I started writing this story after watching a ton of Asian dramas (Chinese, Korean, Taiwanese), and realized I would really love to see those themes and cliches in a book. For the record, I am Chinese myself.
Some dramas this will be similar to:
-My Secret Romance
-Strong Woman Do Bong Soon
-Love o2o/Just One Smile is Very Alluring
-Miss In Kiss/Itazura na Kiss iterations
-Who Are You: School 2015
-High School: Love On
-Boys over Flowers
-Noble, My Love
This story will contain: diversity, a girlxgirl romance, mentions of drugs/alcohol, a little bit of angst, and a whole lotta love and happiness.
This story is largely inspired by Asian dramas. If you love dramas, diversity, secret romances, heart-melting fluff, and addictive cliches, this is the romantic drama for you.
Still a work in progress. If there are any tropes, cliches, or scenes you'd love to see, let me know and I might add them in!
If you have any advice or requests, let me know! I'm always trying to improve.
EPISODE 1: KNOW YOUR BOTANY
From her new apartment, it was a ten minute walk to both places. She knew the way to one place already, the sidewalks and crosswalks etched into her memory along with her sister's gaunt, pallid face. The other path led to school.
She glanced over her shoulder out of habit, her hand beginning to rise to wave goodbye—but the front of the gray government-subsidized housing was empty. This chapter would not be the same. Her parents would not be there each morning, their arms around each other as she and her sister toted their backpacks and embarked on their trip to school.
As she passed by, the doves and sparrows in the trees opened their throats and the decades-old houses of the neighborhood opened their doors, little children and fathers and strollers and mothers greeting the morning with hugs and brown paper lunch bags. Maylie picked up her pace.
The walk to her new school was odd and jarring, each growl of a lawn mower, ping of a bicycle bell, and crunch of an October leaf underfoot echoing strangely in her ears. It wasn't until she checked in at the high school front office and heard the growing white noise of student chatter that she started to forget life wasn't as it used to be.
Her class schedule, when she received it, doubled as a school map—which would have been helpful, had the school's layout not been modeled after Midas's Labyrinth. Maylie tightened her grip on her backpack straps, checking the bell schedule. Her first class would start at 7:40, so she had fifteen minutes exactly to navigate the campus and find the room. She checked the clock—7:25 a.m. With another quick study of the map and fifteen minutes to spare, she entered the labyrinth.
The inside of the maze shone bright and green, plants and lights decorating every surface. Ivy dressed the walls; hanging plants sandwiched each of the doors. Maylie nearly tripped over potted bamboo that had spilled across the cobbled floor.
As students filled the hall, a time-lapse of movement around her, she realized, with five minutes left, that she'd gotten herself lost.
Stomach turning, she found the nearest bench to take a deep breath and recount her steps. She'd started at the outer circle, walked maybe halfway around, and entered the second circle from there. Although... now, as she reviewed the map, that couldn't be true. There wasn't any path between the first and second around halfway. She rotated the map.
Maylie swiveled around. "Yes, actually!"
"I thought so," said the boy. "You must be new." He grinned, brown eyes like earthy half-moons, hair parted like a nineties-era heartthrob. He was dressed for the runway, or maybe a street style fashion shoot, his light-wash jeans perfectly ripped and his sneakers clean and new. There was something about the way he looked, or the way he smiled, that made her feel like they had something in common.
Smiling gratefully, she handed him her schedule. Maybe it was just something in the way attractive people were programmed, that they made onlookers feel connected without trying at all. "How do I get to M104?"
He pulled his hands out of his jacket to point. "I'll take you there."
"Really?" She hopped to her feet. "I don't know whose smart idea it was to structure a school like a maze."
As he guided her through the halls, she realized that the path seemed to clear. Ivy grew up and over their heads in trimmed arches, no spade-shaped leaves brushing against them. The potted plants lined up their ranks neatly against the walls, the breeze picking up stray soil and fertilizer, sweeping it all to the side with its invisible broom.
He nudged her. "Hey, I'll let you in on a little Vineyard School secret." He gestured out at the layers and shades of green, a playful smile tugging at his lips. "As long as you know your botany, you'll never be lost."
She blinked, still lost among the soft light and saturated aroma of the garden halls. "Huh?"
"The halls are coded," he said. "The 'M' in M104 stands for memory. The plants each hall go in alphabetical order, starting from the north and going clockwise."
She was listening now, but still the words passed right through her ears. "What?" She tried to replay them, make sense of them.
He stopped, the amused crinkle by his eyes showing that he knew he'd caught her interest. He returned her schedule to her. "This is your class."
"Wait, what does 'memory' mean?"
He just grinned. "You'll figure it out, right?" Turning on his heel, he waved goodbye. "I'll catch you later!"
Around her, the light seems to dim and the plants seemed to encroach. She stared after him for a moment, perplexed, then sighed and headed inside.
Vineyard School of Fine Arts was a magnet school. Its student body consisted of artists, dancers, musicians—and very few academics. This Maylie realized immediately. Her AP Calculus BC class had only four students in it, of which none seemed particularly engaged. Even the teacher napped at the front desk.
Upon opening the door, Maylie wasn't quite sure whether the boy had led her to the right room.
A girl's head turned, her lion's mane of natural hair bouncing and light reflecting off her oversized glasses. Intrigued, she nudged her friend, a tiny girl with shoulder-length black hair and a pink sweater that swallowed her whole. The friend blinked sleepily, but immediately grinned when she caught sight of Maylie.
"Hi!" she chirped, running up to Maylie. Now that she opened her mouth, she looked noticeably bigger, despite her stature staying the same. "Are you looking for someone?"
"Actually," Maylie said, "Uh, I'm a new student."
The girl's eyes bugged out of her head. "Really? Wow! What's your name? I'm Jenna!"
"And I'm Saf," said her friend. "Her name's on her name tag, you dummy."
"Oh!" Jenna squinted. "Maylie Yang? That's so pretty! What's your major?"
"Film," she said. "What about—?"
"I'm in film too! A minor, though; I'm a music major. Saf is a film major! So is Laurie Sanchez—she's like a major in everything though; I don't know how she does it. Aimee's that one in the corner studying. And the one in the other corner is Joseph, but I don't think he even has a major."
She glanced him for a moment, shaking her head. He sprawled across five desks, headphones over his ears, snoring. "What a lost cause."
"Is... every class like this?" Maylie wondered.
"This class is special," said Saf. "The school figures that since we're all advanced students anyway, there's no need to worry about us. And Mr. Schwartz is actually a phenomenal teacher."
"Well, between the hours of 9:15 am and 2:30 pm," Jenna corrected.
"Yeah," agreed Saf. "This class is an easy A. Just do the classwork, ace the tests, and you'll be fine. If you're confused, ask Schwartz during his office hours. He's awake then."
"I see," said Maylie, and slumped into a seat behind them. The girls chattered on until the bell rang, and Maylie rummaged for her schedule again. She had AP Literature next, and Jenna happily took the role of tour guide. Joseph and Laurie were in that class with her, too, although she couldn't quite figure out how the former had gone from sleeping like a rock to snoozing in the next class halfway across campus.
"Vineyard harbors many secrets," said Jenna. "One of them is Joseph Rosario, and how he hasn't managed to flunk out yet." Whispering, she added, "I think he has connections. Either that or witchcraft."
Maylie laughed. "Witchcraft?"
"Yeah, watch this!" Jenna closed her eyes, hummed, and chanted, "Fennel, columbine, rue, daisy, make this place all tipsy-crazy." Pausing, she looked around, her dark eyes sparkling, then broke out into a grin. "Well, obviously I would have to make the potion first; I can't just say the incantation and expect it to work."
"Clearly. Speaking of plants, someone I met earlier said I'll never be lost as long as I know my botany."
Jenna nodded sagely. "They're so right! Anyway, I'll see you at lunch!"
Maylie nodded uncertainly and took a seat in the front of the classroom. Only one other student sat in the front row with her.
"You're a bit of an overachiever, aren't you," said Laurie, speaking for the first time that day. She appraised her, a slight curl to her glossed lips, her Instagram eyes narrowed. Her left hand hovered over a dense book opened on her desk, colorful ink tattooing the pages; her other hand twirled her perfectly curled hair.
Maylie wasn't quite sure whether she was being sneered at or smiled at—so she shifted uncomfortably in the plastic seat and tucked her hair behind her ears. "I mean—I guess. But aren't you an overachiever, too?"
Laurie sighed, instantly bored, and turned her attention to the board. "I'm not an overachiever; I'm the overachiever. The top of the school rankings, every year. But I guess I didn't have to worry. You're clearly not up to par."
Reddening, Maylie said, "Excuse me?"
"Hey newbie, don't think I'm trying to be mean. I'm just stating things as they are." She turned her head back slightly, her chin resting on her fist like she was a modern-day incarnation of Rodin's Thinker. "I'll even give you some advice. One: buy a copy of Hamlet and start catching up. We're already halfway through and I'm sure you don't want to fail Lit in your senior year, am I right? And two: if you want to be popular, sit with me at lunch. Knowing geeks like Jenna Lee and Saffron Hayes will only get you so far." Smirking, Laurie returned to marking up the book in front of her. "Anyway, that's just my two cents. Take it or leave it."
Maylie wanted to retort something, to stand up for her newfound friends, but she couldn't think of one good thing to say that might change anything, so she just nodded slowly and waited for class to begin.
The teacher started class promptly at the bell, and seemed to do a double-take upon seeing Maylie. "You! You're not in my class!"
"Oh, she's a transfer," said Laurie smugly. "I can help her out, get her settled if you want."
"Could you?" beamed the teacher whose apple-adorned name plaque identified her as Mrs. Whitney. She was a round, curly-haired lady whose every feature seemed to melt into the average, her skin pink and just barely beginning to droop with age. "Oh, that's great! Alright, today let's start out with a book quiz—Miss Transfer, you're exempt—and then we'll delve into our Literature Circle groups. Clear your desks!"
With a groan, students shuffled, stuffing notes and paperbacks into waiting backpacks, rummaging around for the elusive number two pencil.
Laurie twirled a laurel green mechanical pencil in her hand, her self-assuredness a stark contrast to the rest of the classroom. "Tip number three, newbie," she said. "If you do the assigned reading and annotate, you'll always score well. Unlike those Sparknoting losers in the back."
Maylie nodded again, folding her hands together, and stayed that way until the quiz concluded. For Lit Circles, the class rearranged their desks into groups and Maylie found herself yet again stuck with Laurie Sanchez and Joseph Rosario. Aimee was poised with pens in hand, notes opened neatly. Joseph, on the other hand, stuck his water-damaged book upside-down on the desk, pages spread and spine protesting. He yawned, scratching his head. His hair, which must have, at one point this morning, been gelled up perfectly, now stuck up this way and that, runaway strands framing his forehead in odd spots. His cardinal college hoodie was creased in all the wrong places, the strings uneven like he'd tried to pull one end all the way through but gave up when the knot wouldn't fit through the hole.
The other two students were introduced as Dmitriya Smirnov and Abhiram Datta, but as Laurie informed her with whispered side-comments, they weren't worth the memory space better spent on minor Shakespearian side characters like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
When lunch rolled by after AP US Government, Maylie was beyond ready to get up and stretch her legs. At the bell, Jenna appeared magically at the door, a huffing and puffing Saf in tow. Laurie, in the same class again, rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. "Go ahead, if you must," she warned, "But keep what I said in mind. Your ticket to popularity expires tomorrow."
So Maylie snatched up her bag and fled the classroom as quick as she could. Each interaction with Laurie left her stressed, and she wanted nothing more than to indulge herself on cup noodles and find out, finally, whatever that botany code was that everyone else at Vineyard seemed to understand but her.
However, Maylie soon realized she would not be solving her mystery anytime soon—Jenna seemed keen on discussing other matters, like all the gossip Maylie would need to catch up on in order to be a truly integrated member of the Vineyard community. Saf had just scoffed at that, and scrolled through Twitter on her phone throughout the entire period, pausing only to interject "So what?" and "Who cares?" whenever Jenna started getting judgmental.
Even as lunch ended, and the three of them were shuttled off to their last class of the day, Jenna enumerated at length the list of the cutest boys at school, and some Lars Larsson who took Instagram pictures with babies and therefore topped the rankings.
At the end of the day, after an hour-long chemistry lecture of which she understood two words, Maylie was ready to retire.
The walk home was uneventful but calming. When she reached her home, though, the hairs on her arms rose and she knew instinctively something was wrong. In the kitchen, her mother was wailing, a mountain of crumpled-up tissues growing by the second. Her father tried to comfort her, shoving everything from ice cream to chocolate bars in front of her in an effort to calm her down.
"How could she say we don't care?!" Maylie's mother sobbed, her face splotchy with red and her blond hair a tangled mess. "Is she trying to spite us? What did we do wrong?"
"Don't you think she was overreacting?" Maylie's father tried. "Kids are like that."
Maylie knew at once they were talking about her sister. Their visit earlier that day must not have gone well. But then again, when had one ever? The first day Amelie had been sent to the facility they'd had to drag her kicking and screaming.
Maylie's mother kept sobbing. "We're failures as parents, Stephen!"
That was enough for Maylie. She tip-toed past them, her stomach twisting in cold knots, and silently shut her bedroom door behind her. That night, she fell asleep listening to her sister's favorite Broadway show, the songs repeating and repeating like her mother's tears until the morning.