Narsha tapped a finger against her soju glass and stared across the table at the third guy her friends had set her up with this month. It seemed that her senior year was going to be riddled with hopeless dates set up by well-meaning friends. As he droned on about work (something to do with money, she stopped listening a while ago), her mind wandered. She still had to pick up her bike from the shop as well as some new cable ties for Mashimaro to chew through again. Last night, the stupid bunny had chewed through them for the second time this week. He was the perfect bunny in many ways: never chewed on anything else other than his toys, did his business on his pad, cuddled with her while watching dramas, but god forbid a cable tie be within his reach.
Midterms were also right around the corner, the bane of every student everywhere. They were coming up next month and Professor Seok was well known at the university to grade harshly if he didn’t like you. On the plus side, she gave him a really good slap when he put his hand on her thigh; on the down side, she was gonna have to work extra hard to even get a B. It’s not like she hadn’t been working hard these last few years anyway. Computer science was not a friendly field for women, it was still very much a “boy’s club” type arrangement. It didn’t help that she was an attractive one that wanted nothing to do romantically with the other students (or teachers) in her department.
The one-sided conversation lulled, and with a mental shake Narsha brought herself back to the present. Guy #3 was looking at her expectantly, so he must have asked some question or other. Was it for her to agree with him about something trivial, or to ask if she wanted to see him again, though? With a feigned smile, she took a chance and nodded, “I have to agree.” She said, hoping that it was the right choice. It was apparently, because he just nodded as if accepting it as his due and continued on.
With the possible disaster avoided, she decided she needed to get out of there. She had already been sitting for an hour listening to this guy talk about himself, oblivious to her disinterest and ignoring any attempts to change the subject. Enough was enough and she had important things to do. Well, she didn’t really, but he didn’t know that. She’d be surprised if he remembered anything she said at all the night, to be honest. At least the first two included her in the conversation instead of ignoring the fact she had the ability to speak.
Just as she was about to text him, her Plan B called. With a smile of relief she answered the phone and politely mouthed an apology at her date. “Hey, what’s up?” She answered, subtlely scanning for his car through the restaurant windows.
“It’s your knight in shining armor, come to rescue you from another dragon!” Came a familiar voice through the phone. Jo Kwon was her best friend and the gayest straight man she’d ever seen. They had met at orientation when they started University and had been best friends ever since. He was the flamboyant drama student to her serious computer science self.
Narsha forced herself not to laugh, “Oh no, that’s terrible!” She said into the phone, faking concern. She turned to her date and seemingly covered the phone with her hand. “My friend’s aunt is very sick, I will need to leave a bit early.”
Guy #3 looked rather put out (did he really expect something to happen after ignoring her all night?) but nodded and signaled for the check. “I would be happy to drive you-” He started, but Narsha hurriedly cut him off.
“I appreciate the thought, but they’re actually waiting for me outside.” She said as she rose and smoothed her skirt. “Dinner was delicious, thank you.” With that, she turned and strode to the door before he could ask to see her again, or worse, talk at her more.
As she opened the door to the restaurant, cool air and the sounds of the city washed over her. After listening to that wind bag for an hour, the fresh air and noise of a busy street did wonders to improve her feelings about life. She made her way over to the car and slid in. “You’re late Jo Kwon,” she admonished, “You were supposed to do that 30 minutes ago.” She reached across the car and poked him in the ribs as he pulled away from the curb. “This one was worse than the last two combined, and I had to listen to him for an hour!”
“Aish! You’re so impatient!” He grumbled as he turned onto the main road towards the mechanic's place. “Rehearsal went late because the twit they chose for Titania hadn’t even read the script yet. Can you believe it?! That’s what they get for casting on looks!”
“You’re just mad because you think that you would make a better queen than a king!” Narsha joked, laughing out the window at the lights passing by.
“She gets a way cooler outfit!” He protested. “I’m stuck with a codpiece made of god-only-knows-what and and she gets to have a gorgeous fairy queen dress!”
“Not to mention you have a man-crush on the guy the queen falls in love with.” She laughed back at him.
“Hey, he has the butt of a 18 year old goddess.” He objected. “I’d do him in a heartbeat if he were actually a woman instead of looking like one.” He sighed to the car next to them, getting some odd looks in the process.
By the time they actually reached the repair shop, Jo Kwon was waxing on and on about the oblivious guy’s eyes and Narsha was about ready to stuff her phone in his mouth to get him to shut it. She loved him dearly, but she didn’t know how much longer she could take this infatuation with his fellow actor. It was bad enough enough when it was a woman he could date and then get out of his system, but this had been going on for weeks now without any sign of letting up.
“Just drop me off at the door so you can get home, I can handle it from here.” She said, gathering up her purse and looking for her bike on the lot.
“You just don’t want to have to listen about Taemin anymore,” He pouted, “Admit it!”
“Ok, I admit it” She agreed bluntly, opening the door and getting out when he pulled up to the office. “But it doesn’t mean I don’t love your stupid self just as much as I did before this infatuation.” She added with a grin through the open door.
“Whatever.” He retorted, “See if I play the white knight on your next blind date.”
“Then I guess I don’t have to go with you to your cousin’s wedding next Spring. What a relief that I don’t have to find a dress any more!” She smiled wickedly at him and gave a little finger wave as she shut the door in his face.
As she walked away, she heard him yell through the door, “Ya! You wouldn’t dare! You know how terrible my mother is about setting me up, have mercy!” She just waved at him again over her shoulder and entered the office.
The mechanic was leaning with his elbows across the counter and just shook his head, chuckling. “When are you two going to give up and get married? You bicker like an old married couple enough to be already.”
Narsha just scrunched up her nose and shook her head. “Ew, he’s like my brother.”
“I’ve noticed most boys are like that to you.” He observed while reaching for the clipboard with her info and papers on it.
“Is that why you haven’t hit on me yet?” She asked archly, leaning her own elbows against the counter.
“That, and the taekwondo classes you take on the weekends.” He said, a mild shudder running up his back. “Those, combined with your temper, is a dangerous thing.”
Narsha couldn’t help but laugh and nod. “I suppose that’s true.” She agreed, taking the offered keys. “How’s she doing? Everything good to go?”
“Well,” he replied, “The timing was a little off, that’s what was causing that knocking. Just sign here and here, then she’s all yours again. Thanks for installing that new computer system for us by the way, this is on the house.”
“Sweet! Thanks Doc!” She signed the papers, gave him another smile and headed out to claim her baby.
She had found the bike a year or so ago while looking for a scooter to get about town on. Using the buses was great, but it was annoying having to plan everything around their schedules, especially when she had to get around town fast to do her side job. She helped a local tech company with onsite troubleshooting after school. It didn’t pay super well, but with her background and guru status, she made enough to pay the rent, keep herself fed, and have a little extra to spend on pet projects.
On her way home from the shop, she grabbed some cable ties and japjae from a corner store. She was too busy trying to be polite to eat much on the date. Besides, he took her out to some foreign restaurant that only served expensive appetizer-sized meals. How is a girl supposed to keep up her strength if she only eats a salad the size of a CD? Not that she was overly hungry listening to him blather on and on anyway, but it would have been nice to have an option at least.
Narsha shook her head while carefully working her way through the traffic towards her apartment. For years she had been just fine without going on dates, not missing it even a little. Then, all of a sudden, her friends decided that she needed to get back in the game and started assigning her all these unimpressive guys to go out with. She wasn’t a big fan of guys to begin with (too bossy and entitled), but the ones that they were settings her up with were worse than average.
Guy #1 was a student at their school. He was cute (in a too-much-testosterone kind of way) and knew it, so he had that annoying swagger guys get when they think they’re honoring women with their existence. He didn’t put any thought into the date at all either, just took her to a super cliche movie and then tried to kiss her when he left her at the bus stop. He was too cheap to even buy snacks. Way too much confidence for such an underwhelming person.
Guy #2 was much more promising at first, but inevitably fell short of the mark as well. He was one of the IT guys from their school, so they at least had something in common to talk about, but was ultimately too awkward even for her. He could hardly look her in the eye, would flush every time his eyes skimmed over her blouse, and stuttered if they talked about anything other than computers. Then there was the pocket protector. She would have been able to get over everything else, but that pocket protector was taunting her the entire meal (he took her to a BBQ house). Wearing it at work, fine; in your back pocket, whatever; but on a date, in the front pocket of your shirt, without any pens even in it? That was just too much.
Guy #3 was the worst of them all, just like she told Jo Kwon. He had picked her up when she got out of class and taken her to the most pretentious restaurant she had ever seen. Then, he proceeded to talk about himself the entire night; she could have been one of those inflatable dolls for all he seemed to care. He complimented her exactly once, just a simple “you look nice” as she was getting into the car; and then proceeded to tell her to watch the upholstery because he just got it detailed. She was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt until he started leering at their waitress. Narsha was willing to put up with a lot of things, but her date paying more attention to the waitress than her was definitely not on that list. If she hadn’t been raised as well as she had, she would have thrown her drink at him before she left, but “scenes are for dramas” as her mother drilled into her after the unfortunate water fountain incident (which totally wasn’t her fault because the little letch deserved it!).
When Narsha finally got home, she was so mad from thinking about the last date that she almost bent her key unlocking the door. The only thing that kept her from slamming it open was that Mashimaro liked to bound up to her at the door and it wasn’t his fault that her friends had terrible taste in men for her.
As it was, she closed it a little more forcefully than it needed to be and he skidded to a halt a few feet away, cocking his furry little head to the side dubiously. "Don't give me that look, Mashi. I didn't do anything this time." She said defensively, toeing off her shoes and picking him up in one arm and balancing her dinner in the other. "I should have though, he was a jerk!" She scrunched up her lips in an almost snarl and set her stuff on the kitchen table to cuddle him properly.
“Why has everyone decided that I’m not happy Mashi?” She asked the confused bunny plaintively. “Do I not have a say in my happiness level any more?” She gave him one more good scratch behind the ears and set him down to get a pair of chopsticks from the drawer. “I haven’t been moping around, or being extra bitchy lately, so what gives?” She sighed and started in on her dinner, distractedly trying to brainstorm with Mashimaro about why the sudden change. He wasn’t nearly as helpful as she would have liked.
A forty minutes later, the last bit of her uneaten dinner was cold and she was no closer to figuring out why her friends suddenly didn’t trust her to secure her own happiness. “I give up Mashi, they’re all crazy and I want nothing to do with any of them for the rest of the week.” She said as she tossed the bowl and set the chopsticks in the sink. “Just you, me, and that hot new drama with Lee Min-Ho.” She scooped up the bunny on her way to the living room. “I heard there are lots of fight scenes and he kicks butt!”
She sat down on the couch and curled up with Mashimaro on her lap, flipping through the channels until she found the one with the hunky IT/vigilante himself. “He doesn’t wear a pocket protector.” She mumbled under her breath, settling in to watch dramas for the rest of the night. “I bet he listens to his dates too.” The only thing that could have made this better was a tub of chocolate ice cream, but she finished that after Guy #2.
Just as Lee Min-Ho took a dramatic leap onto a boat, there was a loud banging on her door. “What the hell?” She muttered to herself and set Mashimaro aside to look in the video feed for the door. The bunny just huffed in annoyance and hopped over to his bowl like he wanted to be set down anyway, glancing over his shoulder every few hops to make sure that she was properly contrite. Narsha just ignored him and looked at who was on the screen. Jo Kwon waved back at her like the idiot he was, but he had a bag from Baskin-Robbins in his hand, so she sighed and padded over to the door. She debated opening it up to just to grab the ice cream and then shut it in his face, but then he would just sit out there and whine at her door like a stray.
Narsha opened the door just enough to fit her head out and glare at him. “What do you want? I’m busy.” She said, trying her best to glare at him menacingly from stretched around the door.
“No you’re not, you’re watching some drama with the fluff ball and wishing you had ice cream.” He said cheekily, holding up the bag of ice cream like a shield. “And before you call me a stalker, this is an established pattern since that girl in your algorithms class dumped you freshman year.”
Narsha just glared at him through the door until he sighed in exasperation and shouldered his way in. “You’re being ridiculous, I have better people to stalk than you!”
“Like Taemin?” She asked grumpily.
“He has a better ass.” He said matter of factly while setting the ice cream on the table.
“Hey!” She objected indignantly, grabbing a bowl and spoon away from him.
“You know it’s true!” He taunted, wresting the ice cream lid off and holding the tub out to her. “Besides, that doesn’t mean yours isn’t nice. Just that his is superb.”
Narsha just pretended to pout and dished them both up some ice cream. “You don’t have to say it out loud, it’s bad enough it’s true.” She muttered, putting the ice cream away before she padded back over to the couch.
Jo kwon followed behind her, making a face at Mashimaro as he passed by that the bunny returned with the sternest glare a bouncing snowball could manage. “I don’t know why you keep that thing around,” he said, settling himself onto the couch beside her. “He’s moody and violent.” He cast a surreptitious glance at the animal in question while taking a bite of ice cream.
Narsha signed in exasperation at the ongoing argument. “He likes me just fine, you’re the one who swatted him for nosing at your salad that one time. To him, all lettuce on the floor is his.”
“The little jerk bit me! I almost had to get stitches!” He cried out indignantly, staring at her with shock over her total lack of concern for his wellbeing.
“Oh please!” She retorted, almost spilling her ice cream to punch him in the arm. “It barely took a band aid! Also, you flicked him in the forehead. I’d bite you too if you did that to me.” She nipped the air in his general direction to prove her point.
“Still, that thing is a menace…” He mumbled, pulling his toes up on the couch to prevent bunny any nibbles.
“You’re just mad because he has a long memory and still doesn’t like you. In his mind, you thwapped him on the head and stole his food. As much of a glutton as he is, he’s probably never going to forgive you!” She laughed out while starting back up the drama.
“Oh, thiiiis one! Have you gotten to the part where-Ow!!!” Jo Kwon yelped at Narsha hit him on the head with the remote.
“No, I have not, because it just barely started before you barged in here. Now sit there and shut up, or ice cream or not, I will beat you with this remote again.” She glared at him for good measure until he nodded sulkily, covering his head protectively. He opened his mouth as if to say something else, but quickly shut it again when she waved the remote at him threatening.
Jo kwon stuck his tongue out at her, pulling it back in quickly when she shot him a glare out of the corner of her eye before going back to watching the drama.