as the Chinese boy comforted him. “It’s okay, Jared. Kendall’s… always been this way. He’s never really been terribly nice.” Fanny sighed. “Oh, Jared’s over. That’s a first.” Chloe smirked, before realizing that now was not the appropriate time to be acting that way. “Oh, wait, why is he crying?” “So Kendall found out…” “Wait, that Jared is gay, or that Jared is dating you? Or both? Because that’s like a huge truth bomb for somebody who hates you and is friends with your boyfriend.” Chloe was already fatigued from having to process all of this herself. “Hold on, I need to tell Megan. Maybe she could get through to him.” Chloe suggested, pulling out her phone. “I don’t think that Megan can get through to him. Nobody can! He just hates you, Fanny, and I don’t get why.” Jared cried, shaking uncontrollably. “Sh, sh, sh, calm down, Jared. It’ll be okay. Kendall, he has a good heart. I’m sure he’ll come around to this, and if he doesn’t… then I’ll break up with you.” Fanny promised. “I don’t want that, though!” Jared protested. “I should be able to date who I want and be friends with who I want.” “It’s not fair that you have to make that sacrifice!” Chloe added while sending a text to her best friend. “It’s Kendall’s fault. He’s been so irrational and he just hates our family for some reason. Jared, do you know why?” Chloe looked to the blonde for answers. “He always mentioned money. Something about you being rich, and that you don’t deserve the success you have in life.” He weakly groaned. Jared’s voice had gone hoarse from how long he had been crying. “I can sort of see that. Dad always got us tutors so that we didn’t fall behind in our studies.” Fanny noted. “I think there’s something more than just tutors, Fanny. He hates the fact that we’re wealthy.” Chloe sighed. “What’s wrong?” Mr. Chiang arrived home from work, only to see his two children comforting a sobbing classmate. “Dad, do you know why Kendall Skye hates our family?”

“Kendall Skye? Oh, Chris’s son! Oh. Chris’s son…” Mr. Chiang trailed off. “Kids, did I ever tell you guys about how your father got his first big promotion?” “Yeah, you worked your ass off for 20 years, and got the promotion you deserved, and right when you needed it, since mom’s cancer got really bad.” Chloe stated. “Did I ever tell you about how I used to work with Christian Skye? And that we were both up for that promotion?” Mr. Chiang looked at his children and Jared. All three of them shook their heads. And Mr. Chiang began to tell that side of the story. “So we had to let go of several of our associates. I didn’t want to let go of Chris, but he insisted and threatened to quit if I fired somebody instead of him. I tried to recommend him to other jobs, but he was unemployed for a little while and he had a son on the way.” “That’s when Gil was born, right?” Chloe looked up. And slowly, all three of them began to realize why Kendall might have developed a grudge against their family. Even though their parents did try to help Kendall’s family, that promotion, looking at where it got Fanny and Chloe’s family, it’s obvious that no job recommendation could have helped nearly as much financially.

“Kendall, you know that it’s because of Mr. and Mrs. Chiang that our parents still have jobs, right? And dad volunteered to get fired! Mr. Chiang didn’t want to fire him!” Megan tried to explain. “I think that’s a load of bullshit. Let’s wait until dad gets home from work, and then ask him!” Kendall scoffed. He didn’t want to believe that the Chiangs were good people. “He’s only going to tell you the same thing that I did.” She grumbled, walking off to her room. “I’m home!” Gil walked in, only to go quiet from sensing the awkward tension in the living room. “Uh… well I don’t really have a room to retreat to… so I’m just going to chill in the bathroom until you feel better, okay, bro?” The middle schooler headed off into the hallway, knowing he needed to give Kendall some space.

“Guys, Megan just texted me back. Kendall’s still pissed. He said that dad screwed his family over.” Chloe read off the message, horrified. Chloe, Fanny, and Jared were still in Fanny’s room. Their parents were out for the night for dinner with their friends. “I get that he might hate our father, but why does he hate me?” Fanny frowned. “Especially since he doesn’t hate you, Chloe. Or at least not as openly, apparently.” He shrugged. It was just starting to sink in that Kendall had a lot of unaddressed animosity towards him; Fanny always assumed it was playful banter. “First off, don’t make everything about you, drama queen. Secondly, that’s a question I really don’t have an answer to.” Megan sighed, leaving the room. She needed some time to process the entire situation. “But what can we do?” Jared sighed into his boyfriend’s shoulder. “I just don’t know why he hates you specifically. And it’s clear he hates you more than he values our friendship.” The blonde was bitterly hurt at this point. “However much Kendall hates us, I’ll just love you fifty times as much. Because you see me for being the real me, not for my parents’ money.” Fanny reassured, kissing the blonde lightly on the forehead.

“I’m back!” Mr. Skye had returned to his home, only to be approached by Kendall almost immediately. “Dad, I have a question.” “Sure, what’s up?” “What exactly is our family’s relationship with the Chiangs?” “Well, Kendall, we’re family friends. We go way back. Mr. Chiang, or Hugh, we had a little rivalry when we used to work in Goldman Sachs together. I was the ambitious young gun and he was the capable and seasoned veteran. But when he got promoted, and then we had to let people go, I volunteered, because I knew he was going to fire older, more experienced associates. It didn’t feel right to stay. But Hugh was a great friend. He got me a new job at Bank of America and I managed to get promoted to being a manager there.” Mr. Skye looked at his son, confused by why he wanted to know this. “Wow, so the Chiangs have been helping us this whole time?” “Yep! Even Mrs. Chiang helped your mother get a job at a bakery she used to work at, and now your mother is the general manager of it.” A few things went through Kendall’s mind in that moment. At first, he felt embarrassed; this whole time, he was wrong, even though so many people had told him that the Chiangs, specifically Fanny, were good people. And then remorse. He had spent so much of his life, feeling antagonized by Fanny, thinking that Fanny’s wealth was the reason for his success. And finally, regret. Not only to the things he had said to and about Fanny, but also for wasting so much of his own time being angry at Fanny, and blaming him and his wealth on the brunette’s own shortcomings. “Oh, would you look at the time! I have an investor’s gala tonight, and your mother is coming with me! We’ll see you guys later tonight!” Mr. Skye dropped off his bag, and left the apartment.

Jared’s phone started vibrating. The blonde looked at his boyfriend hesitantly. “Is it from Kendall? Do you want me to pick it up?” Fanny’s face was gravely serious; he didn’t want Jared to have to face his ex-friend in either of their current states. “No, this is between me and him.” Jared hiccuped. “No, you’re wrong. It’s between all three of us. He’s got beef with me too, in case you haven’t forgotten the past however many years.” Fanny frowned, placing his hand over Jared’s phone, and hitting the green button. “Jared?” Kendall’s voice sounded hesitant. “Hey, it’s me. And yes, he’s here too.” The blonde’s passive aggressive side was definitely surfacing through his tone of voice. He wasn’t going to let Kendall’s words hurt him any more than they already have, especially not in regards to his boyfriend.

“Jared, I was wrong about Fanny. Fanny, I owe you an apology.” Kendall started. “Wait, you’re going to apologize for a decade long grudge over the PHONE?!” Fanny raised his eyebrows in disbelief. “Look, I appreciate that you’re trying, but this sort of thing, you better say it in person. And not even to me, but to your sister, my little sister, and Jared. Show them some respect!” Fanny shouted, grabbing the phone from Jared. “But-” “Shut up, Kendall. If you have anything to say, say it to our faces. Bye.” And with that, he hung up. “Fanny, that was a little brutal, don’t you think?” Jared was stunned. He wasn’t expecting Fanny to do that. “Well, if he wants to apologize like that to you, then he better do it in person. Or else he’s just a coward. And cowards aren’t worth your time or patience.”

Kendall sat there, in the living room, unsure of what to do. On one hand, he needed to go to the Chiang residence, but on the other, he’s spent years resenting them. He doesn’t know what do to. He knew he owed Fanny and Jared an apology in person. But he was unsure emotionally. He was too scared. Ashamed of knowing he was in the wrong for so long. “What the hell am I supposed to do?” He started tearing up. He was feeling overwhelmed at this point. “Why can’t I ever do anything right?” He started sobbing. “Kendall?” Megan opened her door. “Bro?” Gil peaked his head out of the bathroom. “Oh no!” The two younger brunettes ran over to comfort him. “What’s wrong?” Gil was the first to speak. “I-I-I-” Kendall started, to drown himself out with his crying. “Kendall!” Megan ran over to hug him. “It’s okay! Just take a few breaths.” Gil joined in. “Megan, I’m so sorry. You guys were right. The Chiangs aren’t bad people.” He said between deep pants. “I take it dad told you everything then?” Megan eyed him. “Yeah. I just feel so dumb now. I’ve said so many horrible things about Fanny. And earlier, I tried to call Jared to apologize to him and Fanny, but-” “Wait, you couldn’t do that in person? Especially to Fanny?” Megan frowned. “Yeah, Kendall, you should say those kinds of things face to face so that they know you’re sincere!” Gil added. “I’m scared, guys. I don’t know how to feel around Fanny or Jared anymore.” Kendall sighed. “Especially for Fanny. I’ve spent my entire life hating him, and now he’s somebody I owe a huge apology to. And then Jared, he tried his best to be my friend, even though they were dating.” “Here, we can go with you. If it gets too hard, let us know, and we’ll just take you back home.” His younger brother insisted. “Alright. Let me get the car.” Kendall got up, his siblings following.