chapter zero

I've never had high expectations for myself—nor did anyone else. As a high school student, I wasted a lot of time dreaming and changing my mind about things, and as a university student, I don't think much changed about me. I like to think that I've been relatively consistent with my inconsistent nature as a human being over the years.

Six times I've changed my mind about what I wanted to do once I graduated from the education system indefinitely. At first, I wanted to follow a line that would ironically provide for me a stable and consistent income, but in the summer of my first of university, I threw away a prospective future as an economist and settled for the quietly hectic life of an architect.

I'm not intelligent, as far as the accumulation of knowledge goes. Personally, I've always doubted my ability to be able to exceed my basic potential and reach new heights. But I do like to think that I have a knack for chance—being in fortunate places at fortunate times, and knowing fortunate people in fortunate places. That, I think, is the only reasonable explanation for why I ended up where I did. It was never exactly my plan to do so, but it worked. That's all that really matters to me.

- x -

Time will never be able to change how I look in the eyes of the upper class. I will always appear to them as less of a threat. After all, they win in nearly every aspect that I could dream of challenging them with: the possession of material objects, appearance, stature, and above all, power. If they can't win in every aspect, well—some only demand coin to sate the holes in their idea of respect.

But it has never been in my best interest to challenge the upper class. Who am I to challenge the flow of the world? All I've ever wanted to do is earn an honorable name for myself.

Once, I'm sure I would have argued that money and stature have nothing to do with getting ahead in life. I would have argued, "Who are the rich to judge me by my possessions? Who are the rich to deem my actions as 'submissive' in their presence? Who are the rich to scorn us with our desire to fight power with emotion?" But I've given up on words now. The rich have eyes, ears and sense, but they use them for wealth—not perspective. Their lives revolve around money—not human emotion. Their game is to rest on a perch above humanity and look upon us: a choir of free European Starlings who mock, and mock, and mock.

Words are pointless. Action, therefore, is necessary.

I am not the person people expect me to be. Maybe that's why, from the get-go, I always thought that my little experiment would go so smoothly. I would find the courage to subtly fight back. No longer would I be the fur rug that they could walk all over; the very act of doing so would ensure that their million dollar shoes be stained by the scorn of a working class woman. When the time was right, I would cease to be as lifeless as the dead animal with which they had strippped of fur and decorated their very floor with. Who is to say that being headstrong is a sin?

- x -

I never grew up with the substantial wealth the other kids around me in high school did. One in particular claimed the attention of all the men and women with coin. He was influential as well as affluent; his pockets likely held more riches than my own wage at a family restaurant ever would. A snap of his fingers, and a mountain of riches would be at his disposal to sell image and ego. I, on the other hand, had set aside most of my pay for a univeristy fund.

On my weekly walks to work at Touch Wood, the only thought that prevented me from turning around and going back home was the determination to pay off my seventeen-year-long debt to my parents for their unending patience with my indecisivenes. That very thought is the only source of inspiration that has successfully and consistently been able to reignite the fire of determination in my ever-wavering mind. I fear for the day that the thought of my debt won't ever be enough to keep me from burning out. I fear for the day that I become nothing more than an ash-covered hearth.

But until that moment, I still have time to achieve what I want to achieve: the intergration into upper class society. For academic reasons, of course.

Theoretically, it shouldn't have been a hard goal to achieve.

But realistically, there was so much more to achieving integration than fulfilling a mere goal.

- x -

Everyone judged me as the kind of person who wouldn't settle for a standard job at a middle-class company. To them, I was just out to work my way to the top of the high-class world; I was an entrepreneur waiting to be hatched. But in going about my daily life, I just wanted to prove a point to the people; you don't have to be rich to make a name for yourself.

It came to my attention that, once, every rich person sitting at the height of the world had once known what it was like to have to kowtow at the feet of a superior; at least one person in their affluent pedigree would have had to dedicate their entire lives to make something out of nothing.

"Undying diligence" is not a quality of the rich. It is a quality of a human being.

Coincidentally, I happen to be one of those.

There was room for a contemporary architect at Atobe Enterprises, and it was in my best interest to fill it as best as a human being could. They had no reason not to accept me, other than the fact that I was inferior: I didn't drive a flash car; I had paid my own way through most of university by way of middle-class labor; I had accumulated countless years of experiencing by putting my all into that work with a middle-class architectural company.

Of course, none of the aforementioned reasons were legitimate enough for them to be able to decline my application. As it were, a call came for me—sooner rather than later. How unsurprising that they loathed to mar their image with tardiness.

Back then, I never really had any idea what I was getting myself into. It took me a long time to let go of the regret that came with my thoughtless decision to make a name for myself—to prove something that other middle-class human beings, no doubt, had tried to prove before.

Tried, and failed, evidently.

- x -

Next to the few people who eventually came to respect my decision to accept the job at Atobe Enterprises—or, at the very least, had given up on fighting me—there was one individual who seemed consistently cold on the idea. I had never expected her to be accepting of my decision, but I didn't expect that she would try so adamantly to get me to change my mind, either.

I left a voice message on her phone the night I got the acceptance call from Atobe Enterprises. I didn't expect her to respond immediately, what with her work schedule being so hectic. She was one of the few of our high school dance club members to pursue dance professionally. Lately, she had been so preoccupied with preparing for a tour around the region with some boy band that all she had time for outside of her work hours was eating and sleeping. I lacked frequent communication with her, but whenever she got her hands on a few spare minutes of her time, she would make sure to call me and ask to be updated on what was happening in my life, no matter how uninteresting my life was.

called me a day later, waking me up at five in the morning (thanks to her heinous schedule). Since I usually didn't bother with giving people individual ringtones, and my eyes were too blurry to read the caller ID, I hit the 'answer' button and waited for a familiar voice to greet me.

I knew it was from the moment she started to speak. She was the only person I knew (from my limited repertoire of friends) that started a phone call like we'd been talking for hours.

"I don't get it, though." was saying, sounding far too awake for such an ungodly hour of the morning (by my standards, of course). "Why do you have to barge your way up into high society just to make a point? Anyone can do that."

I sighed, pulling myself into a sitting position as the fog of sleepiness cleared from my mind; now that I was awake, there would be no going back to sleep. "Give me a reason why no one has, then."

"Because they're normal. They're normal people who want normal families and normal jobs to look back on when they're old and say, 'I had a normal life.' That's what most people are like."

It had been a day since the acceptance call, and the surprised reception I was getting from was escaping me. I'd thought everyone had grown used to my decision by now. "Do you realize that it's five in the morning?"

"Sure, I thought I'd call before I left to work, just to make sure you're still alive."

"I'm still alive. And I would really, really appreciate if it you called me at midnight next time."

"I would, too, but the life of a dancer is exhausting, ." said. Her tone started to resemble that of my non-existent older sister. "What time did you sleep last night, anyways?"

"I don't remember."

It was 's turn to sigh. "Fine, fine—a few more minutes, and I won't bother you again until next time." She said, and then circled back to the original topic. "So? Why'd you enlist with Atobe Enterprises?"

"I saw a job opportunity, so I applied. Don't people always say that you're meant to put yourself out there?"

"That's not the point, . There are plenty of nice middle-class jobs out there in the world. Unless—no, don't tell me you're in it for the money! I always thought you were different!"

"I don't need that kind of money." I wondered how to explain to her what I wanted to do and why in a way that she could comprehend—or at least come to respect. "I'd be fine to settle for a middle-class job, -senpai. I just wanted to try for this job. You know... prove that rich people aren't the big shots they think they are. They're about as normal as us... only they have more money—to manipulate people and that. Don't you have any faith in me?"

"My dear . I don't have a shred of faith in you!"

I didn't know why I bothered trying. "Did you just call to tell me that I'm abnormal, and that you're faithless? Because if so, I was already aware of both truths. Especially the second one."

"Oh-ho, I think you mean the first one!" She said. The brightness in her voice was edging on unbearable, considering I was still half asleep. "But honestly, ? I don't think you should do it."

"Why not?"

"Because you'll be like them one day." said empathetically. "Tell me this: if you do get to be one of those big shots, will you even remember us? You know as well as I do that there have been plenty of middle-classers who have gone on to be rich; they've just never come back to us to tell the story. They let it go to their heads, you know?"

I prayed that her doubt wasn't contagious. "Do you really think I'll become like them?"

"Who knows. We'll just have to wait and see."

I broke the uneasy silence that ensued, not wanting to appeal to her as doubtful. "I'll keep it in mind. I won't turn out to be as two-faced as you say I will be."

"The rich world is a two-faced one. Just because we don't want to be influenced, that doesn't mean it won't happen—otherwise, why would we be the people we are today? The things that other people say can be the end of us. Did you know? The only reason I became a dancer was because my mother said to me, 'If you become a ballerina, you'll be able to fly!' And I believed her." paused for a fleeting moment. "But it's weird. Even though what I became is based off such a lie, I've come to love it. And I get paid to do what I love doing. And as I knock others out of the business, the pay just keeps going up."

"What's your point, -senpai?"

"I'm saying that, instead of making competition your first priority, you should be doing something you're good at." Ouch. "If you want to be rich and famous, then why don't you do it in an industry where you're probably more likely to succeed? Like, you used to dance—why not join the dance industry? You became an architect on a passing whim, darn it."

"The business world and the entertainment world are two totally different things."

"Maybe." She said. "But they operate the same way."

"Well, maybe, but the point of this is not to be famous in any way."

"So, it's to be rich instead?"

"That's not it, -senpai."

"So, what, then? You can't just be in this to prove a point. No one just stakes their existence on proving a point; I can't think of anyone who died to prove a good point."

There was a brief silence. This time, I was out of words that I could use to break it.

"Listen, I gotta go; my car pool comes in ten minutes and I haven't gotten ready yet." said, changing the subject completely. "Good luck with that job, even though I wish you weren't doing it and I think you're stupid for not listening to me!"

And then she hung up on that ridiculously cheerful note, acting as though we'd said goodbye.

I put my phone back on my bedside table. As I rolled over in an attempt to get some more sleep, I took the time to deconstruct my conversation with . In an odd sort of way, it was refreshing to hear her opinionated judgement and still know that she was going to be my friend at the end of all this. It's funny how I was able to look upon the conversation so positively in retrospect.

But, of course, the anxiety of what lay-ahead was ever-present. This would be my last chance to experience the reality of old. Soon, I'd be in that very new world spoke of so bitterly only moments ago. Deception and common forgery. What a way to go.

I put my mind at rest of the time being by telling myself that I was an architect. I was no businesswoman, and I was no entrepreneur. I would never have to involve myself with the worst of my situation.

Hilarious how I thought that. It was just as my neighbor's best friend always like to say: "It's always funnier when you look back on it."

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Princo & Ribbon
July 28, 2012 ; revised June 23, 2014.
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Ribbon: So, there really isn't much that changed. I just felt that the old chapter was sort of... all over the place. PLUS ATOBE GETS MORE OF A MENTION. DID YOU SEE THE GLORIOUS SECTION IN WHICH ATOBE APPEARED and was scorned. LOL. Um. Yeah. Oh, also, I have nothing against rich people; simple-minded characters are just easier to use to write stories HAHAHAHA.

Princo: My back hurts.

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