By Michelle Fu

(Graphic: MICHELLE FU/The Stanford Daily)

May 28, 2023, 11:10 a.m.

Editor’s Note: This story is a piece of fiction, meaning that all characters and events are purely from the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

She met the love of her life seven years ago, back when she was still young. Not that she wasn’t young now — by all accounts, at 26, Rose was in the prime of her life — but she had been a student then, and like many students, she still had a youthful arrogance that made her believe she was invincible. She slept entirely too little and drank a little too much; her meals were unhealthy and her caffeine habit was unhealthier. When she rode her bike, as she was doing on the blustery, stormy night that changed her life forever, it was with no helmet, no light and often no hands.

Because she was not invincible, however, she didn’t notice the squirrel in her path until it was too late.

Rose tried to swerve, but her tires skidded out from under her and she went crashing down to the pavement. She landed hard on her side, feeling first the shock of the impact, then the searing sting of the asphalt scraping her skin, and finally the cold rainwater seeping into her ripped-up clothes. The squirrel, frightened by the noise, had bolted. Dazed, Rose rolled over onto her back and stared up into the dark sky. If she wasn’t in so much pain, she would have laughed. Because of a stupid little squirrel, she could have been seriously injured. She could have died. Death by squirrel. It would be a fittingly pathetic way to go. 

She closed her eyes. The puddle that she was lying in was cold, but it felt nice. Much nicer than getting up, at the very least — the cold took the edge off the pain. Damn, she realized. It’s going to hurt so much more in the morning. She had a final in the morning. A physics final. Would the professor let her skip because of a bike crash? What would that do to her grade?

“Hey! Are you okay?”

Rose cracked open her eyelids. The squeal of rusty brakes was followed by a blinding white light, and then her hero was there, leaping off his bike and rushing to her side. Afterwards, she would replay his arrival over and over. In her memories, like pausing a favorite movie at the best part, she would linger on the concern on his face, the rain flattening his hair to his forehead, the bike clattering to the ground as he knelt down next to her. In the moment, though, all she could think about was her looming exam. I’m sure if I tell Faix what happened, he’ll let me skip the test. I did okay on my midterm, after all, and my homework grade is good too….

He asked her again, more frantically this time, and she managed a reply. “I fell off my bike.” Not really an answer to the question, but it seemed to satisfy him. 

“Did you hit your head?”


He looked relieved and held out his hand, smiling. His smile — she would remember that too. It was kind and warm, like hot chocolate in the middle of winter, or the sun breaking through gray clouds on the first day of spring. 

Was it then that she started to fall in love?

She took his hand and he pulled her up. Rose winced, her body aching. She held on tight to him for a second too long, savoring the warmth of his touch on her cold skin, then reluctantly dropped her arm down to her side.


Rose waited for the stranger to leave, to pick up his discarded bicycle and ride off, but he didn’t move. “You’re scraped up pretty badly, so I don’t think you should bike. Where do you live? I’ll walk you back.” 

She spluttered and felt her face flush. “No, no, you don’t have to.”

“It’s no trouble at all.”

“I— alright. Only if you’re sure.” Her test, so pressing before, was long forgotten.

In the darkness, Rose couldn’t help but smile. It was pouring, and the wind cut through her soaked shirt and stung her skin, but she didn’t mind. She was the heroine of an old romantic movie, and the charming stranger walking beside her was her hero — her Westley, her Mr. Darcy, her Joe Bradley. This was her big moment in the rain, and she was going to savor it. The orchestra was playing, and the violins were swelling as a lone horn played the sweetest theme of love….

“How did you fall, anyway?”

“Oh!” Rose jumped, startled. “A squirrel ran out in front of me. When I tried to swerve, my tires slipped.”

The stranger laughed. Rain was running down the side of his face. “It’s dangerous out there. You can’t trust the wheels to do what you want.”

“Thanks again for helping me,” she said, desperate to keep the conversation flowing.

“No problem at all,” he replied.

Before she knew it, they were standing outside of her dormitory, and Rose was cursing herself for not walking more slowly, for not saying more, for not making the most out of her moment with — she didn’t even know his name! 

“What’s your name?” she blurted. 

“Auden. And you are?”

Auden. She sighed. Even his name was handsome. “Rose.” 

“Well, Rose, I’m glad you made it back safely.” Rose felt a warm giddiness in her chest as he said her name. “Take care.” 

He waved and rode off, but Rose lingered outside, watching him, until he turned the corner and disappeared from view. 

“The next stop is: Nassau Avenue.”

Her stop. Rose glanced up. Sitting across from her, squeezed in-between a tiny old Asian woman with a bag full of leafy vegetables and a nervous-looking man in an expensive suit, was a young couple. High-school aged, if she had to guess, or maybe college—kids, in any case. The girl was leaning against the boy’s shoulder; he was running his fingers through her hair. She looked up and whispered something in his ear, and he chuckled, pulling her closer to his chest.

Rose frowned and looked away.

The doors opened and Rose stood, joining the flood of people streaming out of the train car and into the grimy subway station. Shoving past the crowd waiting to board the train, she made her way through the station, passing fresh graffiti and carelessly discarded trash, and climbed up the stairs to the New York City streets.

At the top, she wrinkled her nose. It smelled like piss. Somehow, even after four years of living in the city, she hadn’t gotten used to it. Rose exhaled forcefully, startling a woman passing by on the sidewalk, and began to walk home.

She was 22 and fresh out of school when she moved to New York, and she had hated it. She hated the smells—the stench of boiling urine that permeated the air during the summertime, the acrid odor of trash at every block. She hated her job, hated the hours, hated slaving away to please her bosses while they took all the credit. She hated the grime and the way the subway was always late and the men who whistled and said damn, look at that ass! on her walk home.  

Most of all, though, she hated being alone.

As a student, she’d scoffed at the idea. After all, she liked her solitude! A candle, a warm blanket and Roman Holiday for the 21st time — that had been her ideal Friday night. What difference was there between movie night in a dorm room and movie night in an apartment? She had been such a fool. The ever-present solitude, which had once been her refuge in small doses, was suffocating.

But then, just when Rose could stand the suffocation no longer, there he was. Auden.

It was a chance encounter, the kind that only happens in the movies. Rose was 23 years old and sitting in the back corner of a coffee shop on 6th Street, staring listlessly at all the people perched on colorful backless stools. Loneliness was gnawing at her stomach and chewing a hole through her heart. The flower of milk that the barista had so carefully poured over her coffee had dissolved, leaving behind a vague white smear. 

She was leaving New York City. She hadn’t told anyone yet — not her manager, not her landlord, not the disgusting men who catcalled her on her walk home — but she knew, and the relief was almost enough to fill the pit in her chest.

The door opened, letting in the chilly city air, and Rose looked up. A young man was standing in the entrance; he seemed to take a deep breath, as if steadying himself, then strode in. She studied his features with mild curiosity. Handsome, but not in a way that would turn heads. Soft, dark hair and a clean-shaven face. Glasses with square lenses. Black jeans, white sneakers and an aviator jacket. Mild recognition tugged at her, but the name escaped her lips. She squinted, trying to recall all the people she’d seen in high school, in college, in meetings with clients at work.

All of a sudden, she remembered. Her stomach began to flutter and her heart leapt into her throat.

How could she have forgotten?

The glasses were new, and he looked older, more confident. But it was him. 

Auden was standing in line at the counter now, and he was staring right at Rose. Something — courage? foolishness? — seized her, and she lifted her hand up in a small wave. Drawn by the movement, he met her eyes, and for a second, he seemed confused. Rose’s heart thundered. Had he forgotten her? Of course he had. It had been years, and she was nothing to him — for all she knew, he had walked a hundred bleeding girls home in the rain. Silently, her face burning, she chastised herself. You stupid, stupid girl. Stop dreaming.

She held her breath, watching, waiting. Then, his face lit up, and he smiled.

At that moment, it was like the sun had returned to New York City.

He left the line and walked over to the corner where Rose was sitting, then pointed at the red stool across the small table. “Is this seat taken?”

“Y-yes,” she stammered, “I mean, no! No, it’s not taken. Yes, you can sit here. Sorry.”

“Great.” He pulled it back with a screech against the wooden chair and sat down. Then, he leaned in, folding his arms across the table. Rose inched back, ever so slightly. Her face was hot. Her fingers, wrapped around her blue coffee mug, were white. 

He laughed, ever so slightly, and she melted. 

“You’re the girl from the puddle. Rose, was it?”

Rose nodded.

“Rose,” he breathed. Behind glass lenses, his dark eyes were warm. “I always hoped I would see you again.” 

No. Wait. What was it he said?

“I’ve been waiting forever to see you again.”

“I—” Rose started, then stopped, because the words got stuck in her throat. A strange feeling was welling up inside her chest. It was anxiety and fear. It was relief, it was love, it was hope. Most of all, it was the feeling that for once, a year after moving to New York, she wasn’t alone. 

Teary eyed, for the first time in what felt like forever, she smiled. A real smile, one that spread across her face and pulled at her cheeks.

“I’ve been waiting for you, too.”

Though the sky had darkened, the swampy city air wasn’t even beginning to cool as Rose approached the steps to her apartment. Her feet ached. The sides of her black leather heels dug into her flesh, leaving it red and inflamed. One of these days, she always told herself, she would remember to bring sneakers for the walk to the subway station. Every day, on her way out the door, she forgot. 

Wincing, she made her way into the building, through the dark hallway, and up the stairs to her flat. 

Rose jammed the key into the brass doorknob and wiggled it so it turned all the way, then felt around in the darkness for the lightswitch. She flicked it, and the familiar sights of her apartment greeted her: a gray loveseat, surrounded by houseplants with wilted, yellow leaves (she never remembered to open the curtains in the morning, and she always came back late); a shaggy blue rug; a small table; a tiny kitchen with an oven that always broke; a fridge covered in shopping lists and Post-It notes with messages like send report to Will and meet w/client @5AM. Rose breathed in the air, which carried the vague lemony scent of the candle she’d lit the night before, and sighed. 

She kicked off her shoes, then made her way to the kitchen and rummaged around in the fridge. Half a chicken breast, two eggs, leftover rice—it would do. Grabbing her phone, she scrolled through her music, put on the headphones that she’d left on the counter and pressed play.

Happiness hit her like a train on a track

Coming towards her, stuck still…

There was a rustle from the bedroom, then the squeak of a hinge. Rose, in the middle of cutting up chicken, turned her head to the bedroom door and smiled as Auden walked out wearing an old sweatshirt and a pen tucked behind his ear. 

“Hey, Rosie.” He came up beside her and kissed her cheek. “How was work?”

Rose frowned. “Will’s asking for the proposal three days earlier than we agreed. It’s due in two weeks and he just told me. Something about ‘extra revisions before sending it to the client.’ Well, I think that’s bullshit.” She gave the chicken an aggressive whack. “It’s just going to sit in his inbox for three days, unopened, and I’ll have busted my ass for nothing.”

“I’m sorry. You deserve better.”

She sighed. “He’s always been like that. I’m used to it by now. How was your day?”

“Oh, you know. Just more door schedules.” Auden laughed. “The most glamorous part of my job.”

“Well, every time I walk through a door in the Museum of Natural History, I’ll be thinking of you.”

“Aww. I’m honored.” 

The dog days are over

Can you hear the horses?

“Hey, it’s our song. Rosie, milady.” Auden swept into a clumsy bow and held out his hand. “May I have this dance?”

“Oh, I suppose,” Rose teased, “but only because you asked so nicely.” 

She smiled and set down her knife. Auden took her hands and they began to twirl around the tiny kitchen. Rose stumbled forward, stepping on his foot; he laughed and spun her around. Her hip bumped against the cabinets, sending a momentary jolt of pain down her thigh, but she was laughing, and Auden was laughing, and the chicken was long forgotten….

The intercom buzzed, and Rose nearly jumped out of her skin. Her grip on her knife slipped, and the chicken-covered blade nicked her finger. “Shit,” she hissed, running over to the sink to rinse out the cut with hot soap and water. The soap stung, and Rose let out a small yelp of pain as the intercom buzzed again. Was it louder this time, or was that just her imagination?

“I’m coming, I’m coming,” she yelled, though she knew no one could hear. She hastily wrapped a paper towel around her bleeding finger, then ran over to the intercom and pressed talk

“Hello?” she asked, breathless.

“Surprise, Rosie, it’s me! Can you let me in?”

Rose’s eyes went wide. It was crackly and distorted, but there was no mistaking the voice. 

Hannah. Why was she here? 

Rose hesitated, and for the briefest moment entertained thoughts of walking away from the intercom and leaving her sister to wait outside until the downstairs neighbors called the cops on her for loitering. 


Rose sighed. “One second.” Then, she let go of the intercom and went to find a bandage for her finger. 


When Rose opened the door, Hannah was standing there with a big, cheesy grin on her face and a bottle of red wine in her hand. 

“Rosie!” she squealed, moving in for a hug. Rose allowed herself to be embraced. “How are you? I haven’t seen you in so long!”

Rose answered with another question. “What are you doing here?”

It wasn’t that she disliked her sister. After all, who could dislike Hannah? She was a pediatrician. She ran in charity races and donated to shelters and always used her turn signal, even when there was no one watching. 

No, it wasn’t dislike. It was more like vague irritation. 

“Alex and I are here to see the New York Phil,” Hannah said, hanging her coat on the rack and walking over to the kitchen table to drop off the wine, “so I decided to pay my little sister a visit.”

“Is Alex coming?”

“No. He’s visiting a friend in SoHo. But if you want, I can tell him to stop by later?”

“It’s okay. You don’t have to.”

Alex, her brother in law — she didn’t dislike him either. It was inexplicable, really, because he hadn’t done anything to her. Just the opposite, in fact. She had lied once and told him once that she liked chess, so he always played a game with her at family get-togethers. He had even helped her move all her furniture into her apartment. 

She supposed it was their happiness that she disliked. Hannah and Alex lived by the ocean and had great work-life balances. They had a cute little corgi that they adored, and they always sightread string quartets with the rest of their musician friends from college. Meanwhile, Rose had nothing. 

Besides Auden, of course.

“I didn’t know you were coming,” Rose said, “or I would have made more food.”

“Don’t worry about it. I ate already.”

“Well, I’m just going to finish cooking, then.”

She made her way back to the kitchen while Hannah examined the couch, the dying houseplants, and the small pile of books on the table. Rose whisked the eggs and submerged the chicken in a blend of sauces, then pulled out her phone and began to scroll, determined to avoid as much conversation with her sister as possible. 

“Hey.” Hannah was holding up a hardcover copy of Emma. “You’re reading this?”

“No,” Rose said, barely looking up from her phone. “I haven’t had time.”

“What about this one? Ten Canonical Buildings: 1950-2000. I didn’t know you were into architecture.” 

That’s Auden’s, Rose thought, but she said nothing. 

Hannah sat down on the couch, presumably reading. The chicken was done marinating, and Rose finished cooking in silence. She brought her steaming bowl of chicken and rice to the table, then grabbed the only two wine glasses she owned from the cabinet. “How much do you want?”

“I’m good, thanks,” Hannah said, taking a seat at the small table. 

Rose frowned. 

“Are you pregnant?”

Hannah looked around, as if making sure that no one was watching, then nodded, an exhilarated smile on her face. 

“I found out two weeks ago. We’re keeping it secret for now.”

“Well, more wine for me. Congrats.”

Bitterly, Rose acknowledged that Hannah and Alex would be great parents. 

She poured out the wine, corked the bottle, and began to eat in silence. Her sister was staring at her — she could feel it. What did she want?

“How are you doing, Rosie?”

Rose looked up. “What?”

“I mean, how are you really doing?”

“I’m fine.” Rose took a gulp of her wine. “I don’t know what you’re getting on about.”

Hannah reached forward, trying to take Rose’s hand. Rose jerked back, so Hannah balled her hand into a fist. “We’re all really worried about you, you know? Mama and Baba said you haven’t called in months, and God knows you never call me. You live in a one-bedroom apartment all by yourself. Do you even go out? Do you have friends? What’s going on, Rose?”

Rose crossed her arms and scoffed. “So that’s why you’re here.” 

“A little bit, yes. Rosie, we barely even knew if you were alive.


Auden was at her side. “What’s happening?”

“Nothing. I’m okay. My sister is just being a nosy bitch,” Rose huffed. “God, she just waltzes into my home unannounced and pretends like she cares about me. I’m sick of it! Why can’t she just go back to her perfect life and leave me alone?”

“I’m sorry, Rosie.” He wrapped his arms tightly around her, and she collapsed into his embrace. Auden always understood.


“Hello? Rose?”

“I’m fine, Hannah,” she snapped. “Look, I haven’t been calling because work is hard, but I’m fine. For real. I — I even have a boyfriend now, so I’m not lonely anymore. You don’t have to worry about me, okay? Tell Mama and Dad not to worry about me either.” 

There. Would that get her sister off her back?

Hannah narrowed her eyes. “Tell me more about your boyfriend.” 


“Because you’ve been distancing yourself from everyone lately, and I need to know that he’s not abusing you.”

“Of course not. Auden’s not like that.” As she thought of him, a warm, fuzzy feeling spread throughout her chest. “He’s the smartest, kindest, most caring person I’ve ever known. Really. He makes me so happy.”

“Okay… I believe you.” Hannah still seemed suspicious. “How did you meet? Where does he work? Does he live here?”

“He’s an architect. He doesn’t live here, but he comes around pretty often,” Rose answered. “We met back in college after he helped me when I crashed my bike — you remember, right? I had to miss my physics final because I couldn’t walk the morning after. We ran into each other again a few years ago, and it’s honestly been like a fairytale ever since.”

Rose leaned back. Surely now her sister would be satisfied. She looked up, expecting to see a smile on Hannah’s face. 

What she didn’t expect was open-mouthed shock.


“What’s Auden’s last name, Rose?”

“Fisher?” She didn’t see where this was going.

“A half-Japanese guy, right? Does he work at Studio Gang?”

“Yeah… why?” Ever so slightly, Rose’s palms began to sweat. Did she know him?

“Auden is Alex’s sister’s fiancé.” Hannah’s expression was deathly serious. “Did you know about this?”


The world shattered. Rose, in shock, couldn’t say anything. 

“Rose. Answer me.” 

Hannah was angry. Rose hadn’t seen her sister angry since the time they were both in high school and Rose accidentally broke Hannah’s violin bow. Hannah had been furious. She’d slapped Rose, then, square across the face. Would Hannah be capable of hitting her now?


She could tell that her sister was growing impatient. Time seemed to slow as Rose weighed her options. To be pathetic or to be reviled. Which was better?

Pathetic, she decided.

But only slightly. 

Rose balled her hands into fists. “We’re not really together,” she mumbled. Tears threatened to come to her eyes, and she blinked them away.

She was a loser. A disturbed, disgusting loser.

Hannah squinted. “What?”

“I just pretend that we are.” Rose didn’t look up. “I… daydream about him sometimes.”

All the time.

Hannah leaned back and exhaled heavily. For a long time, she was silent, and Rose could see her jaw working. 

“That’s not healthy, Rose.”

“You think I don’t know?”

“I — God. You always liked to daydream, but you — you’ve really been pretending to be in a relationship with a stranger for years? Does he even know you exist?”

Rose opened her mouth to speak, then closed it again. Hannah sighed. 

“You need to stop.”

Rose shook her head. “I can’t.”

“You can’t? Why not?”

“Because, because,” she started, then broke off. She hiccupped, and the breath hitched in her throat as tears started streaming down her face. Rose slammed her hand down on the table, making her wine glass shudder. 

“It’s so easy for you, Hannah.” She hiccupped again. “Everyone just adores you. You have Alex and Peanut and you’re about to have a baby. Meanwhile, my coworkers hate me. My boss overworks me, then takes all the credit when it’s good and blames me when it’s bad. I haven’t made a single friend in the four years I’ve lived in this city. Did you know that?”

“Rose —” Hannah started.

Rose cut her off. “I’m so lonely, Hannah. Auden is — he’s the only person who cares about me. Who makes me feel loved. And I’m not hurting anyone, so why shouldn’t I be happy?”

She buried her face in her arms and began to sob. 

“Rose, look at me.” 

She did as she was told. 

“He’s not real, Rose.”

“I know that.”

Except for the low hum of the refrigerator, the apartment was silent.

“Look, Rosie.” Hannah leaned over and grabbed Rose’s hands. “If you’re miserable, there are things you can do. You can go to therapy. You can quit your job and move back home for a while. You can get a dog if you’re lonely — you can even borrow Peanut if you want. You can make new friends! But you can’t keep living like this. You can’t love someone’s shadow.”

“My apartment doesn’t allow pets,” Rose muttered.

“I still can’t believe you didn’t tell me about any of this. Why?”

Because I have Auden. I don’t need you.

Hannah glanced at her watch. “I need to go. But I’ll get Alex and we’ll be back here tonight. Don’t go anywhere.” She stood up to leave. 

“Please don’t,” Rose protested, but Hannah was gone and out the door before she could finish. 

Stupid Hannah. She never did listen. Wiping tears from her eyes, Rose stood and slowly went to lock the door behind her sister. Then, she walked over to the couch and threw herself down. With shaking fingers, she opened Instagram and began to type in a username. 


His profile came up instantly. Auden Fisher. In the past, she must have visited that page a thousand times, saving every last picture — Auden with his coworkers, Auden in a national park with his family, Auden five years ago at his college graduation. But it was too painful now.

With a sinking heart, she expanded the most recent picture. Rose saw Auden first. Auden — handsome and radiant, with a smile like the sun. He was holding a woman, sobbing happy tears, in his arms. Her hand, with a sparkling diamond ring, was on his chest.

Stella, my star. I must be the luckiest man alive. @stella_xin 

Stella — it was her in the coffee shop that day. Rose forced herself to remember the events as they were, not the way she dreamed them to be. She remembered Auden walking in. She remembered waving at him as he stood in line; she remembered his kind smile that bore no hint of recognition. She remembered watching as Auden took a seat at the empty table, clearly nervous, clearly excited, looking all around the café. She remembered the girl walking in, far more beautiful than Rose could ever be. She remembered how Auden stood up so quickly to greet her that his backless red stool toppled over and clattered on the floor.

Enough. She was done remembering. 

Rose scrolled through her music, chose a song, then threw her phone to the other side of the couch. She closed her eyes. 

Happiness hit her like a train on a track

Coming towards her, stuck still…

Hannah had been right — a dog would be nice. She imagined a fluffy corgi — no, a samoyed — nestling beside her and resting his head on her stomach. Max. That was his name — Max. She imagined the feeling of his fur, warm and soft. She imagined Auden opening the bedroom door, closing it quietly behind him, and coming to sit beside her.

“Rosie, my love. Are you alright?”

Michelle Fu ’24 was the Graphics Managing Editor for Vol. 262-264. Before graduating, she could be found grinding out p-sets, shredding on the violin, and taking stealthy photos of fluffy dogs.

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