American Sister

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If one more Asian were to come into Ally's life, just one more, she'd scream.

"HI-YA!" she'd screech out, maybe even with some posey kung fu stance, tiger style with fingers curled into claws, ready to pummel the unwanted Easterner back to wherever he came from. Not that she'd want to force him back to his own country or anything, she wasn't one of those people, but if he could just leave her alone, that'd suffice.

She had plenty of experience screaming. It's what she did when she wasn't waitressing at Shanghai Surprise, her day job, or more accurately, the job that paid the food and rent she shared with Mona Fong, her apartmentmate. Ally worked the dinners, so in the afternoons she screamed into the microphone at Lucky Stars Studios, screaming and grunting and making all sorts of other fighting noises she never knew were in her. In between her violent sound effects, she uttered laughably bad lines, like "When you killed my master, you should have killed me!" or "I shall avenge your death until I can die no more, father!"

Ally Carter was a dubbee. That's what the sleepy-eyed A/V techie, a Vietnamese guy named Tran, called her and the two other actors who provided English-translated dialogue for him to splice into the neverending supply of awful kung fu movies stacked in the closets of Lucky Star. Like Ally, Tran had thought this job would be a stepping stone to something better, but like Ally, there'd been nothing else. What started out as a six-month stint had turned into a two-year stay. And counting.

"Spielberg," he told her the last time they went outside to catch a smoke, the January wind cutting into them. They switched hands after each puff, keeping one in the pocket of their jeans at all times in a vain attempt to keep warm. "I was supposed to work with Spielberg. Not directly with him, but with one of his underlings. My prof, he had this whole thing set up for me." A dramatic drag, a dramatic exhale. "I'm such a fucking idiot."

Ally took a deep drag herself and said nothing, just nodded. Tran had already told her his sob story at least twice - he declined to go out west because of his girlfriend, who was now someone else's girlfriend - but obviously he hadn't remembered telling her. It's what pain did to you - made you forget, made you want to share your bad luck so you could dump it on to someone else. God only knew how many times she must've told her sorry-ass story to Meg at the Shanghai as they stood outside like this, gusts of arctic wind freezing their knees until they literally knocked together.

Tran - he was another one, another Asian. Mona, her apartmentmate, Taiwanese. Meg, her fellow waitress and friend at the restaurant, Korean. Raymond Chow and Raymond Liu, her two bosses with the same American first names, Hong Kong imports. The guy she bought coffee from every morning, whatever his name was, Indian. And Bill was Japanese.

Bill. She gave his back a good shove off the cliff of her mind, and for a second he was gone - but then he floated, little white wings pulling him up, landing him right in front of her.

Ally took another drag on her cigarette. She had to break it off with him. Today. After the reading. A hand on her shoulder.


"Hey," she told Bill, and she knew she wouldn't break it off today, and not tomorrow, maybe never. A product of a Japanese father and an Italian mother, God had manipulated the perfect genetic combination to make him the handsomest man she knew. Everything about Bill Nakamura was perfect on the outside - his brown eyes with specks that glimmered gold, his voice so baritone that it tickled, his feet, she loved his feet, toes like little carved totems - which made it all the more heartbreaking and mysterious that he should be so imperfect on the inside. He was so afraid of everything - afraid of people disliking him, afraid of misreading his lines, afraid that he wasn't good enough. His fear was what kept him from being a successful actor, a fact he himself recognized, yet that self-awareness failed to give him any strength. If anything, it just made him more afraid.

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