We are taking book requests on our companion website. You can request books here. Make sure, you are following the rules.

A Taste for Love: Chapter 5

I pull out of the parking lot and drive down Bellaire, the main road that cuts through Chinatown. Four blocks down, I arrive at my destination. Situated at the junction of an L-shaped plaza, Boba Life is almost always packed on weekends. Like most teahouses, a row of flat-screen TVs above the counter displays the menu. The walls are painted black and covered with chalk murals by local artists. The exposed dark wood beams give the shop the illusion of having high ceilings. Tracks of pod lights illuminate the otherwise dim space, and a mix of K-pop and Billboard Hot 100 plays from the surround sound speakers. A long mahogany table sits in the middle of the front room, and smaller square or round tables line the walls.

I make my way past the groups of people chatting and a few working on their laptops. Grace is sipping casually on a taro cream tea at our usual table in the back room. As I plop down next to her, she points at the other drink on the table.

“I got your usual.”

I unwrap the straw and jab the pointed end into the plastic covering. It gives with a loud pop. One sip later, I’m happily chewing on the squishy dark brown balls I love so much.

Grace cocks her head. “So, who was it this time?”

“Some guy named Reuben. Reuben Lim.”

“Wait. I think I know him,” she says, her brown eyes lighting up. “Is he kinda short, with a bad bowl cut, and looks constipated all the time?”

I think back to my brief encounter and nod. “Yep. Sounds just like him.”

Grace leans back into her chair with a long sigh. She twirls a strand of hair around her finger. The ends are still blond, but her natural black color has taken back most of her head in the past year. Her makeup is flawless as usual, so natural you can only spot it up close. Even though we’re both wearing maxi dresses, she looks like she’s stepped out of a magazine, while I just look . . . comfortable.

“My mom set me up with him last year. As you can imagine, it was a total disaster.”

I take another sip of my tea. “Are you telling me you actually went on a date with the guy?”

“It was the only way to get her off my back,” Grace says with a shrug. “It was a small price to pay for Mom-free bliss.”

I make a face. “Well, I don’t have that option. It would only encourage my mom.”

We share a laugh and another round, this time on me. It’s a while before I notice Grace is overly quiet, fidgeting with her straw instead of drinking her tea. I reach across the table and touch her lightly on the arm.

“What’s wrong?”

Grace starts. “Huh? Oh, nothing’s wrong.”

“Of course there is. You haven’t said a word in ten whole minutes. It’s like some sort of record.”

Her eyes drop to the table, and she chews on her lower lip.

“Okay, yeah. There is something,” Grace says.

My stomach knots instinctively. “Grace, what is it?”

“I think, um . . . I think Brody’s cheating on you,” she finally blurts out.

For a second, the world around me tilts violently. My fingers tighten around my cup, and tea spurts out from the straw. I barely notice the sticky residue as it drips down the back of my hand.

“How . . . how did you find out?” I whisper.

Grace slides some napkins across the table, but I’m frozen to the spot. She dries off my limp fingers before answering.

“Sarah told me. She overheard one of her friends talking about it at the party after you left.”

I probably shouldn’t have ignored the fact that Brody recently forgot my birthday and made it up with vending machine candy, or that he’s been canceling plans and leaving my texts on read. He told me he was just busy with finals, but now . . .

“When did this happen?” I gulp. “And with who?”

“Apparently, they’ve caught him holding hands with and kissing Melissa Nguyen,” she tells me, playing with the napkin still in her hand. “But they didn’t say how long it’s been going on.”

Of course he’s cheating on me with the captain of the school’s dance team. It’s so predictable, it’s nauseating.

“I wanted to tell you right away, but we wanted to make sure we had proof,” she adds. “So we followed him around school the other day, and, well . . .”

Grace hesitates for a second but ultimately pulls up a video on her phone and presses play. It’s shaky, but I can make out Brody in his basketball jersey standing over Melissa in the hallway outside of class. Her thick black hair is pulled into a high ponytail, the glittering uniform they wear practically painted onto her. She giggles at something he says, and he wraps his arms around her waist and kisses her. I wrench my eyes off the screen.

Grace grabs my hand. “Liza, I’m so sorry.”

I should’ve known things with Brody were too good to be true. To my utter mortification, I feel my eyes tear up. Grace tucks me into the crook of her neck until I pull myself together.

“What are you going to do?” Grace asks gently.

“I . . . I don’t know. I know I need to break up with him, but I . . .”

Her grip tightens around my shoulders. “Well, you don’t have to do it right now. Take as much time as you need. Sarah and I are both here for you, even if it’s to help hide his body.”

I laugh despite myself. We stay for one last round of tea (minus the boba), though I suspect it’s more to distract me than anything else. We leave together, and Grace walks me to my car. As I unlock the door, she hands me a sheet of paper.

“What’s this?”

“Last week’s project outline. Figured you might need proof.”

I give her a quick squeeze. “You’re the best, you know that?”

“Of course I do. You’d be in matchmaking hell without me,” she jokes back.

“One of these days, I’m gonna be the one saving your ass.”

Grace rolls her eyes. “If you say so. Until then, you’re paying for all our teas.”

“Sounds fair to me,” I answer. “You’ve got a deal.”

“See you tomorrow.”

I fold the outline and tuck it into my pocket, and we go our separate ways. I drive home without bursting into tears again, but I still take a few minutes to compose myself in the car. Mom’s sitting in the living room when I walk in, and she doesn’t waste a second interrogating me.

“Were you really with Grace?”

I nod, grateful for the alibi. “Yes, Mom. We were at Boba Life, working on our project.”

Her eyes narrow. “You weren’t out with a boy again?”

“No. We were working on the project, just like I told you,” I answer.

“Then show me what you did.”

She’s both surprised and annoyed when I unfold the paper for her to examine.

“Put that in your backpack so you don’t forget to turn it in.”

Satisfied, Mom turns back to the book she was reading. I head to my room, closing the door behind me. I’m quiet during dinner, but Mom doesn’t mention it. Afterward, I retreat to my room and listen to my Spotify GOT7 playlist on repeat, hoping to distract myself. When Brody texts me out of the blue, I don’t answer, even when my phone goes off several more times. I cry for a little bit before reminding myself he’s not worth my tears. I’ve just dried my eyes when someone knocks on the door. Mom pokes her head in.

“By the way, I invited Reuben to come by the house for dinner on Friday. You should get to know him better.”

I balk and sit up in bed. “Seriously? After the way he acted at lunch?”

“Don’t be so judgmental, Liza. Most people think baking is for girls. He’s still a nice boy.”

You mean a nice Chinese boy.

I pretend to check my phone calendar. “That’s the day my group’s going to meet after school to work on the project. It’s our last chance before it’s due, so I might be getting home pretty late.”

“You can’t skip dinner, Liza. That’s not healthy.”

The set of her jaw makes it clear she thinks she’s won, but I’ve still got a card to play.

“We’re going to be ordering some pizza. Besides, it won’t look good if I’m the only one not staying for the entire thing.”

She huffs. “Fine. I’ll tell him to come Saturday instead.”

“I can’t do this Saturday. Grace and I are . . . studying for a math test,” I fib.

The corner of her right eye twitches. Uh-oh. That’s not a good sign. It only does that when she’s about to blow. I flash back to the conversation we had just a couple of weeks ago at the dinner table.

“Why won’t you give these boys a chance?” Mom asked. “They come from respectable families and are good students. Some of them even have fun hobbies!”

“Maybe because I don’t want the guy I date to sound like a walking college application.”

“Liza! There’s nothing wrong with a smart, successful boy. What about John Wu? You attend school with his sister Mona. He’s already been offered jobs with four of the biggest engineering firms in California. It’s a pity he’s three years older than you. If he were younger, he’d be perfect.”

Mona Wu looks like she took a frying pan to the face. Nope. Not a chance.

“He’s not my type,” I insisted firmly. “Even if he was my age, he still wouldn’t be.”

“Then who is? American boys?” Mom scoffed. “American boys don’t know how to work hard. They just want to party and do drugs.”

“Not everyone is like your reality TV shows, Mom! There are plenty of nice guys out there.”

“You only say that because you like them.” She shook her head. “Aiya, Liza, all flowers wilt. Don’t be fooled by a pretty face.”

“So . . . I should date a tree?” I couldn’t resist saying. “I’ve never really thought of a sequoia that way, but I suppose—”

That comment earned me three days in Mom’s special level of hell—no Wi-Fi. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I need to play this right. My freedom hangs in the balance.

“Next Friday, then.”

Mom’s voice is firm, inviting no further argument.

I lower my eyes. “Okay, yeah. I guess that works.”

Satisfied she’s gotten her way, she shuts the door and leaves. Finally alone, I smile to myself.


Most of the time, school is my escape from obedient daughter duties. The campus of Salvis Private Academy encompasses five large buildings wrapped around a triangular central courtyard. A forest of oak and pine, with a bayou abutting one side, surrounds the whole school. Behind the main building is the athletics field, though I honestly have no idea what it looks like. I try never to end up there intentionally.

Salvis also boasts a ninety-nine percent college acceptance rate, with nearly every top-ten student landing at an Ivy League school. It’s the only reason why Dad pays the equivalent of in-state college tuition for me to attend. Jeannie might be the star student in the family—valedictorian of her class, president of student council—but I hold my own. My teachers love me, and the grades come pretty easily. The only challenge these days is getting through my intense senioritis. It came in like a wrecking ball, and it takes everything in me not to slack off like some of my friends.

For the next four days, however, school is my own personal hell. I avoid Brody and ignore all his calls and texts. Either Grace or Sarah walks me to every class. Their scathing glares could level armies, much less a cheating jock. By Thursday night, I’ve weathered enough of the storm—though battered and bruised—to break up with him. I do it over text because, well, I’m not that sure of myself. When he doesn’t reply, I binge-watch the latest season of Queer Eye and pretend my tears are happy ones.

The next morning, exhausted and bleary-eyed, I pull into the school parking lot. As I get out of the car, Brody catches me off guard and steps into my path.

“Okay, babe, you need to tell me what’s going on. What’s with this text? Is this your idea of a joke?”

I balk at him. This from the guy who left me on read all night?

“You mean like how you’ve treated this whole relationship?”

“What are you talking about?”

I push past him, but he steps in front of me again. I narrow my eyes.

“Get out of my way.”

“Not until you tell me why you’re trying to break up with me,” he demands. “What the hell is that about?”

Fine. He wants to act innocent? I’ve got receipts.

“How about the fact that you’ve been cheating on me, Brody? And don’t deny it. I have a video of you with Melissa.”

He looks at me as though I’ve stepped on a puppy. “You were spying on me? How dare you, Liza?”

“How dare I?” I clench my fists. “How dare you cheat on me?!”

Brody pales. “I don’t know what video you’re talking about, but you’re wrong. It wasn’t me.”

I plant my feet and cross my arms over my chest. “Maybe next time you’re going to cheat in public and lie about it, don’t wear a basketball jersey with your last name on the back.”

As we argue, the pressure in my chest forces my voice higher and higher. Some of the other students eye us with open curiosity as they stroll past. Brody grins sheepishly at them before leaning in with a hiss.

“Stop yelling, Liza. You’re embarrassing me.”

“Embarrassing you?!” I say, incredulous. “You know what’s really embarrassing? Me wasting all this time on you!”

I take a step forward, intending to storm off, but he suddenly shifts to block my way. I stumble back against my car as Brody leans in close.

“Nobody dumps me, Liza,” he says in a low voice. “I’m Brody Smith. I do the dumping.”

“Hey! Why don’t you leave her alone?”

The voice draws closer with every word, but I can’t make out who’s speaking.

Brody’s face deepens in color. “This is between me and my girlfriend, so back off.”

My would-be hero comes to a stop next to us, and I finally get a good look at him. Despite the tension, my brain registers that he’s really tall for an Asian guy. Brody is five foot eleven—he claims six feet—and this guy has at least two inches on him. His black hair brushes across his strong eyebrows, a slight wave giving it the volume mine lacks. His brown eyes are serious, and his skin enviably clear. As he talks, I catch the tiniest hint of a single dimple cupping the left corner of his mouth.

“I’m pretty sure I heard her say she was breaking up with you.”

“She doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” Brody insists.

“Yes, I do,” I contradict softly. “We’re done, Brody.”

The guy arches a single, unperturbed brow. “How about now?”

A teacher passes by, and I take the opportunity to duck under Brody’s arm. He sneers at me.

“Whatever. I was getting tired of you anyway. You never want to do anything. Melissa knows how to be a real girlfriend.”

In a daze, I stare at his retreating back. It takes a long minute to realize my rescuer is still standing next to me. As mortified as I am, I force myself to look up at him.

“Um, thanks for your help. I didn’t expect him to act like that.”

He doesn’t reply, instead watching Brody stomp up the front steps into Building A. Maybe he didn’t hear me. I square my shoulders and stick my hand out.

“I’m Liza. What’s your name?”

His eyes rake across my features, his expression bored.

“Next time, try dating someone who’s less of an asshole.”

My eyebrows shoot up, and the words slip out before I can stop myself.

“That rules you out.”

He frowns. “What did you say?”

The morning bell rings, the sound piercing the air around us. I give him a sickly sweet smile.

“Oh, just that I’m lucky you were here to help.”

“Uh, sure,” he mumbles. “Better get to class.”

My mystery man pivots on his heel and walks toward the school without another word.

“What the hell just happened?” I say to no one.

The one-minute warning bell rings. I sprint along the same path, veering toward Building C. I glance back when I’ve reached the doors.

He’s gone.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


not work with dark mode