Bad Together: Chapter 7

It was late at night, and the staff at Raise were scrambling to set everything up. “Hey, Jamie, I just finished placing down all of the chairs and the outside crowd dividers.” Georgio reported as he walked into the upstairs office. “Awesome! Thanks, man.” Jamie grinned. “No problem. Also, is everything okay with you and Farina?” The bouncer looked at him, curiously. “Yeah. Why do you ask?” “You seem a lot happier. I think she’s been great thing for you, man. You seem a lot less tense these days. It’s a good look on you.” “Thanks.” Jamie smirked as Georgio walked back to his post. It felt encouraging to hear that dating Farina has had so many visibly positive effects on him and the way he carried himself. “You’ve definitely been in better spirits these days.” Andy added, looking up from his desk. “I mean, you’ve been supportive of us since the beginning.” Jamie pointed out. Andy approved of Farina since he first met her, citing her to be polite, responsible, ambitious, and hardworking. She was an all-around likable human being. “I do question some of people she surrounds herself with, like that Jessica girl, but she herself, she’s not bad news. She’s a good person with her head on straight. I think she’s exactly what you need right now. Somebody who will make you feel good about yourself.” He continued, encouragingly. “Thanks, man. You know, I wouldn’t have dated her if you said she was a bitch. I trust you that much. And now we can see why. You were right about her.” Jamie smiled. It was a relief to know that Farina was somebody who could elicit the approval of so many people whose opinions he cared deeply about.

“So you guys spent the weekend together?!” Olivia and Patricia gasped. They, along with Jessica, were with Farina, and were supposed to be studying for their upcoming midterm, but instead were sidetracked by the aspiring actress’s holiday activities. “Wait, and you guys stayed at a 5-star hotel?! In a SUITE?!” Jessica especially could not believe what she was hearing. “Yup.” Farina nodded her head timidly. “Wait, how much did you pay?!” The frequent club-goer inquired. “I… don’t know actually. He insisted on paying for everything. Was being a little immature about it too. Such a manchild.” She shrugged. “Wow, such a good boyfriend!” Olivia smiled. “Yeah! That’s so sweet of him to pay for your hotel room.” Patricia added. “Oh, well, he also paid for everything on the trip. It was really awkward, because I tried to pay, but he would not let me.” She sighed. The last thing she wanted to be seen as was a gold digger, especially when she was more than capable of paying for things on her own, or rather, with her own parents’ money. She just felt bad knowing that Jamie was using his own hard-earned wages to fund their trip. “I think that you’re not being appreciative enough. You should really be having him treat you to everything. Or else he’s not a really caring boyfriend.” Jessica stated, much to the visible disagreement of Patricia and Olivia. “I don’t know about Jess, but I think you should go with your gut, Farina.” Olivia started. “Oh, shush, Liv. How many boyfriends have you had? Zero. How many has Patty had? Zero. How many have I had? Ten in the past four years. If anyone knows anything about dating, it’s me. Listen to me, and learn from my mistakes, Farina.” Jessica continued. “Let him treat you to everything. Let him spoil you, and let him treat you like the princess you rightfully are. Don’t even feel bad about it. He’s serenading you and letting you know how much you mean to him.” Despite the partial sense in Jessica’s logic, Farina could not help but feel bad. Patricia and Olivia exchanged skeptical looks, but decided it was better that Farina decided for herself what she wanted to do with her life.

“Hey, come back here, you little bitch!” A large man wearing a gray hoodie brandished a knife at an 18 year-old Farina who was just walking out of the girl’s bathroom. “What the fuck-” Before she could finish her sentence, the man continued to scream while swinging the knife. He was clearly under the influence of something, from the glossed over look in his eyes. Paralyzed for a second, Farina only snapped back into motion upon seeing a dirty-blonde female tackling the man over. “Call 999! Don’t just stand there, you fucking twat! This psycho, he’s trying to murder you!” She barked, holding down his hand with the knife in it as Farina frantically yanked out her phone and punched in the number. The moments that followed were a blur. The man was being escorted out of their dormitory, while the blonde was sitting on the stairs outside, talking to her. “You totally saved me back there. Thank you. What’s your name?” “Jessica. Jessica Untry.” “I’m Farina Liu-” “Look, I never asked for your name or your life story. But you owe me. I just saved your life. Just keep that in mind. Anything I say I want, you’ll help me get it if I ask. Understood?” She glared at the Taiwanese girl. “Okay…” She could not help but still feel indebted to the blonde, despite her aggressive behavior. A part of her wanted to believe that Jessica was a good person inherently, just by the fact that she saved her life voluntarily. A horrible, self-centered person would never try to sacrifice themselves like that. It was enough for Farina to openly welcome Jessica into her circle of friends. Even though Olivia and Patricia do not always approve of Jessica’s preferences or methods, Farina still saw the blonde as a close friend for everything that she has done for her.

Walking back to her apartment, Jessica pulled out a joint and began to huff the smoke. Being high, it was a feeling of liberation for her. She did not have to think about student debts or debts from her hobbies and interests. She had accumulated a lot of debts from those in particular. She should not even have the roll that was in her hand. But she stole it from Raise the last time she went. Taking another puff, she laughed to herself. Farina was being such a whiny little cunt, in her eyes. She should not be complaining. She’s dating a man who owns a nightclub. He could get her in anytime he or she wanted to. What she would do to have somebody like that in her life. All of the free trips she could take to the bar, and all of the connections she could make, talking to the dealers and promising them free admission in exchange for their product. Thinking to herself, she was starting to weigh the possibilities of getting into Jamie’s good graces. But to get herself in with his benefits, she would need to get close to him. And she would need to be his number one beneficiary. Not Farina. Mulling over the things that Farina complained about, the immaturity, the focus on money, the fear of being seen as a gold digger, the fibres student started to weave together a ploy to get hooked for the rest of her life. This could be her in to never have to pay for anything ever again. Who cares about Farina, anyways. She seemed to be liked by a ton of boys, even though the blonde personally thought that she looked like a skinny midget Bratz doll. Seemed to be liked. She reminded herself. Pulling out her phone, she started scrolling through FaceBook, looking at her friends. Her male friends. She was certain that at least one of them liked Farina. This could be it. The first step to becoming Jamie’s number one woman. Free drugs and alcohol and VIP club admissions for the rest of her life? Anyone would expend their friendship for that. Or at least she would.

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Bad Together: Chapter 6

“Jamie!~” Farina called playfully as she spotted the Italian American in the midst of a busy crowd. “Are you ready, Farina?” He smiled, quickly walking over to her. “Oh my god, we need to get going! We’re going to miss the train!” She gasped, looking at her watch. It was already 12:28pm, and they had just 2 minutes to make it to their ride. “Ah, shit!” He hissed as they ran off, hand in hand, pushing their way past the continuous waves of pedestrians. “It’s on platform eight!” She recited. “Got it!” He nodded, keeping his eyes peeled for a large number “8” in the blur of images that passed by him. They were going on a getaway to the countryside, specifically to Bath in Somerset, just to celebrate their two month anniversary. “Last call for the afternoon ride to Bath!” A conductor called. “We can do it!” Farina insisted, knowing full well that they were still a good five or six platforms away, and the entire station was crowded. Everyone was leaving the city to celebrate the holiday, so that was to be expected. “This is what sucks about us dating. We’re both so bad with time management!” She whined. “Speak for yourself. I’d say I’m pretty good at that.” Jamie rolled his eyes at her comment. He could not help but feel defensive towards that statement, especially since he had proven he knows when is the best timing to capitalize on an opportunity. That was the very reason behind his entire financial success. However, he had no time to process his feelings. All he could do in this very moment in time was hold onto Farina’s hand, and keep running as if his life depended on it. They spent a good amount of time and money planning this trip, and if they miss the train, then all of that effort would go to nothing. For Jamie, it would be mortifying knowing that they missed out on the chance to explore Bath. For Farina, she would not have minded either way; she was so used to having to follow details and directions to the dot, and having to be a perfect human being when she was not, so a little deviation or adaptability, she was not against doing that. However, she did want to visit Bath, and she wanted to spend some quality time with Jamie, away from the city, so for those reasons, she continued to sprint for the train.

“Augh! I can’t believe we made it in time!” Farina sighed, resting her head on Jamie’s shoulder. They were seated side by side, comfortably placed in red velvet chairs, admiring the view of the trees and landscapes passing by slowly. The city was melting away into the nature as they made their way over to Bath. “I’m so excited to be able to spend more time with you, and away from everything. I feel like before, it’s all been about work and school, but now we get to really enjoy each other’s company in a completely new setting.” She admitted. “I’m excited about that too. I want to learn more about you. We’ve been dating for quite a while now, but I still feel like I’m learning new and interesting things about you every day.” He laughed. Just a day ago, he had learned that Farina was deathly terrified of centipedes because one crawled up her leg when she was eight. A couple days before that, he found out that as an infant, Farina was a really fat baby, so her parents had to buy adult diapers to fit her. To some, those anecdotes would seem mundane, but to Jamie, they were a treasure trove of information that he embraced. Everything he could learn about Farina, he wanted to. The parts of her past that helped her grow into the person she is now, and how her current aspirations are going to mold her into the person that she wants to be. For Farina, she was looking forward to knowing more about Jamie as well. He came from such a different background from her. She was used to working with a silver spoon in her mouth. Jamie never had such a silver spoon until a couple years ago, and even then, he bought that silver spoon for himself. She was hoping that by spending more time with somebody like that, she could learn to gain and match that level of ambition and diligence for her own craft and skills. She was inspired to be dating somebody like him. “Attention passengers! We are arriving at the platform in Bath soon. Please make sure to grab your belongings and make your way out of the carts in an orderly fashion. Thank you and we hope that you enjoy your stay.” The intercom ended.

“This is so cool!” Farina gasped, soaking in the view. Trees draped the horizon, wrapping around rows upon rows of charming, rustic buildings that remained unchanged since the 18th Century. As a student of the fine arts, Farina had to study Shakespearean literature and about the Renaissance in general, so she could not believe what she was seeing with her own two eyes. She was definitely not in London, that was for sure. Being in Bath, it was like stepping into a time machine. Jamie could not help but smile from seeing this side of Farina. He was so used to seeing to aloof and gentle model, so to see her so enthusiastic, albeit uncharacteristically, he appreciated it. It meant that she was able to open up and be comfortable around him. Or at least enough to show a new dimension of her personality. “Don’t forget, if we’re in Bath, we need to see the main attractions.” He reminded her. As nice as it was to see her this enthusiastic, they came here with an agenda in mind. The first stop was their hotel, small but elegant chateau called The Bath Priory. The two had chosen to stay at this hotel during their three day trip because the appearance and layout of the building was so fitting to the indigenous area, being inspired by more archaic times. After checking into their suite and dropping off their things, the pair of lovebirds took off yet again. 

“Wow! Look!” Farina excitedly pointed at the large, marble pillars that surrounded the steaming pool of water. The Roman Baths were a gorgeous sight, although the couple could not help but think that they could have enjoyed the water more in other ways. “I wish we could take a dip.” Jamie whispered into her ear suggestively. “Oh, shush. Just because I model doesn’t mean that I’m some loose tart that you can just fuck off, you know?” She laughed. “Oh, my apologies.” Jamie snorted. Raising an eyebrow at him in disbelief, the actress just shrugged off his behavior. “Let’s keep looking around.” She sighed, as they walked off to check out Shakespeare’s house instead. Walking along the cobblestone sidewalk, Farina could not help but but laugh at how rustic the experience was; her heels were getting repeatedly lodged between the spaces, which resulting in Jamie having to pull her out. “Here we are.” He sighed as the two finally made their way to the house, the club owner practically carrying her at this point. “Yay!” She beamed. This was an iconic estate. She was so excited to finally see the how of somebody she had to learn so much about. “Hm. Not that impressive. I’m pretty sure if that wasn’t his house, they would have torn it down. It would not be worth nearly as much.” Jamie scoffed. Taken aback from his comment, Farina decided that maybe they needed to change gears a bit. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she brought his face close to hers. “Happy two months, Farina.” The Italian American smiled, caressing her face. “It has been the best two months of my life.” She beamed, cradling his cheeks and pulling him closer for a kiss.

Bad Together: Chapter 5

Groggily getting up to the sound of his alarm, Jamie rolled out of bed. Before doing anything else, he made sure to send a ‘good morning!’ text to Farina before starting his day. While he worked and operated a night club, he would still need to get up on the weekdays around 9am the latest to start his every day routine. The first thing would be going to the club, and running through the finances with Andy. “So we still made a profit of 700,000 pounds last night, and it was a Wednesday. Running that promotion was a smart idea.” The Italian commended his general manager. “Wine Wednesdays, they sell.” He shrugged. After running down the profit and loss analysis together, they would then go into potential promotions they can have, as well as go through the logistics of which vendors and people would need to be contacted to make said promotions happen. “So get the social media team to start posting about the upcoming event the moment he gets back to us. I’m 90% certain he’ll say yes to performing because we helped him start out and how he’s on the radio.” Jamie assured Andy. “Alright, sounds good.” The African American nodded before heading off. For the rest of the day between now and 7pm, Jamie had this time to relax and do whatever he wanted. Most of that time went to talking with Farina, catching a quick lunch if possible, as well as an early dinner, and somehow fitting in time to go to the gym. “Well, I have to go back to the club. We’re doing our Thirsty Thursdays campaign, so club goers will get 15% off their drinks if they come in before 9pm.” Jamie sighed, getting up from his chair. He hated having to say goodbye to Farina. “Well, good luck, okay? It was nice to at least get dinner and lunch with you.” She smiled softly. Seeing that face, it made it even harder to have to part ways. But he had to; Raise was his club, and he needed to be there to run it.

Even before her alarm would go off, Farina, wide away, just laid there in bed, combing through her thoughts and making sure she knew what needed to be done for her current day. “So I have two finish writing those two papers, there was also my monologue, and then troupe meeting tonight, right before dinner with Jamie. I think I should have time to meet up with him for lunch too, since my 11am was cancelled today.” She recited while brushing her teeth. “Good work on your monologues, everyone!” Her professor called as class let out. It was 11am on a Thursday, and normally, Farina would be off to her next class. But today, she was meeting up with Jamie for lunch. “Thank you, Professor Smithswood, and being sick with the flu.” She smiled to herself. Any excuse to hang out with Jamie, and without any consequences? It was the icing on the cake for her. Normally, she would text Jamie every day, while things like dinner were typical, and lunch, occasional. Regardless of how often they interacted, Farina always looked forward to their time together; being around somebody like Jamie, who had long since put college behind him, it helped her escape from a ton of her stress that came from school. When she was with him, projects, meetings, deadlines, they all did not matter to her. It felt like time was standing still. “Well, I need to go back to the club. We’re doing our Thirsty Thursdays campaign, so club goers will get 15% off their drinks if they come in before 9pm.” Jamie sighed, getting up. It was the end of their dinner, and it made Farina sad; she had to face the music and go to her troupe meeting, since they needed to prepare for a performance as a part of their method acting class. But she could not complain; in just one day, she got two meals with somebody she loved, and she was able to get through two papers and a monologue not even thinking about any of them; she was too transfixed with Jamie and being with him.

It was finally Saturday, and that meant that Farina could grab breakfast with Jamie. “You’re getting the eggs Benedict?” He laughed at her. “What were expecting me to get?” Farina looked at him defensively. “I don’t know. I mean I was expecting something a little more… financially worthwhile? If you’re going to pay for it, make sure it’s something actually worth your money.” He smirked as she shrugged. “Hey, I like to class it up once in a while. Throw money around carelessly, you know?” They chuckled together at that remark. During the weekends, they would spend the entire day together, up until later at night, where Jamie would typically go back to the club for closing, while she would retire to his apartment and sleep early. “What did you want to do for the rest of the day?” He looked at her. “Let’s go shopping?” She suggested. “Sure.” Farina beamed; she was lucky to have a boyfriend who actually liked to shop with her. At first, she was suspicious that he was gay, but he actually just liked ogling at her in whatever outfits she wore. After an entire afternoon spent shopping, the pair retired to a small restaurant in Chinatown for dinner. By dinner, they were mostly spending time together, reminiscing about their day, and talking about what they still want to do the following day. By the end of dinner, Jamie would have to head back to the club, which was probably the one part of the weekend that Farina did not particularly enjoy. What she liked about spending the weekend nights with him was that they could be together for even more time. Being with Jamie made Farina forget about everything that ever worried her; he was so different from the rest of the people in her life and she appreciated that difference. Theatre students were dramatic, fake, and superficial. Jamie was down-to-earth, practical, and straightforward. To her, those qualities made him incredibly attractive. “Well, I’ll see you tonight.” He smiled as they kissed. With that, he was off.

Jamie would usually start his Saturdays in breakfast with Farina. “You’re getting the eggs Benedict?” He laughed at her choice. Seeing her get the eggs Benedict was actually painful; from a cost and price analysis, Farina was walking into a financial sand pit; nothing about the ingredients that went into an eggs Benedict would constitute paying 30 pounds for it. “Hey, I like to class it up once in a while. Throw money around carelessly, you know?” It was comments like those that reminded Jamie of how different of an upbringing he had from Farina. But at the same time, she was such a caring, kindhearted, and inwardly and outwardly beautiful person that he could overlook that fundamental difference in morals and values. After an afternoon of watching and remembering why Farina was such a successful model, the pair made their way to a small restaurant in Chinatown to enjoy dinner together; despite never really having Asian food, it was interesting for Jamie to experience Farina’s culture. Things like whole steamed fish and leafy vegetables, stewed meats in brown sauce, and light, fluffy white rice, all new to him. But he had no time to appreciate that; he needed to head off to work soon. It might be the weekends, but as the owner of the club, Jamie had to be there every day, to some capacity. But he looked forward to when he returned to his apartment. Knowing that he would be able to crawl back into bed, and snuggle up with Farina after a long night’s work, it made his nights pass by a lot faster. Spending the weekends and weekdays with this exotic, beautiful, and charismatic young lady, it inspired Jamie to work harder and be a better young business owner. He wanted to prove to her that he was good enough for somebody as privileged and talented as she was.

Bad Together: Chapter 4

A couple days had passed and it was already the next Friday. Farina stood in line, waiting excitedly. “Ah crap, I’m running late.” Jamie sighed as he got out of his Uber and darted off for the London Eye. Neither of them have ever been and it was the sight of their next date. Jamie was slightly nervous; one of his fears was heights and being out of control of his own fate. Planes, roller coasters, trains, and ferris wheels, they all made him feel uneasy, especially knowing that he has to entrust his life in the hands of some complete stranger. But he wanted to do this. It was about time he conquered a fear, and especially in front of somebody he really liked. But he had to make sure he did not keep her waiting for much longer. “Farina?!” He shouted, finally running into a crowd of people waiting to board the attraction. “Hey, wait in line!” An angry tourist barked at him. “Oh, no. He’s with me, sir.” Farina poked her head out of the crowd, certain she heard her name being shouted by Jamie. “Hey, sorry for the wait.” He felt bad for making her stand there for him. “Oh, don’t worry about it. I’m the kind of girl who likes to come to things 15-30 minutes early anyways.” She shrugged. Farina was used to waiting for others, so this nothing out of the ordinary for her. Patience was something instilled in her from a young age, hence why the theatre student was able to befriend almost everybody, especially people like Jessica. “Well, are you ready for the ride? I’m so excited!” She clapped her hands. It was a new side to Farina for Jamie to see. Normally, she was somebody who exuded low energy, so an enthusiastic Farina was a rare sight to behold. “I just love city views. Seeing the giant buildings and landscapes, it helps remind me why I wanted to be an actress in the first place. I wanted to be a famous actress who can hit the big city and enjoy a civilized lifestyle.” She beamed. “You mean you weren’t always a city girl?” “Oh, of course not!” She laughed.

Farina was born in Guangzhou, China, but moved to Linkou, Taiwan, when her parents relocated for work. Back then, she went by Liu Xiaofei, which was to represent her spontaneity, creativity, and easygoing nature, according to her mother. Once she enrolled in the Taiwanese European School, she changed her name to Farina Liu, since they were required to have Americanized names. Since she was specifically in the British school, she was taught English and was given an immersive experience in British culture. However, she was raised in the Yangmei District of Taiwan, where the lifestyle was more low-country and suburban. Ever since she was young, Farina was already scouted by agencies for commercials and advertisements; she started modeling on and off from the tender age of five, and since then, she had never stopped, even when she tried to. While she did commute for school and modeling work every day, she hardly ever considered actually living in a city environment until she had to get ready for university applications and visited universities and schools throughout Europe, China, and Taiwan. Traveling through the city after city, it was an eyeopening experience for her. She had always known she wanted to do something either modeling or acting related, but it was not until she saw the plays on Broadway that she set her sights on London. While she was more interested in becoming a film actress in China, seeing these performers and how impassioned they were on and offstage, she wanted to bring that level of artistry and dedication back to screens all over Asia. It was when she got into Central Saint Martins that she felt a sense of self confidence in what she was doing. Farina felt like she was heading in the right direction with her life.

“Wow! Look at it! It’s breathtaking!” Farina was too busy admiring the view of the entire city to realize that Jamie was trembling. All the former stockbroker was thinking about was the cart and hoping that the screws stay intact and that they all don’t plummet to their deaths. “It’s beautiful.” Jamie murmured, still trying his best not to let Farina realize that he was internally terrified beyond belief. “Hey, what’s wrong?” She finally turned over, realizing that Jamie had been acting strange the entire time. “Oh, nothing.” He tried to lie through his teeth, but was clearly failing to do so convincingly. “You’re lying.” She raised an eyebrow at him, frowning. “Okay, well I should have told you this beforehand, but I’m…. deathly terrified of heights and being in vehicles like roller coasters and planes. There’s just this feeling of helplessness, like not being in control of my life, that I don’t like.” He confessed. “Oh… well, I feel bad now. I just made you do this. I’m sorry.” Farina could not help but feel horrible for subjecting Jamie to this uneasiness. “No, I wanted to do it, though. It was about time I confronted my fears. I’m 26, I own my own business, and I’m still afraid of heights? I can’t let that be the case anymore.” He insisted, much to her surprise. “Wow. I appreciate that mentality.” She beamed at him, holding onto his arm. “And don’t worry. If we do fall, at least we have each other. I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s true, right?” She giggled. “You’re right. On both counts. That was way too cheesy, and I’m Italian!” He chuckled back at her, adding to the incredibly bad jokes. But it was that sense of comfortability that helped Jamie through the rest of the ride. He forgot about possibly falling to his demise. All he was thinking about was being with Farina, and how it made him feel invincible. Nothing scared him anymore, with her by his side.

“I had a great time tonight.” Farina smiled at Jamie as he walked her back to her apartment. They had just finished dinner and were ending yet another date. This was number five now. “I know it’s a bit forward for me to ask this, but Farina, I really like you.” Jamie started. She could already tell where this was going, and the aspiring actress could not withhold her excitement. “Farina, would you-” “Yes! I will!” She smiled. Jamie frowned. “You didn’t let me finish there.” He shook his head. “I think I know what I’m agreeing to.” She insisted. “Alright, perfect. So I’ll come by tomorrow to harvest your kidneys and sell them on the black market.” He teased while she smirked at him coyly. “Boy, you can harvest my kidneys any time, okay?” She offered jokingly. “This is why I like you so much. And that is why, beyond obviously wanting to harvest and sell your kidneys, I was wondering if we can finally put a label on this? I’d like us to be exclusive. Somebody as incredible as you, I want you to be my girlfriend.” He confessed. “Jamie, all I can say is no. To harvesting my organs or whatever. That part is really weird. But yes, I would love that.” She beamed at him as they kissed. It was not the first time they had done that, but it was the first kiss they shared as an actual couple. It felt like it lasted for a second, but it lasted much, much longer than that. Then again, that was with anything enjoyable in life. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow, boyfriend.” She smiled as they finally parted ways. “Sure thing, girlfriend.” Jamie beamed back at her as he watched her walk into her building. They were both the happiest they had been for a long, long time. In Farina’s case, she wanted to move past Joseph. In Jamie’s case, this was his first relationship ever. They both had felt like they were meant to be together. This relationship was supposed to happen. Without a doubt.

Bad Together: Chapter 3

“So how was it?” Olivia looked at Farina eagerly. The two were with another one of their friends, a tall tanned girl named Patricia, working together on a project for their graphic design elective. “I can’t believe you guys actually got into Raise. And that you spent one on one time with the owner! That’s crazy.” Patricia laughed in disbelief. It was not an everyday thing to see Jamie Cortina, the young-gun owner of Raise, let alone spend the night with him. “Well, he is not as tall as the photos make him out to look.” Farina laughed. “Says the pot to the kettle.” Olivia snorted. “What’s that supposed to mean?” The Taiwanese girl rolled her eyes at the remark. Olivia was referring to Farina’s modeling career; despite being only 5’1”, Farina was already a model, and every time she goes to an event, the first thing people tell her is that they thought she would be taller in person. “It sounds like he’s perfect for you. You guys can be deceptively short together!” Patricia teased. “Oh, shush. But it was a magical night, for sure. The height only bothered me for a second. And he was just a really… kind and considerate person.” She sighed, contently. Every single thought she has had since she went to Raise yesterday was of him. Whether it was just imagining what his childhood was like, or thinking about how kind and selfless he was, letting her in despite the drama Jessica caused, giving her a private tour of the club, and even giving her his jacket when he was worried she was cold. Most guys just wanted to sleep with her. But he seemed different. He seemed to be genuinely interested in learning more about her. They had been texting each other constantly since then, talking about the little things in their everyday lives, and even now, she was eagerly waiting for him to text her back in regards to what he was up to that day. Talking with him, it was fun. He lived such a different life from her, and being able to have a peek into the life of a successful club owner, it was really interesting. She was enjoying herself, and it seemed that the attraction was mutual. Or at least that’s how she chose to view it. He did not seem completely repulsed by her, nor was he just giving her short, one word responses that would insinuate a lack of interest. But all she could do was assume and hope that whatever feelings she had for him, they were reciprocated.

In his office, Jamie was looking at the numbers from the previous night, while also looking at his phone, waiting for a text notification. Their texts started with small talk, such as talking about what they were doing that day, but he just wanted to get into the deeper topics, about things like life aspirations. Having dealt with a lot of fake backstabbers in Wall Street, Jamie was a bit nervous to be pursuing a relationship with somebody as outwardly beautiful as Farina. At the same time, he felt that her personality, it was kind and gentle. She did not look like the type of person who would just use him for a free tour of Raise. “You seemed to have a fun night, yesterday.” Andy smirked, walking into the room. His arms were visibly bruised from having to separate a few fights the prior day, but he was used to being the brute force and last resort when the bouncers and security guards could not handle riots caused by the club-goers’. “You’re looking really peachy. I haven’t seen you this happy ever.” He continued, much to Jamie’s embarrassment. “Well, she’s banging. But she’s got a great personality too, and she’s smart and really talented, so she’s the total package.” He sighed, enamored by Farina. During their night together, he got a chance to see her acting and modeling portfolios, and she was definitely going to be a successful actress down the line. She was gorgeous, great at playing a variety of characters, ranging from a successful businesswoman to a high schooler to even a young nun. He had never quite met somebody like her. She was unique, and a breath of fresh air for him. Most women only ever wanted to sleep with him for the perks. But with her, she did not try to do any of that. Granted, he never really gave her the opportunity to try any of those moves on him; Jamie was too quick to offer up free admission and a one on one tour. But she seemed to be genuinely interested in knowing more about him. Suddenly, his phone buzzed. The club owner could feel his heart skip a beat as he scooped up his phone and read the text, wanting to respond as quickly as possible. “Hey, did you want to go out on Saturday?” He needed her to know that he really wanted this conversation to keep continuing. He never wanted it to end. “What time?” She sent back.

It was a foggy afternoon in London that Saturday. But she didn’t mind it. Farina was not thinking about anything other than meeting up with Jamie. They were going to spend the day over some afternoon tea, something a little more casual and laid back. Farina smirked to herself. Even though she had been going to school in London for three years now, she had never been to afternoon tea; she was always too busy with projects or internships, and she really never had a reason to go. Until now, that is. Her first high tea, and with somebody she genuinely wanted to spend time with. It had been a while since her last relationship, which happened back in Taiwan. It was with a young man, Joseph, who she had been dating since middle school, until halfway through high school. He was a charismatic young man, at least that was what she thought when she first dated him. Everyone like him for being this tall, smart, and handsome jock. But he turned out to be a elitist, rude, and condescending person, and he broke up with her the moment she confessed to him that she wanted to pursue theatre. “Good luck finding a job with a theatre arts degree. I refuse to date somebody who is trying to leech off my success.” He rolled his eyes before walking away. It devastated her at first, but Farina managed to pull herself back together, and focused on her career. She took every opportunity to model and act, and did whatever she needed to do so that her name could get out there. Commercials, internships, modeling gigs, networking events, awards shows, she attended everything, head shots and business cards ready, in hopes that she would get discovered. And while she did get into quite a few small things here and there, she knew that her big break had yet to come. 

“Here it is.” Jamie looked up from his Google Maps app. It was a very neat, clean white building. The Eccleston Square Hotel, a boutique property known for their tea parties. This was where he was meeting Farina. It was an exciting feeling. He could not wait to see her again. Surprisingly, the Italian American was not nervous. He was looking forward to spending more time with her. In a lot of ways, Farina was mysterious, but beautiful. He wanted to uncover the question mark that was this gorgeous, seemingly perfect person, and learn to love her for both her perfections and faults. Growing up, Jamie never had the time to date. He was busy putting himself through school, college, and making as much money as he possibly could. But he never understood the need to be nervous for a date. It was just another interaction between people, where you learn more about each other. It was almost no different from a business meeting for him. Maybe with less formalities, but that was how he talked himself out of being scared or uneasy about meeting up with the model and aspiring actress. Business as usual. He thought to himself. Opening the doors, he was just thinking about her and how much he could not wait to see her again. “Jamie!” She smiled, waiting inside of the lobby. Walking over to him, they met in an embrace. “I’m so glad to see you again!” She started. “You look gorgeous, as always.” He smiled at her, admiring her outfit and appearance. While she was wearing quite a few expensive labels, Farina could have worn a garbage bag and still looked beautiful in Jamie’s eyes. She was the textbook definition of the word ‘gorgeous’.

“So you’re telling me that you’ve never been to afternoon tea before?” He raised an eyebrow in disbelief. “I just never had time or really a reason to try it, you know?” Farina shrugged, taking a sip of her tea. It was a dark Darjeeling, aromatic and bitter. Quickly offsetting that with a white chocolate and cranberry studded scone, the fine arts student was enjoying her time. “But I’m glad I did, and I’m glad I got to have my first high tea with you!” She smiled. “Wait, is this your first time?” Farina asked, wondering if this was something Jamie did on dates with any girl. “Oh, no. This isn’t. I went with Andy when we first moved over here. And then a couple times with business partners and investors. I just like the environment. It’s relaxing.” He chuckled. Farina tried her best not to laugh at the image of Jamie and Andy attending high tea together. It must have been a sight to behold, seeing two fully grown men fumbling with tiny tea cups and even tinier treats. “Hey, what’s so funny?” He looked at her, clearly noticing her failing attempts to refrain from laughing. “Oh, it’s nothing. What’s your favorite thing that we’ve had so far?” She tried to change the subject, but to no avail. “Okay, for an actress, you’re not convincing me that something’s off. Just spill it. I’m a grown man. I can handle the truth.” He insisted. “Well, it was just the thought of you and Andy having tea together. It-” “It must sound hilarious, right? Trust me, we were laughing our asses off the whole time.” He finished. It was obvious this was not the first time he told this anecdote to somebody. There was something about his directness that appealed to Farina. Unlike a lot of the young men in her classes, Jamie was not this flamboyant, over the top, or passive aggressive personality. He was direct and clearly no-frills. She felt like she could be herself around him. It was clear that trying to put on an act just did not work for the club owner. And yet she loved it.

Bad Together: Chapter 2

“Hey, let me go! RAPE! RAPE! Help! This bloody motherfucker is trying to VIOLATE me!” Jessica shrieked kicking away at the bouncer who was trying to usher her away from Raise. Farina stood there, unable to think. All that was going through her mind was the sight of her friend making a spectacle out of herself, all just to get into a nightclub. It was embarrassing to think that Jessica was actually two years older than her. For a 23 year-old, Jessica was acting worse than a spoiled teenager. “Hey! What the hell is the big idea?!” Andy roared, running out to the front. “Oh my god! Thank goodness you’re here. That mean man, he’s trying to molest me.” She cried, running over to him while pointing at the guard. “Georgio, is this true?” The co-owner looked at him skeptically. “Of course not. That girl, she’s ridiculous. She was making a huge scene, so I called you guys to help with the escort.” He explained. “I just want to get into the club.” She looked up at Andy, who was visibly annoyed. “Right now, I have a big issue. Do I ban you for life, or do I send you to an insane asylum?” Andy sighed. “Hey, what happened?” Jamie walked out, taking notice of Andy, Farina, and Georgio standing next to Jessica. “Huh?” He found himself dumbstruck. Standing between Andy and Georgio was easily one of the most beautiful girls he had ever seen. Slim, petite, with gorgeously smooth skin, dark, long hair, and eyes that had a soft, endearing look to them. The nightclub owner found himself speechless. “Hey, what’s the big issue here?” He snapped back in reality, realizing that he needed to address the main issue here: the blonde girl who was making a huge commotion. “This one, she’s been throwing accusations at Georgio. She’s trouble.” Andy gestured towards her. “Lies. They were going to gang rape me, these big blokes.” She protested, desperate to avoid any blame. “Is she with you?” Jamie looked over at Farina. “Yeah…” Farina felt like any chance of going out tonight had long passed. There was no way that she was going to avoid any trouble, especially now that she announced that she was associated with Jessica. “I see.” Jamie pondered.

There was a moment of silence outside of the club. It was getting a little cold, and nobody was doing anything. Everyone was waiting for Jamie’s call. “Andy, Georgio, let it slide. Even though she’s a troublemaker, I think we can rely on her friend to make sure that they don’t cause any more issues. She seems like a reliable person.” He looked over at Farina. She could feel herself blushing. Even though he was not the tallest guy around, he still had this charm to him. An enthusiasm that she appreciated. “Thanks.” She smiled, completely forgetting about Jessica and how much drama she had just caused. “You guys are free to come in.” Jamie gestured. “Boo!” “Don’t let the racist in!” The club-goers waiting in line protested, to the avail of nobody. It was too late: Jamie had already let the two into Raise. “You really need to be careful who you let into your life.” Andy frowned at his friend, unhappy with his choice. As somebody who was always treated unfairly for both his race and general appearance, the idea of bending the rules for a pretty face never really bode well with the burlier man. Any privileges and opportunities should be earned, something that both himself and Jamie embodied. Neither of them started out with much, but they made something out of themselves by being ambitious. “So welcome to Raise.” Jamie looked at the two, who were both ecstatic to finally be in the club. “This is sick!” Jessica squealed before running off into the crowd. “Hey, wait for me!” Farina called, but it was too late. The older girl had already ditched her. “Well, if you don’t have a plus one to worry about, how about I show you around? It’s your first time in Raise, right?” Jamie smiled. “Yeah.” She nodded softly at him before the two walked up the stairs to get a better view of the entire scene.

Walking down the hallways, Farina tried her best not to make eye contact with people. It was a typical day at school for her. She was always the source of many of her classmates’ attention and gossip. Being a part-time model, and an aspiring singer and actress, she was definitely somebody people could not take their eyes off of. At first, it was flattering, as she was somebody with relatively low self-esteem; before uni, she was a shy and awkward girl who never tried to use make-up. Attending the Taiwanese European School, Farina was a diligent student who was trying her best to keep her options open by studying everything she could and striving to maintain a 4.0 GPA, which she did. Yet she was somehow re-scouted to be a model during her first year in London, when she was clubbing for one of the first times, with Jessica. It was one of the rare times that she actually tried to dress up, and a scout told her that she had a good look. A couple modeling shots later, and she went viral on social media. 8,000 internet stalkers on Instagram later, and Farina was hoping that she could retain that following as she branched into performing and theatre instead, declaring that concentration at the end of her second year at Central Saint Martins. “Hey, isn’t that Farina Liu?” A girl whispered to her friend. “She’s not as pretty as her pics. She’s totally using photoshop.” Her envious friend shot back. The aspiring actress rolled her eyes at that comment. She didn’t care. The moment she let any of those shallow remarks from complete strangers get the her, she would find herself in a dark place. She never really let what other people said get to her. And that was why she was able to be good at what she did; amongst the theatre students, she was one of the most beloved in the school, almost always taking the leads in student productions, and having a handful of roles in multiple popular television series and movies. “Rina!” Close to twenty girls ran up to her. They were her friends. “Are you ready to hit the town tonight? I’m stoked that we get to go to Raise!” Jessica jumped up and down eagerly. “Oh, you know it, girl.” Farina laughed with her. “I wish I could go. Damn it, I’m so annoyed that my exam is on Monday.” An Ethiopian girl, Olivia, frowned. The biggest thing about Farina that made her so likable to other students, despite the typical first impression she would leave on them, is that she did not take herself too seriously. She was pretty, smart, and fun-loving. Everyone who got to know Farina could not help but fall in love with her personality.

And falling for her was what Jamie did too. The two retreated to his office, getting away from the chaos of the club. “Wait, so you had to wash your feet off in the fountain at Regent Park?!” Jamie laughed. “I had no choice! It’s not my fault that a baby chose to pee on me!” Farina joined in. Even though it was not a fun experience being urinated on, she still found it amusing to re-tell the story of when visiting the park on an art assignment went awry. “The worst was when I had to turn in my materials to the professor. My notebook smelled horrible. And my professor, definitely trying really hard not to judge me.” She chuckled. “You’re honestly hilarious. I can’t believe you took the entire situation so well!” Jamie was amused by her. From just that story alone, he felt like Farina was a really down to earth and relatable person. Even though she was drop dead gorgeous, there was something more to her than just her good looks. “But enough about that. How about you? Any mortifying experiences?” She smirked as she poured herself another glass of wine. “Oh where do I even start? There was that time my brothers and I tried to shoplift. Our mom, she beat our asses with a wooden spoon, like a stereotypical angry Italian mother.” He laughed. “Oh, trust me, I’ve been there. My mom did the same thing to me with a recorder. They don’t care about child abuse in Taiwan.” She rolled her eyes and cross her arms. “Are you cold?” Jamie was just starting to notice that she was wearing a sleeveless dress and that his office had the air conditioner blasting. “I mean, a little. But the wine is keeping me warm.” She reassured him jokingly, taking another sip from her glass, her lips just brushing against the rim as she quietly swallowed some of the dark crimson, almost purple liquid. Damn, she looks so sexy doing that. Jamie thought to himself, before shaking off any urges to sleep with her. There was an obvious level of seductiveness to Farina. He could not deny that. 

Farina was always used to being asked out by the same type of guy: tall jocks who always thought with their pants. Those dates were never fun. They were always only interested in themselves, and they never knew how to be considerate. She was hoping that in uni, going to school in the UK, it would be different. But it never was. Underneath those British accents were men with the same intentions; they just wanted to be dating somebody who they could control. They wanted to ride out a high of knowing that somebody like her was submitting to them. It was pathetic. But Jamie, he was different. Firstly, he was not a tall dude-bro type of guy. He did not look like a stereotypical frat boy. He looked responsible, hard working, and he was smart and humble. Even though he was not the type of person she would be attracted to immediately, his personality definitely won her over. He seemed to be trying really hard to make sure that she was being cared for. Normally, the type of attention Farina would receive, it was just shallow compliments to her appearance. But Jamie, he was actually listening to what she was saying, and he was having a real conversation with her. It was a refreshing thing to know that there are guys out there who care about her thoughts and opinions, and can have a stimulating discussing with her. She was finding herself increasingly more attracted to him. Though it might just be the wine. “Here.” He placed a coat over her shoulders. “It’s not much, but hopefully it’ll keep you warm. I’ll also try to turn the AC up a little bit. We can’t have you freezing in here.” He smiled. She wanted to learn more about him. How did an Italian American end up in London? He was genuinely interesting to her. And she could tell that he was genuinely interested in her as well. This sort of mutual attraction, she wanted to capitalize on it while she could. “Here’s my number, before I forget.” She wrote it down on a piece of paper, and handed it off to him. “You’re making it sound like the night is going to end early for us.” He teased, though this was a ruse to his nervousness; he really did not want her to leave. “I’m only just doing this before I forget.” She laughed before cuddling up with him.

Bad Together: Chapter 1

“Hello, London! Are you guys ready to party?!” A short man wearing shades shouted into a microphone. “YEAH!” The crowd roared. They were in a large room with multicolored strobe lights. The man was on a stage, behind turn tables equipped with two large speakers and an entire surround system that covered the entire ceiling. “Then let’s turn it up!” He added on a record, as large beats started pounding through the club, shaking the entire building. Meanwhile, at the front door, several people were trying to get into the club, but to no avail. “I swear, I’m on the VIP list! Let me go, asshole! I’ll give you a good beating to the head, you piece of shit!” A relatively young man in his early 20s shouted as the bouncer dragged him away. “Oh my god…” An Asian girl with long dark hair and a lean face looked in shock as they both disappeared into the darkness of the streets at night. “Well, that was awkward.” Her friend, a slightly taller blonde with sunken in eyes smirked. “Are you sure that won’t happen to us?” The Asian girl, Farina, looked visibly concerned. The last thing she wanted was to be dragged away in her five inch pumps. “Don’t worry, I know a guy. I’m just ready to finally get into the local.” Her friend, Jessica, insisted. They were in line to hopefully enter Raise, one of the most exclusive nightclubs in the city. “How did you know a guy exactly?” “Well, my cocaine dick, he’s got an in with one of the barbacks, who has an in with the bouncers, who owe them a solid for all of the free drinks they get at night that should otherwise be thrown away.” Jessica explained; as somebody who loved to sleep with multiple men for different drugs, she stopped referring to a lot of them by their name, but instead as the drug they provided her, followed by the word ‘dick’. There were plenty of ‘dick’s in Jessica’s life, from ecstasy dick to cocaine dick to Farina’s amusement, acid dick and weed dick. “Well, if your drug dealer can’t get us in, I guess we can go get high as fuck.” She joked around, knowing full well that Jessica would drugs that anyways. “Hells yeah! Now you’re talking my fucking language, girl. Let’s get chuffed!” She posed with her hand up, expecting a high-five. Farina ignored her. Despite how she was acting towards Jessica, Farina did need a break from school and responsibility. Being a senior in an art university, every day was stressful. She just wanted to get away from all of the projects and deadlines.

“Wow, so how many people tonight?” A somewhat short man with dark, slicked back hair walked over to a burly African American man. “Well, we have 300 on the wait list, but the bouncers have already let in 150.” He read off his tablet. “That’s pretty damn impressive.” He laughed. “We’re just going into our first year next month, and we’ve already made back the 5 million we put into this.” “Actually, 3.5 million pounds. You’re counting in dollars, bruh.” The African man, Andy laughed. “Well, we earned that money in Wall Street, and we’re both American, so of course I’ll think about it in our original currency.” The Italian America, Jamie, laughed. Jamie was originally born in Long Island, New York. Growing up, he lived a relatively simple life. His father was a plumber, his mother was a typically tough Italian American mom who would beat her kids with a wooden spoon to set him, his two older brothers, and little sister straight. Money was a bit of an issue growing up, but they were never homeless. They just all had to work part time jobs together to pay off the bills, such as working in a deli with their mom or waitering or cashiering. Jamie went to school at Fordham University for finance, became an investment banker in Wall Street, and by the time he was 25, had raised enough money to move to London and open his own nightclub, Raise. As a student, he was so focused on making money because he never wanted to have to do the backbreaking labor his father had to do to only partially provide for them. But when he finally made a fortune, he wanted to do fun things. The reason why he wanted to open a nightclub was to make up for the fact that in uni, he never got to party. Raise was Jamie’s way to continue making money, while being able to live out the life in school he never had.

Andy has been Jamie’s righthand man since he started as in Wall Street. Andy was born in Harlem and raised by a single mother along with his little brother, Jacob. He would often have to steal for him and his brother because their mother was out often; she worked as a table dancer. When he was 25, three years prior to the present, he was running into student debts and tried to rob a man to pay off the loans; that man was Jamie. “Hey, put your hands in the air, you piece of shit!” He yelled, holding a knife up to the man’s neck. “Is it money you want?” He rolled his eyes. “Yeah. Give me your wallet!” “Here, I’ll do you one more solid. How much?” “What?” He was not sure what was going on. “You have a huge set of balls, just to try robbing somebody like that. Clearly, you’re in need of money, because you’re threatening me with a steak knife. Men like you are tenacious, but they have a price. I want you to name your price.” He looked at him. “One million dollars!” “Alright.” Jamie grabbed a pen and checkbook out of his pocket and started writing in it. “Here you go. And also, here’s my number. Somebody like you, you can do much better than being a robber. You can make an actual difference helping others.” He smirked as Andy accepted the check and Jamie’s offer. At that moment, Jamie had changed his life. Andy was able to not only pay off his student loans, but also give the rest of the money to his mother and brother. His wages as Jamie’s bodyguard also helped pay the bills, and he was able to turn his life around and start making an honest living. He owed his life to the banker. Which was why when Jamie proposed opening a nightclub in London, Andy agreed without hesitation; he would follow him until his death. Like Jamie said, men like Andy had a price, and it was in this case, a stable job and the removal of his student debt. “Anyways, we need to focus on the present. So with 150 people in, that means that we should have made about 12,000 pounds from the entry fee alone.” “Awesome.” Jamie clapped his hands. Tonight was a great night for business. It was only 8pm, and the club was already packed. With drinks, they would expect to make about another 15,000 pounds from people who are already in there, not even counting the people from the wait list. “Oh wait, what?” The security radio was ringing. “There’s a fight. Come down now!” A relatively panicked voice shouted. It was Georgio, one of the bouncers. “Ah shit, we have a situation in the entrance.” Andy frowned.

“Can I see your tickets please?” The bouncer looked at the two girls. He needed to scan the QR codes on their phones to let them into the club. “Oh, hold on. Let me pull up the email.” Jessica rummaged through her phone. “Ah, here it is. Look.” She handed him the phone with an email thread between her, her ‘cocaine dick’, the barback, and one of the bouncers. “Ma’am, this isn’t a ticket.” He frowned. “What the actual fucking shit?!” She screamed as one of the security guards grabbed her by the arm and started to drag her away. “You’ll fucking pay for this, you piece of shit n-” Luckily, the music from the club was too loud for Farina to properly hear what Jessica said, but judging from the aghast looks from everyone surrounding her, especially the African bouncer and club-goers that were plastered onto their faces, it was pretty evident it was not anything short of a racial slur. “Let me fucking at this bitch!” An offended female club-goer screamed, running after Jessica, who was already preoccupied with getting freed from the bouncer, who had to start trying to break them up. “We have a situation.” Another bouncer standing right next to Farina spoke into his walkie talkie. “There’s a fight! Come down now!” Farina felt numb the moment she heard him say that. “Hey, back off! She’s not worth it.” He barked at the club-goer, who took a second to finally agree with him before backing off. Horrified, Farina did not know what to do. She felt mortified at the thought of associating herself with Jessica, but at the same time, she could not just stand there and let the situation escalate. She was not expecting her night to pan out this way. She just wanted to party, drink, and not think about getting in trouble for once.

New story series announcement: Bad Together

Bad Together is the story of two young people, Jamie and Farina, and their intertwining lives in London, England. Jamie is an Italian American transplant from Long Island, New York, while Farina is a Taiwanese performing arts student who is currently at Central Saint Martins. The story will tackle themes of toxic relationships, abuse, addiction, and overcoming them.

Regulus: Afterword

Regulus was a short story series that I wrote mostly because I was facing a very strained moment in my personal life with my family. A lot of the concept and aesthetic I was going for was actually inspired by the indie horror game, “Dreaming Mary”.

When it came to the main concept of the story, I knew that I wanted it to take place in a secluded, Switzerland-inspired land, so that’s where I drew a lot of the influences for the landscape and setting. For the characters, I had already decided that the main character was going to be a young man who lived a sheltered life and did not know the difference between love and abuse. For the men in the family, I wanted there to be a theme of strong, lion-inspired names, hence why I opted for Leon for the father and Lionel for our main character. For the girls in the family, I went with Abertha for the mother, mostly because Abertha means to sacrifice in Welsh, and Lacey, which generally holds the meaning of being powerful, intelligent, and wonderful, which the sister who bears that name in the story is depicted as.

Lionel was going to be on a small adventure throughout the large property he lived on, trying to uncover these clues that Lacey so thoughtfully scattered throughout the mansion. That much, I knew was going to be the driving force of the story, was to find out what happened to her. I meant originally for the story to have a much more open ending, with there being no direct implications on whether or not Lacey lives or not, but I wound up writing in the mentioning that she survives, just to give the ending a less morbid note, and to leave the potential for a continuation (granted, I’m probably not going to write one, because I’m happy ending the story where it is right now).

Anywhoo, I hope you enjoyed reading Regulus, because it was a fun story to write and it was a radical departure from some of the much longer stories that I have been writing. Thank you for reading it and I hope you look forward to more stories in the near future!

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.