Ninja Mind Games and Bossy Toilets.

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I look out the windshield, at the crowd across the street, and gasp. "Are those all reporters?" I ask, pulling at the tensor bindings through my shirt. "Seriously, Kiki, this is way too tight."

"You'll live," she says, her eyes glued at the scene in front of Crocodile Café. "There's a ton of cameras, it's definitely media. You think they're here to see you?"


"Yeah," she grins. "The next heart throb in 10FOUR, Raymond Harper."

I cross my arms, wincing at how much my chest hurts, and say, "Have I told you how much I hate that name?"

Akiko ignores me and keeps talking. "You're going to have your picture all over the internet. Maybe even on TV."

Images of my TV boy crushes flash like a strobe light in my mind. Will I be someone's crush? "Ewww!" I say, reclining the passenger seat back so I'm below the sightline of the reporters.

Akiko's short dark hair flips across her face as she turns towards me. "Ewww? Haven't you always wanted to be famous? I thought everyone secretly wants that?"

"Of course. But look at me Akiko. I'm dressed like a gangster! A. C.H.I.N.E.S.E. GANGSTER. This is my worst nightmare." I pull the hat down, sending the wig askew. Akiko frowns as she fixes it. Her frown quickly turns into an evil sneer, her eyes glint mischievously.

"I can't wait until the girls at school start putting posters of you in their lockers!"

I should've taken the bus.

"Please tell me that this," I say, waving my hand like a Price-Is-Right-model from the boy wig on my head to my flattened chest, "isn't all part of a master plan to exact your revenge on the girls at school."

She rolls her eyes. "Stop being so dramatic." Then she adds, "if and when I include you as a part of my master plan you won't even know you're being included."

"So, you're saying, there is a plan...I've had my theories. Do any of them include--"

"Rae," Akiko interrupts grabbing my hand. "Your nails!"

I follow her eye-budging glare to my nails-- my pink nails.

"Ooops," I say with a shrug.

Her nostrils seem to double in size and she stomps on the floor of the car. "What do you mean Ooops? It was your job to take off the nail polish. Your one job!"

"If you haven't noticed," I say, raising my voice to match hers and pointing across the street, "I have a lot going on right now."

She's holding strong to her angry-face so I do what I have to--fish through my pocket for my phone, scroll through it until I find dead-zombie-restroom-stall-pic and shove it in front of her.

"That's disgusting," she gags and tries to look away. I manage to keep it in her line of sight.

"I was hoping to save this for a better get-out-of-Akiko-jail-free card, but right now, I'm freaking out and I need my best friend to not be mad at me."

Her eyes soften and she slouches back in her seat.

"I actually had to go pee in there," I add.

The corner of her lips turn into a smile.

What I would pay to be inside her head right now.

"Yeah, right," she says, head cocked and eyebrows raised.

"I did!"

She squints her eyes until I can barely see them and she sighs. "If you can pee in that," she says, turning her eyes from my phone. "Then nothing else should scare you. Not even a few teenage girls."

"1) I'm a teenage girl so I know how scary we are. And B) what if they don't like me?" I say as I slide my phone into my pocket and lean towards her.

She tilts her head back and laughs until tears escape down her cheeks.

"Are you finished yet?" I ask, tapping a beat on the armrest.

"Rae." She pauses to wipe her eyes and adjust in her seat so she's facing me. "What scares you more? That they'll like you or that they won't like you?"

"Don't play these ninja mind games on me," I say, struggling against my tensor tightened chest to turn my back to her.

"Be serious," she says. "If you admit you're scared then it can't control you anymore."

"I admitted I was scared in that restroom and I can say without a doubt the restroom won." I take out my phone to show her the picture again.

She grabs it from me. "Stop procrastinating."

"That's what the toilet said."



She raises her eyebrows knowingly and tilts her head to the side.

"Fine," I say. "I'm scared. Are you happy now?"

"Of what?" she asks.

"Everything," I say, the word sputters off my lips, a weight leaving my shoulders with the confession. Akiko nods, encouraging me to continue. "This is the one thing I want and I can't even be happy because I can't even be me."

Akiko smiles so big I can see her molars. I frown and pull away, as far away, from her as I can. The door handle jabs into my back. After an awkwardly long minute with Akiko's pearly whites blinding me I ask, "Are you alright?"

Her mouth says crazy-happy, her eyes say evil-plan. She turns the car on and does a peel-out pulling onto the road.

"Where are you taking me? I have to be at practice," I say, one hand on the dash, the other on the door handle. I ponder opening it and testing the stop-drop-and-roll technique we learned in elementary school. It's for if you're on fire. I feel on fire.

People point at us as we drive by. Akiko doesn't seem to notice, or care. I give up and start picking at my nail polish.

"Leave it," she snaps.

"Sure, this you respond to." I wave my hand at her and over-dramatically pick at the nail.

"We're going to the store and buying you a pink shirt and hat," she says.

"Right." The word rolls off my tongue in contempt.

"I mean it." She turns to me and smiles. "Just because you can't be Rae Harper, doesn't mean you can't wear pink. Plenty of guys wear pink. It can be your thing."

"My thing?"

"Yeah, like your catch phrase."

I look at my current outfit, baggy jeans, black t-shirt with gold dragon--Akiko's brother sure likes gold.

"What about all the Chinese gangster clothes?" I tease.

"We'll give them back to my brother, or..." She pauses, the glint she gets when she's thinking something evil flashes in her eyes. "We burn them."

I rub my chin and hum as though I'm having a hard time deciding. "I'm going to have to go with the OR option. Burn them!"

Akiko directs Hercules into the mall parking lot.

She pulls into a stall but before we get out I put my hand on hers and say, "Thanks, you're a good friend. I'm feeling better. I think I'm ready."

"A good friend, OR..." She holds back a laugh, "a good fan-girl?"

I smile in defeat and say, "who knew, you like your men in pink? I would have pegged you for black, you know the color of ninja's." I look down at my shirt. "Or gold, because apparently all Asian's like gold."

"Hey!" she snarls. "Not all Asian's, just my brother."

"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" I ask.

She nods.

"Burn them, burn them," we chant as we walk towards the mall.

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