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.

cracked heart

Our love did not exist. What we had was an illusion. A lie. We tried to be there for each other. Simply but, we were bad together. We hurt each other. We convinced ourselves that we needed each other. But you deceived me. Behind my bcd, you told others how you rely felt. My confidence, my self-esteem, I sacrificed those to be your friend, your confidant. I gave up my dignity. How foolish I was, to do that for anybody. I refused to think that I was in the wrong. I committed every thought and concern to your safety and happiness. Or so what I incorrectly perceived it to be. But you are not worth my love and trust. SOmeone who treated me like a monster in my moment of vulnerability. Somebody so insensitive, entitled, and immature. You do not deserve my attention. You do not deserve my focus. You are a waste of my time. Please do me a favor, and go away. Treat yourself like how you treated me. Maybe then you will understand how much of a brat and coward you were. Stop trying so hard to be the victim of this situation. You really are a disappointment of a human being. I am embarrassed to think that I let somebody like you hurt me. Somebody with such a cracked heart.

Road Movie: Chapter 18

Frida was devastated when she could not help Dakota. As much as she wanted to, there were no other major sectors for Dakota to transition into, nor would Dakota be experienced enough in any of them to help. She was expecting a letter of resignation at some point in the month. There was no way that Dakota could keep working under these conditions. But deep down, Frida knew that it was for the brunette’s own good. One of Dakota’s worst habits was that she always overworks herself and never considers her own feelings or emotions until the damage is already done and the scars have set. It was like the ending scene of Frida’s favorite movie, Old Yeller. She loved something, in this case, Dakota, but it was in pain and needed to be let go. Dakota was her bitch in this scenario. Literally. And in Frida’s mind, she had to let her bitch bite the dust. She needed to set her bitch free.

At work, Dakota was typing furiously away at her computer, trying to finish her next marketing plan. She knew that finding a replacement, specifically a marketing executive who had a decent exposure to the medical industry, would be very difficult. It was not impossible, but it would be the hurdle she would have to overcome if she wanted to continue working at Hillary Jenkins. The question was, did she was to? She grew up with this company in a lot of ways, and it reminded her of what her parents said about being sheltered. Chicago, Hillary Jenkins, her apartment, these were all a part of her bubble. She only worked for another company for a year before transferring back. She could feel the panic settling in and her heart beginning to race. Grabbing her water bottle and trying to calm herself with a cold gulp of water, she could still feel herself shaking. She was beginning to have a panic attack, and at work.

“Dakota, what’s wrong?” Virginia looked at the frightened brunette. “Virginia!” Just seeing another person helped her snap out of her state. “Is everything okay?” The hospitality expert looked gravely concerned from Dakota’s exhibited behavior. “I’m fine. I think.” “You think?” She raised an eyebrow at that statement. “Here, I’ve got time. Let’s talk.” She closed the door to Dakota’s office behind her and took a seat at the medical marketer’s desk. “What’s been bothering you?” “I’ve just been feeling really trapped. I never once left Illinois, and I feel like with everything that happened…. no matter how hard I try to shake the though, I just keep thinking about him. I miss Phillip.” She admitted. “Dakota, you’ve made a lot of progress, but I think with your case, getting over somebody you’ve spend such a large amount of your youth with, it’s going to be hard.” Virginia comforted her. “Virginia, when you moved from Hawaii, how was that? And why did you move? It sounds like paradise compared to here.” Dakota sighed. “Well, Hawaii is a paradise in a lot of ways. But I did not want to be sheltered. Not everyone in the world acts like a Hawaiian. Not everyone is friendly, easy-going, relaxed, or great to interact with. A lot of it for me was that I did not want to stay in one place and never explore the world around me.” The executive explained.

What Virginia said spoke true to how Dakota was feeling. And in Virginia’s case, it made a lot of sense. She was from Hawaii, living on an island surrounded by water. Naturally, she would already feel isolated. She was trapped in a bubble that, to an outsider, felt like paradise. But to her, she must have felt like it was a cage. Sort of how Chicago and Illinois was beginning to feel to Dakota. She felt that the longer she stayed here, the more the thought of Phillip would linger.

“But yeah, I don’t regret leaving the islands. Coming to an inland state too, it made me feel like a part of something much bigger. I had so much more exposure to other people, which was a great change of pace for me. And then I felt like I grew up a lot by being so far away from home. If I stayed in Hawaii, I would always have the comfort of my friends and family, yes, but I did not want to come to rely on them for every little problem I had. By dropping myself in Chicago, I had only myself to rely on. I got hired by Hillary Jenkins, thank goodness for that Tourism degree in the University of Hawaii, and I just kept on working my ass off.” Virginia summarized. “Wait, are you thinking about leaving the city?” She eyed Dakota. “To be honest, I think I need to.” “That’s understandable.” Virginia agreed after a short pause. As much as she wanted Dakota to remain her coworker, she knew that keeping the brunette in Chicago would not help her emotional state. “I guess the one thing that’s on my mind is, do you ever see yourself coming back to Chicago? Or is being around here unbearable for you?” “Honestly, it’s getting to that point.” Dakota sighed. No matter how hard she tried to not think about him, there were just too many memories of Phillip in this city and in this state.

Dakota hated to think of this as running away. She did not want anyone to think of her as a coward, trying to hide from her pain. She had tried to confront it, but as she was now, she was not ready emotionally. She needed space and time away from Illinois. Walking into Frida’s office, she took a deep sigh, as she handed in her two-week’s notice. “I completely understand, and I was going to ask you if you still felt comfortable working here.” Frida nodded sympathetically. She understood how hard it must have been for Dakota to even make this decision, let alone commit to it. “If Hillary Jenkins ever opens up a branch outside of Chicago, we will be sure to contact you. Maybe by that time, you’ll have found another industry, other than medicine, that you can help market.” Frida reassured. “Thank you, Frida. This means the world to me.” Dakota smiled as the two hugged.

“Walking through the city, Dakota continue to take photos with Monique. It was their usual routine when neither of them were busy. “So I finally put in my two week’s notice.” She told her photography-savvy friend. “Are you feeling alright?” Monique looked slightly concerned at this news. “I feel like I’m a lot more free than before. It’s just funny to think how perspective can really affect my view and stance on something. I used to feel so empowered by my job, now it became a part of what was tearing away at me.” The brunette sighed. “Well, I’m glad that you managed to get a way out. And no matter what, I still want to keep in touch.” Monique pulled her friend in for a hug. “Thanks, Monique.” Dakota smiled, returning it. She was surprised by how supportive everyone was of her choices. The only person whose approval Dakota was really worried about was her own. But it seems like that was taken care of. Her friends, coworkers, and family all felt this was for the best, and that gave her enough of a resolve to agree to this choice.

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?

Road Movie: Chapter 1

“BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!” “Ugh… five more minutes.” A young woman with shoulder-length brown hair and blue eyes groaned as she rolled out of the bed and onto the floor. Her name was Dakota Logan, a 25 year-old sales manager. “Ouch.” “Hey there, sleepyhead.” She smiled at the sound of that voice. “Hey, Philly cheesesteak.” It was her pet name for him. A tall young man with short black hair, her boyfriend, Phillip Hopkins. “Come on, Ducky. Get up!” He groaned, dragging her off the floor. “Hey, let go of me!” She laughed and he did just that. The brunette fell back on the ground again, landing squarely on her hips. “I get that Mondays suck and all, but they would suck a lot less if I don’t have to go into work covered in bruises.” She frowned, getting back up, rubbing her bum. “Come on, let’s go! You’re going to be late for work! It’s already 8:15!” He called from the kitchen. “Oh shoot!” She shrieked, running into the bathroom. She needed to brush her teeth, change, eat breakfast, and get to work by 9. And this is why she hated Mondays. Scrubbing away her morning breath, she frantically made a checklist of what she needed to get done. Okay, so change, eat, and then Lyft to work. She rattled off to herself. Phillip usually drove himself, and they shared a car, but Dakota had Lyft discounts from work, so it all worked out. Gargling and spitting into her sink, she quickly grabbed the nearest blouse and pair of dress pants and quickly put them on over her pajamas. She had no time to change out of them.

“Dakota!” The frantic girl was startled to hear her name. She turned to see a stout elderly woman with pug-like facial features greeting her. It was the director of sales, Frida Caldwell. “It’s 9:02. 2 minutes late. I’m docking your pay.” She joked with the manager. “I’m so sorry!” Dakota was so frazzled that she did not realize Frida was kidding. “Oh geez, child. You are a mess. Here, let’s get you to your office.” She ushered the younger girl off to her room. “And for the record, no, your pay will be fine.” She reassured the anxious executive. The two had a grandmother-granddaughter dynamic, although in most cases, Frida was like the stereotypical crazy grandmother you would see in comedies. Hillary Jenkins Marketing Firm, where Dakota worked, was a large building located off to the side of Millennium Park. They got a nice view of the park and the lake, because of how high up the building their firm was. Dakota still remembered the first time she set foot in the building: she was a nervous freshman in college, interviewing for an internship at the firm over the summer. Back then, Frida used to terrify her.

“Hello.” A stern looking Frida glared at an 18 year-old Dakota. “H-hi. My name is Dakota Logan. Nice to meet you.” She was trying her best to stay calm. Dakota had interviewed and used to work part-time at the local library back home, but this was a job for something she actually wanted to do. Just having that emotional connection and need for this made her uneasy. “My name is Frida Caldwell. I am the executive director of marketing here at Hillary Jenkins. Dakota, was it?” “Yes.” She shyly nodded. “I eat little girls like you for breakfast. Why do you think that you can handle the world of marketing? And why Hillary Jenkins?” “I love the idea of helping others, specifically helping their businesses. If I can get a great concept out there for others to try and increase that sort of awareness for companies with good morals and values, then I would love to.” The brunette explained. “As for me being young, yes I am, but I am also more than happy to learn from every experience here.” She could feel herself gaining more confidence talking about marketing and her need to work here. “As for Hillary Jenkins, this is one of the best marketing companies in the world. No matter where I end up working afterwards, or what I end up doing, I know that I can carry away a lifetime’s worth of experience.” “You’re definitely an honest person. And we believe in honest marketing here. I will talk to the Human Resources department and get back to you at the end of the week.” Frida nodded approvingly. Unbeknownst to Dakota at the time, Frida had already approved the brunette’s application to intern.

“Home, sweet home.” Dakota sighed in relief as she plopped herself down in her chair. Her office had a nicer view than her home, but she was not complaining. A view like this made working for this company worthwhile. That, the experience of working in marketing, and the pay. Dakota had been with Hillary Jenkins for quite a while now. She interned for two years in college, started in another firm for a year, and then applied for an opening here and got it. It felt like full circle for her, because she had worked with almost every sales manager here, except for Virginia. Being paid a manager’s salary three years out of college, it was great for Dakota and Phillip. “Dakota, how are the hospitals going?” Frida looked at her. Each sales manager in Dakota’s firm was in charge of marketing to clients from different industries. Dakota was in charge of the medical sector. Her current customer was none other than Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where Phillip was currently working as a nurse. She had a huge advantage, dating a medical student. She had insider knowledge on how doctors and nurses think and what their needs were. And then there were her coworkers.

Like in any sales department, Hillary Jenkins’s managers were a diverse bunch. There was Maria Sanchez, an energetic 28 year-old, half Filipino, half Latina who mostly worked with fashion and retail. When she was not helping clothing stores sell their products, she would normally be found screaming in Tagalog or Spanish over the phone at her parents or husband over some a cute animal video she found on the Internet. Then there was Justin Marks, a tall Caucasian 35 year-old brunette who loves sports, and worked with professionals in the athletic and sporting industry. Whether it was gyms, sporting goods stores, or famous Chicago athletes, Justin was Hillary Jerkins’ go-to man for that. Then there was Virginia Ko. She was a year 28 old Korean lady, originally from Hawaii. Virginia started in Hillary Jenkins right before Dakota’s return, but they got along immediately by making fun of Frida together. She was generally very relaxed and her clients were typically from the hospitality industry, ranging from hotels to restaurants to traveling. And finally, Frida Caldwell. Everyone’s boss. She was the director of the sales department, and she enjoyed mocking everyone. She started working at Hillary Jenkins when it was first founded 60 years ago. Rumor had it that she was best friends with Hillary Jenkins herself, even though the company’s founder had been dead for more than 30 years. Frida was one of the most energetic and ridiculous 85 year-olds there ever was. She got a heart attack a couple years ago, and then went out for body shots the following day, even though it was still a work night. She was secretly a newly crossed sorority girl in a should-be retired woman’s body.

“So the PR team there just wanted to make sure that we can continue increasing brand awareness, especially for their practices. I was thinking that they could maybe do a video series on what pregnant women would do to help reduce birthing pain, just to contribute something to society and that might help?” Dakota explained to Frida, who was waiting for the brunette’s updates. “I think that’s a clever idea. Doing that will help increase doctor credibility and it will, like you said, contribute something to society. Plus, doing these kinds of videos, it will be really easy to engage in potential clients digitally. I like it.” Frida nodded approvingly as she got up. “Good job, Dakota. Keep up the good work.” She walked off. The brunette was proud of herself for the idea. Noticing the time, she quickly got up. She needed to go to the conference room and meet up with the representatives of Northwestern Memorial Hospital face to face so that she could pitch to them her ideas.

“Thank god that’s all over.” Dakota sighed as she stumbled back into her apartment. Her clients loved the idea and they were going to implement the video right away. She had to go to Northwestern Memorial, help the doctors film the video, and then give critiques on what she felt could be improved. It was tough, because Dakota was not a film and TV person, so her directing skills were not something she was confident in. But she had an idea of what she wanted for the video, and knowing that they were targeting future mothers, they made sure to keep the video light, playful, and interacting. Should this marketing campaign go successfully, then Dakota would have secured a repeat client in the hospital for Hillary Jenkins and would gain a huge commission from the firm for her idea. It was already midnight, and Phillip should be coming back from classes soon. Being a medical student, he was already studying a lot, but then when he was also working part time as a nurse, he was always busy. But it’s already been five years. He only needed three more before he graduates, and starts working as a doctor. Dakota was lucky to be dating somebody like Phillip. She still fondly recalls how the two of them first met.

severance: realization 34

Even if you and a ex-friend never quite recover the relationship you once shared, there’s no reason to be sad, nor is there a reason to be angry. So long as both of you are happy with the lives you currently lead, then that is more important. This is something I just realized recently between a handful of things. The first was when I was watching an episode of The Actor’s Studio on Bravo, not really because I wanted to, but because it was on right before Top Chef. One of the actors said that sentimentalism is just undeserved happiness or emotion. What’s the point in dwelling in the past when the present deserves more of your attention? Secondly, I just saw my ex-mentee/roommate the other day. At an event where I was invited to. It was awkward, yes, but I saw that they were really happy (obviously not to see me, but in the midst of their friends). Seeing that, coupled with the fact that I was already gaining my own form of happiness, it made me realize how it is okay if I never recovery the friendship I lost with them.

Severance is a noun meaning the act of cutting off or ending a relationship. It sounds final, intense, and grim, but it does not need to be perceived that way. For me, I see it as an opportunity. When you are around the same people constantly, you form habits and norms. Your perspective is essentially stuck in the same way. But when you change the people you surround yourself with, how you see the world can change too. Currently, the company I have, they are all good people. Optimistic, kindhearted, selfless, considerate. The kind of people who helped me recover from my second suicide attempt. They helped me realize what kind of person I am: a hardworking, protective, and loving person who just wants others to be happy, while at the same time, an unforgivingly sassy pastry cook who does not have a filter. I am proud of who I am, flaws and everything, and I will not apologize for being me.

While yes, my ex-friend/mentee/roommate was a huge factor in my self-loathing behavior, a part of me still does care about them, because I am a naturally caring personality. That being said, seeing how happy they were, it made me feel relieved. It was reassuring to know that while I may have hurt them during my state of depression, that they recovered. Just seeing them happy, it does not matter to me if I am the cause of their happiness or the exact opposite of that. Knowing that they are no longer hurting makes me feel more inclined and able to move on with my own life. I no longer have to be weighed down with these thoughts of guilt, needing to justify how when I was depressed, I had no control over my actions. All of that can be finally placed behind me now. I do not care if my relationship with them ever mends.

As I am now, I already have a great group of friends. I know that I am already a very likable person. If I was not a likable person, I would not have so many friends or have made so many friends in just the past two months alone. People who see me as crazy or insane because of that previous suicide attempt are just people who have not met me or gotten to know me on a personal level. The people who can see past that and the ones who I value. The ones that understand how badly in pain I was, and do not treat me differently because of it, I appreciate greatly. The ones who do think I am psychotic, unnecessary for me to live a happy life. They will understand eventually how depression works, and then be more sympathetic or understanding. But I will not be there waiting for them. I will have already moved on with my life. Severance changes perspectives on not only you to others, but you to yourself. You can see the qualities that were previously forgot about in tunnel vision. You can continue to grow and blossom.

 

Sky Bird: Chapter 25

“Congratulations! You have finished another year of high school!” Ms. Park smiled at everyone. It was the last day of school. Unlike most schools, Kendall’s high school had all of the finals on the same day. Everyone had just completed their Physics finals. “Kendall, can I see you after?” The teacher looked at him. “Uh, okay.” He was nervous. Did he mess up his final? Everyone filed out as Kendall sat there nervously. Once the classroom was empty, Ms. Park got out a folder and walked over to him. “Kendall, as you know, I used to be a scientist at UCLA for their Physics program.” She began. The brunette started thinking why she would preface with that statement. It probably was not a scolding? Although he has watched Hell’s Kitchen before and seen Gordon Ramsay faking out contestants like that before. “Are you doing anything this summer?” “Probably working part-time at Mitsuwa, but that’s really it.” “I see. Would you like to be a quantic optics intern at UCLA? This would be a great opportunity for you to learn more about engineering and you will be mentored under an industry professional. And it’s paid.” Kendall’s jaw dropped. He could not believe it. That was a perfect opportunity for him. “How do I apply?” “Just fill out these forms. I will handle the rest. UCLA always looks to me to recruit people for this program, and I will highly recommend you for this because you excelled in this course.” She smiled. The brunette quickly handed back the forms, all signed and filled out. “Thank you so much, Ms. Park.”

“Time’s up! Hand in your exams!” Ms. Ling stood in the front of the class as people passed their papers over to her. It was third period. Kendall felt great about the exam overall. He had went over the topics repeatedly and he knew what to expect for this test. “Kendall, you have had a rocky road with this course. But I’m proud to have had you as a student and to see you grow. Keep doing your best and if you need any college recommendation letters, my door is always open.” Ms. Ling offered him. “Thank you, Ms. Ling. That means a lot to me.” The brunette almost felt like crying. He never felt so touched before, having so many wonderful people in his life. “Absolutely. You have a lot of potential in the engineering field. You’re a smart kid.” “I’ll make sure to take Chem AP with you my senior year!” The brunette promised. Today was a good day for him. Even if he failed all of his exams, Kendall never felt better about just being himself. After spending half a semester loathing himself, thinking little of his own abilities, he was surprised by how much his teachers actually valued him. It was much needed.

“How did you think Pre-Calc went?” Sophia was sitting with Kendall, Jared, and Matt, picking their brains on how the exam went. “It was not the worst. You’ll do fine.” Matt assured her. It was lunch time, and the boys just finished Pre-Calc honors. Sophia had that exam for her sixth period, and was nervous about it. “You’ll do fine. You were smart enough to date me.” Kendall grinned cockily. “And I was even smarter to dump your arrogant ass.” She frowned sarcastically. “Ha! And I thought Fanny was sassy.” Matt sniggered. “I am sassy.” The blue eyed brunette froze. “Uh….” Fanny was right behind him. “Well, I just technically finished sophomore year. No Japanese final since I got a 99% in the class, and sixth period is post season.” He turned to Jared. “Babe, are you doing anything after lunch?” “I have my Chem final and that’s it.” “Want to go do something during sixth period?” “Sure.” The blonde nodded, trying to diffuse the awkward tension between Fanny and Matt. “And Matt,” the Chinese boy started, wrapping his arm around the brunette’s shoulders, “don’t you ever forget how sassy I am.” He whispered into his ear, before getting back up. “I need to go back to helping Carly study for Algebra 2. I’ll see you guys.” He walked off as a confused and terrified Matt whimpered. “Aren’t you glad you’re not dating him?” Sophia smirked at Kendall. “Yup.”

Fifth period Japanese 2 was quiet for once. Kendall, Megan, Sophia, Carly, Fanny, and Sharquiqui were the only people who were exempt from the final, so they sat off to the side. Everyone else had scored less than a 94%, so per Kawaguchi-sensei’s policy, they were required to take the final exam. “I’m so bored.” Kendall wrote and passed a note to Sophia. But the girl was busy studying, so she just shook her head and returned to her Pre-Calc Honors book. Sharquiqui and Sophia were both studying intently for their next and final exams. Megan and Fanny were nonchalantly doodling together, barely staving off the boredom. Ugh, this is boring. Kendall sighed to himself. He could not even enjoy his freedom with his girlfriend. Sharquiqui and Carly were talking about the potential existence of a plankton that can make your food turn glow in the dark. The wait was torturously slow. He just wanted the day to be over. The brunette drifted off to sleep.

“Hi, Kendall.” The brunette found himself in the field of flowers again. He turned around, trying to see where the voice came from. It was not the same voice as before. This was not Sophia who was calling out to him. “Who’s there?” He called, expecting a response. Nothing. There were no other people in the field as far as he could tell. “Hello?” His voice echoed off into the distance. “Who called my name?” “It was me.” A bird glided down, and perched itself in a small bed of flowers before the brunette. “Who are you?” “Darby.” It chirped. “Darby?” It was his grandfather’s name. The bird flapped it’s wings, and took off into the air. “Wait!” He beckoned, hand outstretched. It was too late. The bird had disappeared into the horizon. Before the brunette could do anything else, a white light filled the sky. The brunette woke up to a bell ringing. “Alright, see you all if Japanese 3. Unless you failed this final, in which case, you suck at life.” Kawaguchi-sensei frowned. “Hey, Kendall! Let’s go!” Megan whispered, tugging his arm. Fanny was waiting at the door for the two. “Oh, shoot. Okay, hold on.” The sophomore grabbed his bag and joined his sister and the Chinese boy in walking to the gym.

“Hey, there, Kendall!” School was finally over. Kendall, Jared, Fanny, Matt, Chloe, and Megan were greeted by Carly and Sophia. The eight of them were in the front gates of the school. “We’re finally done with another year.” Jared groaned as Fanny latched onto his shoulders affectionately. “We’re finally done with our first year.” Chloe and Megan giggled at the couple. “Well, let’s go on an adventure!” Matt proposed to everyone’s delight. The eight took off for Fanny and Kendall’s cars; Jared, Chloe, and Carly were riding with the Chinese boy, while Matt, Megan, and Sophia were with Kendall. “Alright, Chloe, you’re waiting for Megan’s text, right?” They were relying on Megan to let them know where Kendall was going to drive to. “Where are we going?” Sophia looked at her boyfriend. “Anywhere with you, it’ll be a great adventure.” He smiled at her. Matt and Megan just groaned in irritation. “Geez, stop rubbing it in that we’re single!” The two passengers crossed their arms in frustration. The couple just ignored them. Kendall was genuinely happy. This past semester, he managed to let go of a longstanding grudge, gain an incredible internship opportunity, and most importantly to him, find a girl who he was madly in love with. While he did not know for certain what his future had in store for him, Kendall knew that even if he finds himself in rock bottom, he will always find a way to soar above the obstacles, and take for the sky. Figuratively, or hopefully, literally with his dream plane, “Darby.”