How it is: Chapter 24

“Last push! We’re almost done! This is the final ticket, everyone!” Janice chanted. “Yes, chef!” Mako rushed the black cod to the pass. “Behind, behind!” “Chef, I’m following with the garnish!” Jackie shouted, holding a small pan with hen-of-the-woods mushrooms. “Okay, service please!” Janice handed the completed dishes off to the services. “Yes! Last ticket! Can we start breaking down our station, chef?” Jackie looked at her, eagerly. “Yeah, go for it!” She smiled as the line cooks started cleaning up. What sucked about being on pastry was that Valerie had to wait for all of the savory dishes to be sent up before she could even start plating her own desserts. So she had to watch the other cooks clean up while her pastry team awaited the tickets. “Okay, so we have three panna cottas, one black forest, followed by two chiffon cakes and three rhubarb doughnuts.” She began listing off the dessert orders after what felt like an eternity to the pastry cooks. The wait was at first annoying for Valerie, but she eventually got used to it. “Alright, let’s go team!” It was her last service as executive pastry chef before she had to take her leave of absence for Warrior Chef: All Stars. She wanted this last service to end with a bang. “Yes, chef!” Megan and Daphne chanted.

“I like how your best service ever was also your last.” Janice laughed. She was proud of how far Valerie had come under her wing. “Thanks, chef.” Valerie beamed. It was bittersweet, leaving the restaurant. “We also have something for you!” Megan, Joseph, and Daphne walked into the walk-in pantry. “Close your eyes, okay?” Jackie laughed. “It’s going to be a surprise.” Mako teased. “Here it is!” The three chefs walked back out, carrying a large cake. “Holy crap!” Valerie was taken aback. She was expecting a good-bye gift of some kind, but she did not think it was going to be an entire multitiered layer cake. “When? How? What?” She never once saw that cake in the kitchen. When did anyone have time to make or even store it?” “We had it stored in Janice’s fridge in her office, originally. But then we moved it into the pantry when you weren’t looking.” Joseph laughed. “Congratulations, kiddo. You’re going to kick some major ass on Warrior Chef. Bring it home for us, okay?” “Will do!” She was almost crying at this point. “Come on, now is not a sad time! Let’s all eat some cake and celebrate!” Janice began pouring champagne into the wine flutes. “Wait, I’m underaged-” “It’s only to toast. Besides, you’re a college student. Live a little!” Jackie chuckled. “To Valerie! May your future in our industry be a bright one!” They all clinked glasses. The team at Wish has been like a family to her. Valerie, trying her best not to cry, drank the bubbly white wine, ignoring the slight burn of the alcohol.

Meanwhile, Tarou and Timmy were in the library, studying for their final exams. The school year was wrapping up and that meant that they had to sit down and begin memorizing every little detail from each lecture and powerpoint that the school provided them. Somehow, both of them were doing well in school, despite all of the external drama in their lives, but that did not mean that they could slack off now. “Finals, finals, fucking finals.” Tarou rolled his eyes. This was only the second “college finals” season he was experiencing, and like with his first time in the fall, it was just as unpleasant. Last semester, Tarou and Timmy had to pull all-nighters to land on the Dean’s List, and because of how little of a focus school had been for both of them this semester, it felt that much more daunting for them to study and perform consistently regardless. Realistically, it was the stress affect both boys. But they both knew once their finals were behind them, that was one less thing that either of them would have to worry about.

“It feels like it’s been forever that the three of us were studying together.” Nate sighed. He was with Timmy and Jeffrey, in a classroom that they rented out to continue studying. It was the next day, and finals were just two days away at this point. “But yeah, how have you been doing?” “I’ve been good.” Timmy smiled. “I heard about all of that Asian community drama from Gary.” Jeffrey frowned. The two of them were in the same fraternity. “Are you okay?” “Yeah, it’s all good now. It sucks that I’m no longer on e-board for any clubs, but at the same time, I have time to focus on my academics and myself.” He smiled. “That’s a great way to think. Also, Vincent was telling me the other day. You haven’t really been volunteering lately, have you?” Nate pointed out. Nate was double majoring in computer engineering and business, so he had classes with Timmy, Jeffrey, and Vincent. “Oh, shoot, you’re right.” Timmy gasped. He had completely forgotten about Y.E.S. Between all of his personal drama and ACU, he lost touch of the things he was genuinely passionate about: helping others. “Well, I’m here all summer, so I’m definitely going to volunteer there more often.” Timmy chuckled. “I’ll be sure to let Vincent know. I didn’t realize that he missed me.” The Taiwanese boy joked. “Yeah, say it exactly like that to him. I’m sure he’ll be real happy.” Nate rolled his eyes.

“Alexa, how do you feel about Lodging?” Valerie was referring to the course the two of them were currently enrolled in. “I’m thinking we’re fucked, but that’s just me.” A slim African American girl laughed. She was one of Valerie’s few friends at NYU. They were currently studying for Lodging, but had no idea how to study for it because the professor had been not teaching the correct material for the entire semester; rather than talking about hotels, he instead focused on architecture and hotel design, despite testing them on hotel terminology, making the class unusually difficult. “Well, I’m sure you’ve got this. Ms. Valedictorian.” The Singaporean girl poked fun at her. Alexa currently had the highest GPA out of anyone in the hospitality school, and one of the top five highest overall at NYU. “This is what I love about having smart friends. You make me want to get smarter so that I’m not the dead weight in this friendship.” Valerie laughed. “Oh, shut up. You’re great company.” Alexa insisted, beaming. “Everyone in Hospitality tends to be fake. You’re the most real person in this school.” “Aw, thanks, boo.” Valerie chuckled. Being around Alexa was fun, because despite her intellect, she was good company to have around between her great humor and love of baking.

“Tarou, can you read that book a little slower? I want to take pictures.” Sarah looked at the model, holding up her phone. “Uh… I’m trying to study.” The model pointed out. “Sh! You look so cute like that! Hold that face for me, please?” The Japanese male just rolled his eyes at the remark. Finals season was going to suck if it was going to be this unproductive. He was with Enya, Sarah, and Melissa at the performing arts library. And naturally, the three girls were busy fawning over the model and not taking their studies seriously. “How is it that the three of you made it on Dean’s List last semester like this?” He sighed. “It’s because we actually pay attention in class. Work hard, party harder.” Enya grinned cockily. “Yeah, you just need to spend more time with us, and understand our ways.” Melissa eyed Tarou, who rolled his eyes.

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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 16

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

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

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

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

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

How it is: Chapter 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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