Healing: dream

Being able to recover from something and move on, it’s a wonderful feeling. The healing process is a vital part in us maturing as human beings. A lot of it starts with forgetting about what it is that hurt us to begin with, specifically that pain. Yet, you still need to keep the lesson learned from whatever hurt you in mind. It could be that certain people are not good people, or be less naive, but whatever the lesson is, know what needs to be learned. Secondly, while keeping that newly learned moral in the back of your head, move on with your life. It might mean cutting off old parts of your life, but you need to do it, or else you could very easily revert to old, harmful habits that could cause you a lot of pain and possibly, cause you to revert to self-inflicting tendencies. That is the biggest emotional hurdle in the healing process is cutting off the past and forgetting about it.

The next part of the healing process is filling your life with new things to replace the old. They don’t have to be similar things. Preferably, they shouldn’t be similar things. Anything that reminds you of your past pain, that’s just asking to be triggered. Being able to do that, it also helps you forget the past a lot easier. You’re able to let go and not think about whatever horrible influences have hurt you. And while cutting off is the biggest challenge emotionally, this part is the most difficult part mentally is putting the past behind you. You are probably used to a certain routine, and you want to revert to it. You probably wouldn’t want to include new things into your life and you yearn for the past. Very few people are naturally good at adapting to and accepting change. And that’s to be expected. We can’t all just be okay to uprooting our daily routines. But being able to accept the change, even in small steps, it helps.

By allowing these new influences into your life, you can expel a lot of the negative emotions that have been burdening you earlier. You stop thinking about those dark thoughts, or about the causes of them. Instead, every day becomes a new opportunity for you to discovery something new about yourself or the world around you. You start to find yourself smiling a lot more, and while you know that this world is a little less wonderful than you remember it being, the parts that are genuinely wonderful that you discover makes that journey worthwhile. Being able to see the good in the world, it’s refreshing. Whether it’s new people, new hobbies, new places, you’ll surprise yourself with how much this world has to offer, despite whatever it was that hurt you in the first place. You stop thinking about the guilt, the pain, the trauma, and it helps you focus on future and what you can do as an individual to make the most of yours.

Being able to completely cast your past behind, it’s not easy. Those wounds from your trauma, they do become scars, but with time, you will forget what exactly gave you those scars exactly, but you will still vaguely remember how you got them, and what you can do to prevent yourself from falling into the same mistake again. The world will no longer feel like a cage or trap confining you, and it will open itself up to you. You are no longer being held down or back by those negative influences and burdens. Instead, you can focus on making the person you see in the mirror somebody you can love more and more. And once you reach that point of loving yourself, don’t stop there. Find new things about the world, and figure out what new things you love as well, and how you can work towards incorporating that newfound passion or interest into your life. With healing, you gain depth and character and that’s a life worth living in this featherlight world.

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How it is: Chapter 23

“Hey, Val, do you have a moment?” Tarou noticed the Singaporean girl walking down the street and ran up to her. “Hi, Tarou. Actually, I needed to talk to you too.” She sighed. “Can we maybe go somewhere… more private?” The model suggested. “Yeah, that’s actually better for what I need to say too.” At that remark, Tarou could feel a creeping sense of discomfort boiling in his stomach. Was Valerie going to confess to him? Meanwhile, the pastry chef already could tell from the model’s facial expressions that Timmy did tell him; he most likely assumed that she was going to tell him about her feelings. But that could not be any further from what she was going to do in reality. After making their way into a nearby building, the two looked at each other. It was an intense silence. “So do you want to go first?” She gestured to him. “Nah, you look like you have something to say, and that you’ve thought about it for a while. Please tell me.” Tarou insisted. He wanted her to confess first so that he could at least hear her out. “So for a long time, I had a crush on you. Since high school, honestly. But after everything we have been through, I don’t have any romantic feelings for you anymore. So I just wanted to let you know that I still value you as a friend, but I feel like we are better off staying friends, and nothing more.” The model was dumbstruck. Save for the first sentence, that was not what he was expecting the pastry chef to say. “What did you have to say?” She looked at him expectantly. Truth be told, she was expecting him to reject her as well, so Valerie was relieved that they could meet a mutual agreement on this.

“Well, I was basically going to say that we should stay friends, and that Timmy told me about how you felt about me. But now I’m curious, what’s with the sudden change of heart?” “Well, I thought about it. A lot. And I even talked about it with chef, and she told me that I need to be blunt and think not about the emotional aspect of it, but rather, how this would affect us as friends. And the more I thought about it that way, the less I found myself attracted to you romantically.” She shrugged. “I see… well, I’m just glad we were able to sort out this awkwardness.” Tarou chuckled nervously. Despite everything, it still felt a little weird. “Look, Tarou, I think of you and Timmy as goofy brothers. You guys are two of my closest friends, and sometimes, that closeness can be a weakness for me. It makes the little things we do and say affect me on a much bigger scale.” She confessed. “But at the same time, it’s all in perspective. I feel like if you guys don’t see it that way, then I have no reason to either. We can be close without being so greatly affected by each other.” “Yeah, we can. And we will.” Tarou smiled in agreement. The two hugged it out and walked out. “So where were you heading?” “I was going to a study session.” Valerie sighed. Finals were coming up, and especially with all of the recent events, she needed to catch up on her studies. “Oh, don’t be late! Run! Run!” Tarou ushered her away. “Okay, I’m running!” She laughed, darting off.

“How did it go?” It was just a couple hours later, and Tarou was meeting up with Timmy for lunch. “It went well. We talked it out, and she was the one who told me that she was not interested in being in a relationship anymore.” He pointed out, much to the surprise of Timmy. “Wait, really?” He could not believe what he was hearing. “Yeah. She admitted she had feelings, but after thinking it over, she decided against acting on them because she did not want to affect our friendship.” Timmy had to give Valerie a lot of credit for that sort of maturity. Yeah, that was the reason why he fell for her to begin with, and hearing that made it harder for him to accept that they could not be together, but he had to respect their friendship before trying to compromise anything any further on his part. “You! You little motherfucker! How dare you bully our precious Tarou!” The two boys were startled to see an enraged Enya, Melissa, and Sarah storm up to their table. “You saw what I did to that table! And I can do much worse, you little bitch-”

“So it’s okay not to hate him anymore?” Melissa, frowning, sighed. She was hoping to snap somebody’s neck today. “Wait, I thought you said that you told all of your friends!” Timmy glared at Tarou. “Oh, I meant as in the people I was on board with.” He looked back at his friend before pulling him into a close huddle. “Plus, would you really consider those three my friends? They’re terrifying!” He noted in a hushed whisper before turning around to look at the disgruntled Melissa, who was being comforted by Enya and Sarah. “It’s okay, we can go to the gym and rent a punching bag.” Sarah suggested. Tarou smirked. “Yeah, so the two of us made up. The three of you are more than welcomed to sit and eat with us though.” The model offered. “Well, let me think about it…. fuck yeah, we’re sitting with you!” Enya laughed, as the three grabbed chairs and placed their bags down. It felt a bit weird for Timmy at first, being so close to people who previously wanted to slaughter him. “So, Tarou, what are your plans for the summer?” Enya looked at him, eagerly. “I’m going to be modeling in Japan.” He smiled. “OMG! I’m going back to Korea for the summer! You better visit me! I mean, either way, I’m definitely going to visit you!” She squealed excitedly. “Wait, no fair! We’re both going to visit you too, Tarou!” Sarah and Melissa chimed in. Timmy tried not to laugh as Tarou fought to hide his horrified expression. “Uh…. sure?” He shrugged. “Yay!” They all cheered.

“You really need to tell them that you’re not into any of them, or else they’ll continue to pester you.” Timmy frowned. “Yeah, but Mel scares the shit out of me. She broke a table in half with her foot. That’s just one foot. Imagine what she can do with two and two hands. I doubt my spine would even be in two pieces after I reject her feelings.” He shuddered. Sadly, Tarou had a point. “Well, I’m sure it will work itself out. Maybe?” “Honestly, I’ve just come to live with it. It’s not the worst thing, having your own fan club. Honestly, it’s funny.” He chuckled, trying to ignore the awkward moments where the three girls would make him greatly uncomfortable with their remarks and advances. “Well, whatever floats your boat, I guess.” Timmy shrugged. The two laughed as they finally walked back to their dorm. Finals were coming up, and it felt like this semester went by too quickly. But at least they were able to finish the year with their friendship still intact. “It’s really been a crazy first year. Hopefully, it’ll get better next year, right?” Timmy chuckled. “Better as in easier, or less drama?” Tarou snorted. “Hopefully both.” The computer engineer groaned. “At least your major will get you a high-paying job.” The model pointed out. “Well, if you become a supermodel, then same applies for you too, you know?” The Taiwanese boy smirked. “Let’s see how this first international gig goes, okay? I’m not going to rush into any conclusions, especially when modeling is just a side hobby to make money.” The Japanese male laughed. Although truth be told, he was excited to be going to Japan for the summer. This was going to be a whole new adventure for him.

How it is: Chapter 19

“How was your day?” Tarou turned to see an exhausted Valerie re-enter their room. “I’m just shot. I’m going to bed.” She yawned, dropping face-first on the mattress. The Japanese boy, deciding it was best to continue doing his homework elsewhere, left the room, turning off the lights as he exited. “Goodnight, Val!” “Goodnight, Tarou.” She murmured before drifting off to sleep. The boy decided to finish his homework in the hallway, just so that he would not disturb her. He was grateful to Valerie for housing him and did not want to do anything to agitate her or potentially compromise his ability to live there. It’s been a couple weeks at this point, and Tarou was already adjusted to living with her. The two knew that being a romantic couple was out of the question at this point, given how both of them were emotionally, and how Timmy would be affected if something like this were to happen. Finally saving his paper, Tarou closed the window and looked at job openings for the summer. The summer was close, so he needed to start thinking about what he would be doing then. “Huh? A modeling gig in Tokyo?” Tarou noticed an email sent to him from the agency. “Summer job, will be modeling for the summer edition of Vogue’s Menswear Collection.” He read aloud, intrigued. “Will need basic Japanese speaking skills and prior modeling experience preferred.” The more he looked into it, the more Tarou wanted to apply for the job. At this point, he had nothing to lose. “Hell, let’s do it.” He submitted his resume onto the site and closed his laptop entirely. “It’s 2am already. I’ve got to go to bed.” He sighed, going back into their room.

It was the next morning, and Tarou and Valerie were eating together in the dining hall. “How was your paper? Are you done now?” The pastry chef looked at him. “Yeah, I’m done with it! I also applied for a modeling job in Tokyo for the summer!” “Oh my god! That’s amazing! If you get it, send me pics! I want to see and live that experience through you vicariously.” She giggled. “How about you? Any news?” Tarou smiled at her. “Well, I got this in the mail.” She pulled out an envelope. “Wait, what’s in it?” The Japanese model looked at her curiously. “You won’t believe it. I actually didn’t myself.” She opened the flap and pulled out the letter. Tarou quickly scanned through the contents. “Dear Valerie, we are going to be holding a special Warrior Chef: All Stars edition, where previous finalists and contestants from all seasons will have a chance to redeem themselves. Since you were the runner-up in our most recent season, we in the Warrior Chef team would like to cordially invite you to compete. Please contact us at wcascasting@gmail.com if you are interested in competing again and hope to hear from you soon! Victoria Clark, Executive Producer.” Stunned, he just looked at her, awestruck. “So are you going to take it?” Valerie just smiled in response to that question. “Well, what do you think? I’m a previous runner-up! I need to represent!” She beamed. “Thanks, Tarou. You helped me regain my confidence, and I will try my best to win this one for you.”

“Tarou!” Misaki ran up to the model as he exited the changing rooms. He had finished another session and was getting ready to go home. “Misaki! What’s going on?” He looked at her. She was exhausted from running. “Hold on!” She put her hand up, panting. “Catching… my breath.” She sighed, getting up and looking at the slightly amused teen. “What’s going on?” “It’s Timmy. He wants to talk to you.” She lied between her teeth. “Wait, what?!” Tarou could not believe what he was hearing. “Yeah. Hold on, come with me.” She led him out of the building. Misaki was determined to make these two at least confront each other. Whether or not they remained friends was another subject entirely, but at the very least, she wanted Tarou to be able to put that frustration behind him, while on Timmy’s behalf, she just wanted him to live a life that did not involve hulling himself away in his room. Nobody deserved to be robbed of their youth like that, in her eyes.

“Here we are.” Justin looked at Timmy. The software engineer lied to Timmy as well, telling him to meet up with him in front of the Muji at Noho so that they can go get food together in the area. Misaki was going to be taking Tarou to this location as well, so that the two of them could leave the ex-friends and roommates confront each other. “Hey, Justin!” Timmy sighed, looked around fearfully before walking up to his friend. He was terrified that somebody was going to verbally assault him. “What’s with you? Don’t worry, okay? These kinds of issues and problems, they’re not going to be around for much longer, alright?” Justin assured him. “What makes you so certain about that?” Timmy frowned. He was scared at this point. What did Justin mean by that? How could he assure that nothing bad was going to happen. “I just have a gut feeling that no matter what happens, you’ll come out of this stronger. And that’s a big reason why I wanted to meet up with you.” He grinned, although Timmy was still visibly disturbed. And this uneasiness would only escalate within a mere few seconds of Justin’s last statement. “Timmy?!” The Taiwanese boy’s shoulders shot up at the beckon of his name. He was being called by a very familiar voice. Turning around slowly, he knew who this was. It was none other than a very dumbstruck Valerie Ang.

Deciding that it was something to celebrate over, Valerie decided to go to her favorite store, Muji in Noho, to buy some stationary. She was running low on sketchbooks and liked the simplistic design of the Japanese notebooks that Muji sold. She was excited. Even though just a few months ago, losing the competition had gotten her down, Valerie was determined to do this competition, and prove that, even if she were to lose, that she could be a gracious loser. Going to Muji, she was skittish. She needed to continue brushing up on different recipes, dishes, ingredients, and mentally prepare herself to be going head to head with some of the best chefs in the competition’s history. However, in that very moment, Valerie’s shopping spree was cut to an abrupt halt. Describing her feelings in that moment, it was difficult. Rage, frustration, irritation, complete anger, a linger bit of pity, and ultimately, disappointment. Timmy Li was standing in front of her favorite store, not only blocking the entrance, by ruining what could have been a wonderful day for her. Without thinking, the pastry chef found herself blurting out his name, in disbelief that she would bump into him. His very presence made her bury the urge of holding him underneath a tub of water, before dropping a toaster in said bathtub. Timmy, uneasy, turned to her, shaken by her unexpected appearance. “Uh….” He trailed off. Just knowing that he called her a slut made him feel an overwhelming sense of guilt. But the words “I’m sorry” could not come to him. He just found himself awkwardly standing there, staring at her, mouth agape. “Uh…” Justin did not anticipate Valerie’s appearance either. “Alright, so I said to meet up here!” Misaki ushered a still hesitant Tarou over to the front of Muji.

How it is: Chapter 18

“Wait, so you’ve been eating take out this whole time?” Justin eyed Timmy as the two were eating lunch together at a small diner in Chelsea. “Yeah. I don’t want to bump into Valerie or Tarou.” He sighed. “You’re still avoiding both of them?!” “Well, yeah. Since a ton of people hate me now, it’s hard to leave my dorm without getting death glares.” He sighed. Even when he goes to class, Timmy would face plenty of angry and dirty looks and people whispering threats at him. He did not feel safe whatsoever. Between the entire school of performing arts, Asian community, and the LGBTQIA community being mad at him, there were only few people who would treat Timmy mercifully. And by mercifully, Timmy meant outright ignore him. “You really need to talk to Tarou. I know you’re getting stressed, but avoiding him is only making the situation worse. A lot worse.” Justin wanted Timmy to just talk to Tarou, not even to mend their friendship, but to help his current living situation. To be in constant fear and hiding, that was no way to live. “I… I’ll think about it.” Timmy sighed. He could tell that Justin was getting visibly worried, and Misaki’s words were just ringing through his head. The way he was acting, it was causing those around him to worry. It was a cycle that he needed to break. He needed to stop acting in such a way that made others so stressed and concerned. He did not want to be a source of discomfort to those around him.

Walking to the curb, Timmy called an Uber for himself. He was feeling nervous at this point. Thinking about Tarou made Timmy feel like his stomach was twisting itself into knots. “You Timmy?” The driver, a gruff middle aged man looked through the window of the car. “Yeah.” He nodded shyly before getting into the passenger seat. Driving back, all Timmy could think about was hiding his face and avoiding being seen by anyone. ACU has made active efforts of alienating him, ranging from Alice ignoring him when they see each other in the engineering building to Gary glaring at him through the windows of the dining hall. At this point, Timmy did not feel safe. Nor did he know what to do. It was either live in fear and hiding from judgement, or confront Tarou, something he did not feel comfortable doing. He was afraid about what Tarou would do to him. Everything Tarou was saying and doing, it was unexpected. The Japanese boy Timmy grew up with, he was this young, unassuming, and loyal person. Since when did somebody so reserved and calm become so sporadic, overbearing, and dramatic in general? The Taiwanese boy sighed to himself, keeping his eyes to the floor. There was a looming anxiety bubbling in him. “What the hell do I do?” It was a question he had been asking himself for weeks now. And the answer was somewhere behind one of two really hideous doors. Timmy started to ponder why Tarou’s sexuality mattered so much to him. A large portion of this discomfort stemmed from all of those times Tarou insisted he was not gay, and how it felt like he was being lied to by his own best friend.

“He’s gay!” Two male eighth graders were mocking an already teary-eyed sixth grade Tarou. The 11 year-old was being made fun of for being on the effeminate side. “I’m not!” The chubby Japanese youth whined, trying to defend himself verbally, albeit poorly. No matter what the boy did, the two bullies continued to taunt him, kicking dirt at the younger’s face. “Hey, cut it out.” Timmy growled, walking up to them. He noticed his best friend laying on a tree, sobbing quietly as the two older boys continued to spew insults. “Oh, look, Glenn! It’s his boyfriend!” One of them laughed. “Yeah, Brent! What’s he going to do? Kiss us?” Glenn returned. “No. But you guys can kiss my ass!” Timmy shouted, kicking Brent straight in the stomach. “Oomph!” The 13 year-old groaned as he fell over. “You little punk-” Before Glenn could finish his sentence, Timmy punched him in the throat and proceeded to kick him in the groin. The older boy was on the floor, sputtering in fetal position on the grass. “Do that to my best friend again, and you’ll get worse treatment next time.” Timmy glared at the two before turning to Tarou. “What did they do to you? Are you hurt?” The boy wiped his tears and shook his head sheepishly. “They were just calling me gay.” He sighed. “But you’re not, right?” The Taiwanese boy looked at him, concerned. “No, I’m not.” Tarou shook his head. Little did neither of them know at the time, Tarou’s interest in males did not spur until high school. “What the hell happened here?!” Valerie ran up to the two of them, noting the two half-conscious teenagers laying in the dirt. “Timmy was protecting me. They were being bullies and calling me names.” Tarou admitted, half afraid that Valerie the hall monitor would tell on them. “Oh geez.” She shook her head. “Look, you’re my friends, so I’ll let this one pass. But please, Timmy, no more karate-chopping people.” She crossed her arms. “Now hurry up and get out of here. We can’t have you at the scene of the crime.” Thanks, Val!” The two quickly left the area. “And you two, if you try to say anything, I’ll tell the principal that you guys were trying to sexually harass me!” She frowned at Brent and Glenn. “We are going to say that this was you two trying to breakdance and failing epically.”

“Personally, I don’t know how I feel about gay rights and gay marriage.” Timmy admitted. He was in ninth grade now, and in his social studies class. They were discussing equality in gender roles and the topic of gay marriage arose. Timmy and Tarou were together, having a side conversation from the class’s discussion in the back of the room. “What do you mean?” Tarou raised his eyebrow skeptically. At this point, the Japanese boy was already slim and lanky, his features appearing more photogenic in general. This discussion was clearly unsettling to the aspiring model, who was just beginning to discover his sexual interests in men. After his first photo shoot, Tarou had been sneaking peeks at several of his male co-workers, and he found himself entranced by their physiques. “Well, I think that there’s a reason a man and woman can get married. And that stems from the fact that they can have children together. There’s no reason for same sex marriage, because these couples can’t have kids anyways, so why do they need marriage?” Timmy’s logic was that marriage was needed for parents to feel even more attached to each other and their children. Tarou was dumbfounded. That sort of logic made zero sense to the Japanese boy. But he could not bring himself to say anything at that point in time. But it was at moment that Tarou knew coming out to Timmy was not a possibility. He felt uncomfortable knowing that somebody could think in such a narrow-minded way. Timmy did notice Tarou’s discomfort, but could not take back the impact of his words. That was the way he was taught to feel. The Taiwanese boy always tried to rationalize emotions with logic and practicability, even when there were feelings and sensations beyond science and reason.

How it is: Chapter 10

Walking around the South Street Seaport at night, Valerie could just hear all of the comments and what Timmy said to her, it was just ringing through her head. Looking at the water, it was starting to look really welcoming to her. She thought about just jumping in, and letting herself sink into the abyss. “Nobody will even remember you at all.” She cried to herself as she crept up to the edge of the water. “Hey! That’s dangerous!” Misaki and Justin were on a date, and noticed the girl: the model ran after her. “No! Don’t try to stop me!” Valerie screamed at her. “No! Don’t try to jump!” Misaki screamed back. “You’re making a mistake!” “Just let me die already!” Valerie screamed. But before she could take her leap, Justin managed to grab and stop her in time. “Nope, you’re not doing this.” He slowly dragged her away from the water. “Babe, where should we take her to calm her down?” He looked over at her. “Wait a second, you’re Valerie, aren’t you?” She gasped. Misaki watched Warrior Chef religiously and recognized her from the show. “Great, another person who thinks that I’m an idiot for making four desserts in the finale. I get it. I’m over it.” Valerie frowned. “You’re not an idiot, okay? Here, come with us back to Brooklyn.” She linked arms with the younger girl as the three headed off towards the bridge. It was going to be a long walk, but the older model felt like the pastry chef needed a walk in the company of others to calm down.

After a long walk across the Hudson River, Valerie now sat with Misaki and Justin in their apartment. “So you’re now a freshman in NYU studying hospitality? That’s really cool!” Misaki smiled. She was trying to foster an encouraging and supportive environment for Valerie. “Yeah! It’s great to see that you kept your options open with college.” Justin agreed. He felt a little awkward in this case, but he knew what Misaki was trying to do, and was doing his best to help. “You’re a smart kid.” He smiled. “Yeah! I wish I went to college, and I kind of regret not going to an actual university. I dropped out of fashion school.” Misaki giggled. Being a model and formerly in the fashion industry, she was exposed to a lot of nasty and antagonistic behavior from her peers as well. There was a point when Misaki did try to commit suicide, but her classmates intervened and sent her to the hospital. She was treated like some kind of freak for months, having to go to a suicide prevention institution for therapy sessions and that was when she decided to leave college to focus on her rehabilitation completely. Misaki wanted to hear Valerie out before deciding if this girl needed to be put through that experience. For the model, it was traumatic. “So you’re still hung up on the comments?” “Yeah. It’s been tough. It’s affected me at work, and I tried to talk to my friend about it, and he just said something horrible.” She sighed. “What?” “That they’ll forget who I am anyways.” “Yikes, okay, that’s just rough. Trust me, even though people might not agree with your decision, at least the spotlight is still on you for now. Take advantage of that. Be a good sport, and people will continue to support you.” Misaki reassured her. “That’s what I tell one of my co-workers. He’s actually a freshman in NYU too!” She pointed out. “Really? What’s his name?” “Tarou. Tarou Shimizu.”

In their room, Timmy got a text from Justin. “Dude, Valerie just tried to kill herself.” The Taiwanese boy’s heart just sank when he heard that. Frantic, he tried to call the pastry chef, but she did not pick up. “Please don’t hurt yourself. I really do care about you.” He texted her in desperation. He started to sob quietly into his pillow, but this time, Tarou heard. “Hey, I know you’re supposed to be hating me and whatever, but what’s wrong?” He got out of his bed and started to approach the panicked male. “SHUT UP! JUST LEAVE ME ALONE! STOP COMING ONTO ME!” Timmy blew up, throwing his pillow at him. “What the fuck, man?!” Tarou groaned, throwing Timmy’s pillow to the ground and storming out of the room. “Fine, I’ll just sleep in the hallway. Enjoy a room to yourself, asshole.” He slammed the door shut. But everything Tarou said did not even register with Timmy. “Crap. What the fuck did I do to her?” He gasped to himself. Guilt was creeping over him, consuming his mind. All he could think about was how he disappointed Valerie and how he was not sure what happened to her: she refused to answer any calls or texts. “Am I really that awful of a person that I could drive somebody to that point?” He could just feel himself crying hysterically again. The last thing he wanted to do to Valerie was make herself feel worse about the entire situation.

“Are you feeling better now?” Misaki looked at Valerie. “I think so. It looks like Timmy sent me a text-” Before she could even read it, Misaki reached over and took the phone. “Okay, no more Timmy, alright. He’s clearly not good for you.” She shook her head, deleting his text and blocking his number. “What the fuck?!” Valerie growled angrily, grabbing back her phone. But it was too late. Timmy’s contact was gone. “Well, I guess I can always reach out to him on Facebook.” She logged into the app, and tried to search up Tommy’s name, but to no avail. She quickly checked her “blocked users” tab, curious if she blocked him, but he was not listed. Either he deleted his account, or he blocked her on Facebook. “What the actual fuck?” She growled, getting up. “Hey, hey, don’t think about him, alright? Boys are immature little shits.” Misaki tried to start. “Thanks.” Justin glared at her. “But yeah, Timmy isn’t really mature.” Justin admitted. “Asking him for that kind of advice, it’s almost like asking a virgin how the best way to fuck is.” “Justin! What the fuck?!” Misaki glared back at her boyfriend. “That’s the last analogy anyone needs to be hearing right now.” “I get the idea. Thanks, you two.” Valerie hugged both of them before heading back to her dorm room. In her eyes, Timmy just was not worth getting angry over. Yes, he was a longtime friend, but he does not understand what she was going through, and he only made the situation worse. “Hold on! I know you want us to believe you are better, but I think I need to walk you back to your dorm, okay?” Misaki got up and followed her. “Here, babe, I’ll come too.” Justin offered, much to Misaki’s delight.

Meanwhile, Tarou was sleeping in the hallway, causing several of his floor mates to question what exactly is going on. “Hey, are you two fighting?” His RA, a girl named Vanessa looked at him. “Timmy’s just really stressed right now. I’ll be fine.” Tarou reassured her, going back to sleeping on the floor. “Do you want me to talk to Timmy? This is as much your room as it is his.” She affirmed. “I don’t think that’s necessary.” Tarou was trying to usher Vanessa away. There was nothing that she could do to help him. This situation was just too complicated for anyone uninvolved with them. Tarou just needed to sleep this off. So did Timmy. It was a lot to take in, but they just had to try their best and relax. And then suddenly, Timmy opened the door. “Hey, I’m sorry about that. And I’m sorry about being afraid of you.” He kneeled down so that he was eye level with Tarou. “It’s just a lot to handle for me, and the last thing I wanted to do was cause Valerie to try killing herself.” He started sobbing. “Here, here.” Tarou pulled him in for a close embrace. “Look, Timmy, think what you want about my sexuality, but I do love you like a brother, okay? Nothing more. That’s the last time I’ll ever say anything about that. And for this situation, I’m sorry too. I just want my friend back. The person who I can go on goofy adventures with. Not some passive aggressive and socially awkward stress-head, okay?” “Thanks, Tarou.” He hiccuped, feeling slightly better.

Justin, Misaki, and Valerie finally arrived at NYU’s campus, and the couple dropped the pastry chef off at her room. “If you ever need anyone, I’m just a call away, okay?” Misaki hugged her before walking off. “Get a lot of rest. You’ll need it. It’s been a long day.” Justin agreed, following his girlfriend. “Come to think of it, Timmy and Tarou are nearby. Should we go bother them?” Misaki giggled. “Nah, I’m sure that they’ll be asleep by now. It’s pretty late.” Justin yawned. “Oh, yeah, it’s like 2am. Let’s call a Lyft.” She giggled, pulling out her phone. And they were right: Timmy and Tarou were already in bed at that point. The two roommates and friends finally made up, and were sleeping in the same room again. However, news later that morning would change their dynamic yet again. “I got into ACU!” Timmy smiled. “And I got rejected…” Tarou sighed. “But I’m proud of you, okay?” Tarou patted Timmy on the shoulder. “You really deserved it.” “Thanks, man.” Timmy was elated. He finally got his foot in the door. Tarou and Valerie were both so busy doing things with their lives, and now it was his chance to finally do the same! “So, are we going to do brunch today?” Tarou looked at Timmy expectantly. “Sorry, I have something for ACU. They want to initiate me.”

Magical

She always wanted to have magical powers. To be able to help others and be a modern day superhero, she obsessively wished for that to happen. The beauty and grace that these magical girls in the cartoons exceeded, she was enamored. To save the day and let love conquer all, if she could do that, then she could have given up everything. That was, until recently. Since when did being a magical girl involve killing others? Murder? Death? Corruption? And how about consequences? Why did being a superhero come with such dire costs? Yes, reality did rear its hideous head upon her beloved childhood dream, but the girl tried to focus on what appealed to her about the genre. How the output outweighed the costs and sacrifices. How saving the day was more important than teenaged angst and drama. Looking at the small creature before her, she was hesitant. The opportunity to realize her childhood dream was just an answer away. But knowing what she did now, she knew that this door, closing would not be the end of her world. By turning her back away from it now, she would be keeping her dream alive.

innocence

A little gir, resting underneath a sky littered with cherry blossoms. She had nearly no recollection of her life before sleeping here. There was only one memory: an elderly man, whispering to her. “I’m so sorry.” He apologies in a hushed, croaked tone. He cut her loose of his tight embrace, as she fell. Walking through the pink hills, the girl felt awestruck. The pristine trees, pure ivory park and light, heart-shaped flowers that fluttered through the wind, it was a sight to marvel at. The girl felt like these flowers, they resonated with her. Looking at them, she felt hope, joy, and for some reason, guilt. Seeing these flowers gently glide past her. She could sympathize with their descent from the heavens. But unlike these fallen petals, the girl knew she could continue moving. She felt almost ashamed, as if she was leaving these delicate flowers behind. Being able to move forward, it seemed like something she was not supposed to be doing. Like her, small and untainted in the beginning, before being released, displaced, dirties, and discarded. She knew, deep down, that her innocence was sullied on her way here. Despite not knowing why, she knew that her past was a fall, but her future was a rise.

misty

Walking along the rugged path, a tall, tanned youth frowned to himself. He had left behind his home to find a cure for his beloved, who was lost to the cold. It was up to him to embark on this journey. He had to find those elusive smoke lilies. Those purple and black flowers held a nectar that, when mixed with ginger root, should melt his prince’s locked heart. These lilies bloomed at the very bottom of the mountains; beneath the mist rested entire fields of them. His prince, the youth dreamt of ending his ailment.His sweet master used to be so kind and loving. But then it happened. The mist began to flood the mountains, in the midst laid their castle. Their paradise together, away from the world beyond. The benevolent boy was saddened.His tears had caused everything to be shrouded in the dark clouds. THe prince’s heart then fell into the coldness. Snow crept onto their kingdom, their haven, slowly draining life from all of its denizens. The youth had to flee, not only to survive, but to find those smoke lilies. Diving through the mist, he was determined to save his home. His prince was waiting, alone and scared. He was separate to remove the snow. He pushed himself forward, through the dark and cold, reaching for any hope. He wanted so badly to hold his prince in a tight embrace. Not as his knight, but as his beloved.

Road Movie: Chapter 16

It was Sunday morning, and Dakota was off, walking around Naperville, taking photos. When she was photographing, the brunette found herself getting immersed in that lens, focusing on angles and trying to take that perfect shot. Unfortunately, she found herself face to face with a building she was probably hoping to never see again: the apartment complex Phillip lived in. She almost dropped her camera in shock. Dakota did not expect to be this badly affected by the sight of it. The reasonable side of her wanted to knock on the door and say hello to Mr. Hopkins. But the emotional side, she wanted to run away. Dakota’s emotions sank in, and she took off in a hurry, panicked. She just could not be around anything that reminded her of him. She would just get angry at the world for taking him away from her.

Resting on a wooden bench in Columbia Estates Park, Dakota managed to finally catch her breath. She felt a mix of things. Scared from looking at the apartment, guilty for not saying hi to Mr. Hopkins, and disappointed in herself for not being as progressed in her coping as she would have liked to be. It was frustrating that she let her emotions win. Deciding that she was done photographing Naperville, she retired to her room in her parents’ house. As far along as she had come coping with Phillip’s death, she had not quite emotionally prepared herself to see his old house. “Welcome back, honey! Did you have fun?” Mrs. Logan durned to welcome her daughter. She was watching TV with Mr. Logan in their living room when their daughter came through the front door. “Yes, mom! I’m going back to my room to pack up my things.” She responded, climbing up the stairs.

“Dakota, are you sure you’re okay?” Mrs. Logan stepped into the brunette’s old room. “Huh, what do you mean?” “You might be able to fool your father, but I know when my daughter is uncomfortable. What happened when you were taking photos?” “I…. stumbled upon Mr. Hopkin’s apartment. It was just weird, seeing it, and I just felt really bad. A lot of memories of Phillip, and I thought I was finally getting over his death, but then I saw that.” She rambled. Her thoughts were all over the place at this point, but she was hoping that from what she was saying, her mother could empathize. “Honey, something I worry about with you is how sheltered you are. I read that children who never leave the state they were born or raised in, they have a higher tendency to feel trapped.” She explained.

“Your father and I, we each were raised somewhere else. He came from Detroit, and I was from Milwaukee. But you were always in Illinois. You never left. Maybe this is a sign that you should go and explore other cities and other states.” She suggested. “You need space from Chicago and Naperville, so take this as an opportunity.” “You’ll be fine if I might be an unemployed hobo in a different state?” The brunette frowned at the notion. “No, I’m sure you’ll get a job. Besides, look at me. I graduated Northwestern, was unemployed, and I still managed to raise a family and be happily married. Good things will come when you put yourself out there.” “That’s true. I’ll look into moving somewhere else. I thought about that to be honest,” She admitted, It was not the first time she thought about moving to somewhere else. Before, she thought small scale. She used to want a different apartment, or to switch her clientele at work. Something like this, she felt like she needed to change her lifestyle on a larger scale.

“Bye, honey!” Dakota’s parents waved off to the brunette as she stepped on board the train. “I’ll call you guys when I get back home! Love you guys!” She waved as the door closed. Within minutes of the brunette settling into her chair, the train took off. She was going back to the city. But she knew that it would not be much longer that she would be calling Chicago home. She did not know just quite where yet, but somewhere out there was a new place for her to call home. A new place for her to return to. Looking as the suburbs started to sink away into the horizon, she had a lot on her mind. Just knowing that both of her parents were okay with her leaving the nest, it felt like a huge relief. But to herself, she did not want to feel trapped or fail. She wanted to do something that would do right by her ideal life standards.

“Today was such a long day.” Dakota sighed as she fell onto her bed. She was finally back home. It felt strange, because just that morning, she was still in the comfort of her parents in Naperville, and now she was in the big city alone in her apartment. The contrast, going from having the freedom of a kid to the responsibilities of an adult in less than a day, it was a silencing thought. Going to bed, Dakota pondered with the idea of moving and quitting her job. As much as she wanted to do it, she needed more perspective. Drifting off to sleep, she continued to occupy her mind with this idea. To leave Illinois, the state she was born in raised in, when she had never even done that before for even traveling, it seemed a little terrifying. But her parents left their homes to grow up, so many it was time for her to do the same. She had never even left the state, even for a vacation. There was an entire world around her. Getting out of her comfort zone would be a challenge, but that’s what life is about. Being able to push yourself and do things that you may not think about doing before.

“So let me get this straight. You’re from Naperville, you went to college in UChicago, and you’ve never worked outside of Chicago?” Frida frowned to a 23 year-old Dakota. “Yup. Same with my boyfriend.” “Enough about your boyfriend. We are talking about you, young lady.” She was frank in her intentions. Frida wanted to learn more about her new permanent hire. “Wait, are we grilling her? I want in.” Justin overheard the conversation, and swooped in, joining the two at their table in the break room. “Oh my god.” Dakota rolled her eyes. “So you never want to leave Chicago? You just plan to marry your boyfriend and stay in this bubble?” The old lady looked disappointed. “Well, yeah. There’s nothing wrong with that!” “Have you ever even left Illinois?” “Oh. Well, no, but…” Dakota trailed off. “Exactly, a bubble!” Frida frowned. “Dakota, one of my biggest regrets was not embracing my youth and adventuring out in the world. When I got married, I did not even have the luxury of doing that.” Justin chimed in. “Exactly! Girl, you need to live for once in your life! Do something risky!” Frida shouted, slamming her hands onto the table. This conversation fell upon deaf ears at first. But in light of recent events, Dakota started to think about what Frida and Justin told her.

drifting into the night

He sat alone, gazing into the dark ocean. The waves gently combed the sands, pulling the shells and kelp further and further away from the surface. He was watching the silvery full moon slowly sink back beneath the black horizon. After he had wronged the prince of the sky, he could no longer stay in one place. He was a foolish man, thinking he could trump the monarch in a challenge of strength. To think he could defeat a demigod was naive. He hoped to impress one of the prince’s subjects, a priestess by the name of Dalila. Her laughter and smile, he sought after them. Her kind heart, it tempted him beyond his own logic. Was it love he felt for her? No. It was lust. Idiotic, adolescent, animalistic urges he should have cast aside. As a priestess, she could not part with her deity. She was a part of his dominion. The prince of the sky, fathered by the sun himself. Between the two, they owned all of the world’s light. He was forced to be a denizen of the darkness. Wherever the sun was, he had to avoid. A heliophobe, living a life of constant peril and fear. Should he bathe in those rays of light, they would pierce through him, slowly unraveling his very existence. He could not be with the people whose company he yearned for. To want, a luxury for somebody like him. His entire purpose in life was to constantly hide. What was bravery? What was courage? All of these concepts did not matter now. He had no use for them. To survive, he had to continue running. Hiding beneath the moon’s gentle light. Seeing the moon finally grazing the horizon, the young man got up, and glided along with the fleeing darkness. He had to follow the night, for his own survival.