Shuhua’s first night in New York was busy with moving into her new loft, and despite how exhausted she felt with the jet lag and time difference, Shuhua still managed to settle in before midnight. Her older cousin, Yuqi, was no help, complaining the whole time, telling Shuhua she should just hire a crew to do this for her because she was rich enough to do so.
“We could’ve saved hours, Shu. I could’ve taken you to your first college party instead.” Yuqi grumbled from her spot on the floor, chest heaving dramatically as if she had carried boxes up the stairs, instead of using the elevator like they actually did.
Shuhua groaned, moving to lay next to her cousin on the floor. “I would have been too jet lagged to go to a party, Yuqi.” She chuckled when Yuqi let out a whine, turning onto her side to cuddle up to the older girl.
“Thank you for being here with me.” Shuhua genuinely said, a content smile on her face.
Yuqi was the only family Shuhua felt close to. Shuhua was an only child, which she was very relieved about, knowing no one else had to grow up lonely and suffer the neglect her parents had put her through all her life. She did grow up very fortunate though, being born into one of the richest families in all of East Asia, but Shuhua didn’t really care about all that. If she could, Shuhua would have traded her grand life for a normal one, if it meant having her parents give her love and actually be present in her life.
Yuqi smiled, eyes empathetic for her cousin. She knew how Shuhua grew up, and Yuqi would be forever angry at her aunt and uncle for taking away so much of Shuhua’s childhood, and for being the cause of all Shuhua’s pain. Yuqi’s mom is sisters with Shuhua’s mother, but the two siblings were completely different from each other. Shuhua’s mother was cold and distant, focusing on her career that seemed to be more important than anything else, even her own child. Yuqi’s mother had all the maternal instincts that a mother should have, and for that, Shuhua was thankful that she had an aunt and uncle that looked at her like she was their own.
When Yuqi told her that she was going to study abroad for college, Shuhua knew she wanted to do the same. She spent all of last year listening to Yuqi’s freshman experience at NYU, while Shuhua suffered one more year of loneliness in Taiwan, awaiting her graduation day. When Shuhua told her parents that she wanted to go to New York for college, it didn’t take much persuasion. They even encouraged it, telling her it was good on their family image that she was able to attend such a prestigious university in the states. Shuhua, of course, was not expecting any genuine praises from her parents. She stopped hoping for any sort of attention or love from her parents when she was old enough to understand what kind of people her parents were. Shuhua was just happy that she was a step closer to leaving, wanting to start living a life for herself.
“It’s just you and me now, kid. Living the life in the city.” Yuqi placed a comforting kiss onto Shuhua’s forehead, cradling the younger girl’s head on her chest.
“I’m kind of scared. All those college stories you told me about over the phone did not sound…. well, legal.” Shuhua said, grimacing at the many disturbing college tales of Song Yuqi’s freshman year at NYU.
“This is America, Shu. The line between legal and illegal, are very very thin.” Yuqi tapped Shuhua on the shoulder, sitting up to stretch her aching limbs from all the lugging and carrying. “It really worries me that you say that.” Shuhua deadpanned, shaking her head at her older cousin.
Yuqi ignored Shuhua’s comment, grinning at the younger girl with pride. “You’ll see, Shu. The city either changes you or helps you find yourself.”
Shuhua rolled her eyes, “I know myself.”
Yuqi shrugged, “we’ll continue this conversation in a month, and till then, I will be practicing the best way to say “I told you so” because, well, I’m always right.” Shuhua scoffed, nonetheless biting back a smile. Having Yuqi beside her, it started to feel like she wasn’t alone anymore, knowing that this was going to be their life now. In the city, together, doing whatever crazy things they wanted to do.
Shuhua held the paper to her face, reading the building name and room number of her first class over and over again till she had it memorized, before folding her schedule back into her backpack. The campus was huge, being in the middle of the city, it was also very busy.
“U-Uh.. excuse me, can—,” Shuhua stepped back, as people ignored her and zoomed past her, mouth gaping at how rude people could be.
She huffed, blowing her disheveled hair out of her face. Her first day of college would have been easier if Yuqi stuck to her words and showed her around campus like she promised, but apparently Yuqi had drank too much last night and was suffering from a bad hangover in her bed.
“Need help?” A blonde girl approached her with a friendly grin. Shuhua turned toward the voice, and smiled shyly. “Y-Yes. I’m a bit lost, actually.”
Shuhua averted her eyes towards the raven haired girl next to the blonde. She looked intimidating, eyes piercing, and arms crossed. Shuhua blinked her gaze away, focusing back onto the nice blonde girl who seemed willing to point her into the right direction of her Psychology class.
“It’s only normal for a freshman to get a bit panicky and lost on the first day. It’s part of the whole college experience.” The blonde girl laughed, her eyes smiling at Shuhua. The raven haired girl showed no emotion, just tilting her head at Shuhua, eyes raking up and down her body, as if forming an assumption in her head that she was going to keep for herself.
“I’m Minnie, by the way. This is Soojin.” Minnie pointed to herself, then to the girl next to her, who only nodded her head towards Shuhua to acknowledge her. Shuhua smiled, awkwardly shifting in her spot at how intense Soojin’s gaze burned her skin. “I-I’m Shuhua.”
“Nice to meet you!” Minnie outstretched her arm, initiating a handshake, to which Shuhua responded like it was an instinct with how much hands she had to shake within her many forced attendances in her parents business events.
“We’re in our third year, so we know this campus pretty well. Maybe we can help you find your classes.” Minnie offered, and Shuhua let out a sigh of relief, “oh, that would be amazing. I’m trying to find the Psychology building.” She took her schedule out of her backpack, unfolding it to show the blonde girl.
“Ah, right, the psychology building could be tricky to find. It’s hidden behind the library, so it’s easy to miss.” Minnie turned her body to the right, pointing towards the path that Shuhua should head towards to get to her destination. “If you go straight that way, then turn left, you’ll pass the health building, right? Then you just keep walking past it—,” Minnie turned to look at Shuhua who already looked even more lost with her directions, and immediately stopped talking, chuckling at how cute Shuhua looked.
“You know what, it’s too much to remember. I have class in ten minutes, but Soojin is free till 3, and I’m sure she has no problem walking you to class. Right, Soojin?” Minnie turned towards her friend with an expectant look. Soojin raised a brow, then looked at Shuhua who fiddled awkwardly with her fingers.
“I have to do.” Soojin responded.
“Seo Soojin. Be nice.” Minnie gritted between her teeth, giving the younger girl a warning look. Soojin rolled her eyes, trying to be subtle, but it wasn’t hard to miss when Shuhua kept shifting her eyes from Soojin to the ground every second that had gone by.
“I— no, that’s okay. I can just—,” Shuhua scratched her head, but Minnie seemed adamant with trying to help her out, “no, no. Soojin will walk you. Right, Soojin?” Minnie raised her eyebrows at the younger girl, trying to communicate and persuade Soojin with her eyes.
“Fine.” Soojin said, a bored look on her face. Even though Shuhua was grateful that she’ll finally be able to find her first class of the day, she was a little hopeful that Minnie would have just let her go on about her poor sense of direction and find it herself. It was clear that Soojin wasn’t as friendly as Minnie was, and it only made Shuhua feel like a burden, seeing that Soojin hated the idea of taking a few minutes out of her day to show Shuhua where her class was.
“Here. Why don’t I give you my number just in case you get lost again.” Minnie grabbed a sharpie out of her backpack, taking Shuhua’s hand and scribbling her number on her palm. “Don’t get the wrong idea, kid. She has a girlfriend.” Soojin scoffed, shaking her head.
Minnie snapped her head towards Soojin, eyes glaring. “Soojin! Oh my god, I’m so sorry about her, Shuhua.”
Shuhua shook her head, offering an understanding smile. “It’s okay. Your girlfriend is just looking out for you. I totally under—,” Minnie quickly cut her off abruptly, waving her hands in front of her in defense. “Oh no, no. Soojin is not my girlfriend. Never. Ew. She’s like a sister to me. And besides, Soojin is very incapable of being in a relationship anyway, because she’d rather sleep around, but that’s not a conversation she’s ready to have.” Minnie shook her head at her friend, to which Soojin rolled her eyes at.
“I’d really appreciate it if you don’t tell stranger’s about my life.” Soojin said, her eyes piercing into Shuhua’s uncomfortable gaze for a split second, before glaring at her friend. Shuhua felt like she wasn’t supposed to be hearing certain things and looked away respectfully.
“Okay, Shuhua, well I have to go to class. I’ll see you around, okay?” Minnie smiled one last time, touching her shoulder in a comforting manner, before walking the opposite direction.
Shuhua stood there, fiddling with her fingers, as she waited for something to happen. She realized how much Soojin liked to stare, and she wasn’t worried about being perceived weird for doing so. Well, Shuhua didn’t think of her as weird, not when Soojin’s eyes were so piercing, it just made Shuhua feel hot and bothered.
“This way.” Soojin sighed, her expression unchanging, as she started to walk the direction Minnie had pointed to earlier. Scurrying on her feet, Shuhua caught up to walk with Soojin side by side.
“U-Uh.. thanks for w-walking me…” Shuhua shyly said, feeling very intimidated.
“Don’t feel flattered. If you couldn’t tell, I’m being forced to do this.” Soojin muttered, making Shuhua frown. Soojin’s aura was cold and blunt, a vast contrast from Shuhua’s character.
“You know, you’re very rude.” Shuhua said, trying to be blunt like Soojin had been this whole time. Soojin abruptly stopped in her tracks, causing Shuhua to stop as well. She faltered when her eyes met Soojin’s sharp gaze, probing into Shuhua’s soul.
Soojin slowly stepped closer, bursting Shuhua’s personal bubble, a smirk on her lips. Shuhua slightly leaned her head back when Soojin’s face was getting a little too close for comfort. “And you’re quite annoying.” Soojin retorted impassively.
Shuhua gaped, eyes following the taller girl’s figure as she continued walking towards the direction they were heading. “The audacity she has… I’d rather be lost then escorted by someone so rude.” Shuhua muttered under her breath, crossing her arms and stomping to follow behind Soojin.
It didn’t take long till they arrived in front of the Psychology building. Shuhua looked at it with awe, eyes shining with wonderment. “Are you a psychology major?” Soojin questioned, eyes staring at Shuhua who seemed to be admiring the building with great reverence.
Shuhua snapped out of her trance, turning her head to Soojin, and she wondered why she was still standing next to her. Shuhua would have expected Soojin to have left the second she had fulfilled what Minnie had asked her to do.
“Y-Yeah… Yes, I am. I’m actually double majoring in Social Work and Psychology.” Shuhua stuttered, clearing to regain herself.
Soojin hummed, scanning her up and down again, and Shuhua shifted uncomfortably in her spot yet again. “Again, thanks for walking me here. I know you could’ve been doing other things.” Shuhua genuinely said, despite Soojin’s recent behavior that proved that Shuhua did not owe Soojin her respect.
Soojin shrugged, “yeah, whatever. Try not to get lost again, kid.”
So far, Shuhua has made one friend, and she thinks that's pretty good for the first day of classes. Shuhua wasn’t too much of a social butterfly, though she should be, since she’s met and shook hands with many people in her life, due to her status back home, but that’s different. Most of them were adults, and if she had to meet peers her age, none of them interested Shuhua enough to form a friendship. A lot of the peers she’s met were at her parents business events, and they were all stuck up and snobbish.
She was quite the loner at school as well. Shuhua graduated from a private school for the rich, and a lot of them were also very uptight and spoiled, so meeting Jeno in her Psychology 101 class was a new experience. He was intelligent, friendly, and made Shuhua laugh in the first five minutes of their meeting.
“So you’re a dance major? What do you plan on doing with that?” Shuhua asked, sitting in front of Jeno, as they sat down for a cup of coffee at a Starbucks on campus.
Jeno shrugged, “I don’t know, I just like to dance.”
Shuhua chuckled, “you’re very simple minded. Don’t you worry about the future?”
Jeno hummed, “it’s not ideal, right? That’s why I’m planning on declaring a double major next semester. Probably business? It’s easier compared to Psychology. I just want to dance, if I’m being honest, but of course my parents don’t feel assured about it.”
Shuhua clapped her hands quietly, “psychology rocks.”
Jeno gave her a look, “that’s the dorkiest thing I’ve ever heard anyone say.”
Shuhua ducked her head shyly, hiding behind her Starbucks drink as she sipped it slowly. Jeno chuckled, quite enjoying Shuhua’s company.
“What do you want to do with psychology?” Jeno questioned, breaking a piece out of his croissant and throwing it up in the air and catching it with his mouth, a proud fist to the air once it landed in his mouth. Shuhua watched, and chuckled at Jeno’s boyish behavior.
“Well, psychology is just really interesting to learn about. The brain and people, you know, but social work is really what I’m passionate about…. I-I want to be a child and family social worker…” Shuhua said, a proud smile on her face. She knew she always wanted to work towards giving the less privileged a better life, realizing how she grew up. Shuhua wanted to make sure that children out there grow up with a lot of love, and support from a family that would nurture them. Shuhua didn’t want children to grow up lonely like she had.
Jeno returned her smile, a soft look in his eyes, “that sounds amazing, Shuhua.”
“It really sounds like you’re passionate about it. I know the salary for social workers isn't that large.” Jeno pointed out, and Shuhua knew, but he doesn’t know that Shuhua’s background where money wasn’t something she needed to worry about.
“I don’t care about the money.” Shuhua shrugged.
Jeno smiled, “you’re a good person, Shuhua. I’m glad I sat next to you.”
Shuhua beamed, “I’m glad you sat next to me too! You’re the only person that’s been nice to me so far. Some people can be really rude here.” Her mind drifted to Soojin, her remarks echoing in her brain, making Shuhua roll her eyes. She ignored the way Soojin’s piercing gaze still burned her skin at just the thought of the older girl.
“New York is wonderful, isn’t it? It’s definitely a different scene from California, where I’m from.” Jeno sighed, and his eyes drifted over the beauty that is New York, that surrounded them from where they sat in the middle of campus.
Shuhua smiled, doing the same. She couldn’t believe that she was actually here, and not in Taiwan. She’s never felt so content, and never had she thought that conversing with someone could be this fun and interesting, since it’s not about money o