When the Lilies Turn Orange (Chapter 6)

When the Lilies Turn Orange (Chapter 6)

A Chapter by Raven Held

 

 

Six

 

 

 

Statice

 

 

 

Psycho.

That night in bed, I couldn’t stop thinking about that word. The day had really worn me out, with the preparation and then the celebration and meeting Connell and the rest again. I shut my eyes, but my mind wouldn’t go to sleep. It kept returning to that scene with Connell and his sister.

Charm hadn’t exactly meant that when she called her brother that, had she? I mean, it was probably like Rox said, that it was something you said to someone in a fit of anger. It probably didn’t mean anything, did it?

But then, what was that about going back to his ward? Did she mean that too? There was something about Charm that I couldn’t put my finger on. I understood sibling rivalry. That was one thing, but with Charm and Connell, it was as though she really loathed the sight of him.

Despise. The word flickered through my mind absently.

I opened my eyes with a jolt. Despise. Was that what Connell meant when he said that people despised him?

Go to sleep, Raven, my brain nagged. You’re tired and dramatising things too much.

Ignoring it, I thought, what made someone a psycho? What made him despised? The fact that he was in therapy? Or that he had an almost antisocial character? What made Charm think she wasn’t the psycho?

I realised I had almost sunk into sleep, because I was jerked awake by a noise. It was loud, like a stone being struck against thick glass.

Again.

And again.

I scrambled out of bed and went to the window. I flinched as a stone hit it again, right before me. My eyes widened – in surprise or horror, I didn’t know which.

“You have got to be kidding me,” I muttered, and pushed the windows open. “What are you doing?” I hissed.

He stood in a pool of dimmed moonlight, an amateurish move, since it threw him into plain view of anyone who happened to look out of their windows.

“Just wanted to talk,” Connell said loudly, so I could hear from my second-level bedroom.

I shushed him in panic. “Oh, my god,” I said, my heart starting to pump hard again. This sort of things always happened in those books that mom loved to read, where the guy threw stones at the girl’s bedroom window. Of all methods to meet up with me again, Connell had to choose the oldest, most done-to-death one in the book.

I didn’t want to continue the conversation in this manner, so I hissed again, “Wait there. I’m coming down.”

I grabbed a sweater and stole downstairs, skipping the third step of the flight of stairs because it creaked. I looked at the clock in the living room. Twelve-fifteen. What the hell was he doing in my backyard at twelve-fifteen in the morning?

“What are you doing?” I asked again after I had slipped out of the house and reached him.

“Apologising for leaving that spot where you ordered me to wait for you,” he said. “I was being complete a jerk just now, and you’re one of the people I know here who doesn’t hate me on sight, so I don’t want to lose that.”

It was turning out to be a gusty night. The night wind swirled around me as I thought about what Connell had just said. “Well,” I began slowly. “Your sincerity is touching – and not mention unexpected. But what else brings you here in my backyard? Or were you just planning to climb in through goodness-knows-where, say a quick sorry and leave?”

Connell shuffled his feet, hands in his pocket. “I can’t sleep,” he told me. “Charm isn’t home yet.”

I looked at him. “You stayed up just to make sure she’s home safe?”

“Not exactly,” he said with slight irritation. “I’m here, aren’t I? If I wanted to make sure she gets home un-drunk or whatever, with her clothes still on, I’d have camped out outside her room, wouldn’t I?”

“So that still brings us back to my question, doesn’t it? What’re you doing here?”

He hesitated. “You wanna go somewhere?”

I didn’t know if I wanted to. Correction: I wanted to, but I don’t know if it would be a good idea. I loved the idea of ‘going somewhere’ with Connell, the idea of being lulled away into the moonlight by someone I yearned to know so much more about. But I was sure even my mom wouldn’t agree that it was the best idea.

I turned back, looked at the house, thought of what mom would say, what dad would say, and what Rox would say.

Then I looked at Connell, waiting expectantly but somewhat uncertainly, for he was slightly slouched with his hands still in his pocket. The waned moon, veiled by clouds, threw his long shadow across the yard.

I shrugged. “I guess.”

He broke into a smile, a genuine, broad one that I have never seen up till now. I stared, surprised – almost mesmerised. My mouth even parted a little. He looked different when he smiled, like a young boy pleased at getting the chocolate chip ice-cream as a prize – his eyes warmer, his jaw less stiff.

“Great, let’s go,” he said and took my wrist. He held on to it gently as he led me to a darkened area where the hedge was. Beyond it was the barbed-wire fence.

“Where’re we going?” I asked, resisting a little as he pulled me down. He had gotten down on his knees as though he was about to crawl through the cracks in the hedge. Maybe Charm was right about him being ‘psycho’.

“You’ll see,” he said, only not in that creepy way Gollum did when he’d lured Frodo into Shelob’s abode. “Come on. We’ve got to crawl through here.”

“There?” I pointed.

I must have looked unconvinced, because Connell said, “Trust me. I got in this way.”

“Is that why your jeans are all muddy?” I said, but I got down on my knees and crawled along after him anyway.

We emerged from the hedge and the hole through the barbed wire fence.

“I have to tell dad about this,” I said, surveying the hole.

“Come on,” Connell said and took my wrist lightly again. His hold was strong and firm, but gentle. I followed him.

 

*

 

“Um – what are we doing here?”

I was feeling kind of nervous. We were sneaking in again. Well, not again for me, but for Connell. He’d brought a pair of bicycles and we rode to the outskirts of Wroughton, where we then entered some sort of woods.

A twig snapped under my foot and his hold on my hand tightened.

“Connell, where are you taking me?” I asked for what really felt like the three hundred and eleventh time.

“Almost there,” he said. “A bit more.”

We finally reached a clearing, where moonlight fell softly through. There was a very tiny stream no more than an arm wide, and a house.

I stared. Having lived in Wroughton for seventeen years and counting, I never knew there were people living in the outskirts, in the woods. Did the URA even permit that? Then I thought it must be a holiday house of some kind that someone must have decided to construct here after locating this sweet spot during his camping trip or something.

I spotted a sign planted in the ground a few feet away before the house, in the way they were always planted in cartoons. “It says No Trespassing,” I told Connell, pointing to it. “Aren’t we kind of doing that now?”

“Don’t worry about that,” he said. “It’s just my granddad.”

“Your granddad?” He nodded. “Okay, now I’m confused. You mean he put up the sign, or that this place belongs to him?”

“This is his house. He built it not too long ago,” he said, his eyes bright and wild, exhilarated. It was as though he had just seen his grandfather’s ghost. “He always took me places. He said I was his special boy. He loved Charm too, but I was the one he always brought along, you know?”

“Sounds like you two were really close,” I said.

“We were,” he said, nodding and smiling a little.

He sat down on the ground, in front of the little stream snaking to somewhere behind the house like a thread glittering under the moon. The light streamflow was all that could be heard. It felt like everything around us was listening to our conversation too, and I basked in the comfort of the company I had with me.

“Do you mind telling me how he … you know?” I asked quietly. I placed my hand on top of his.

He looked up, his jaw clenched again. The moon made his face look slightly pale, slightly otherworldly. “Killed.” The word was hard as a rock, coming from him.

“Killed?” I repeated. “How? By whom?”

His eyes looked strange, unfocused, as he turned to look at me. It wasn’t the same as the one I saw at the Beaming Rose in the afternoon, when he nursed my bump. “My dad.”

I blurted out a laugh. I couldn’t help it. He looked completely deadpanned when he said it, but – come on. Growing up in an estate like Wroughton, where the biggest news of all that gets everyone talking is the homecoming of a culinary hotshot, you can’t help but have a simple view of things; melodrama our estate was not acquainted to.

Connell turned to stare at me, his eyes large and heavy, conveying its weight onto mine.

“What?” I finally whispered. My voice came out hoarse.

“My dad killed my granddad,” he said again. His gaze was unwavering, staunch in its finger-pointing conviction. “It could be for inheritance, personal agenda – I don’t know. All I know is that he killed him.”

“Connell,” I said, the wings of fear suddenly seizing me. Logic was taking flight from my mind. “But – why would your dad do that? He’s got enough money to – I don’t know, feed the entire Wroughton estate for a year, I’m sure!”

“Look,” Connell said, looking away. “I don’t know, okay?”

“You saw your granddad … leave … before your eyes?”

He nodded.

“How did he.…?”

He shook his head in frustration, squeezing his eyes shut tightly. “I can’t remember! All I remember is that he was lying down, and he was looking at me, saying something.” He shook his head, as though he was trying to clear the fog in his mind so he could view that scene again.

“You can’t remember? Why not?”

He opened his eyes and looked at me. “You know, you asked the exact same questions as your dad did in therapy,” he said. He sounded more normal now, like the memories haunting him had left and he was back to the present with me sitting next to him.

“I did?” I asked. He nodded. “So why can’t you remember?”

“Your dad suggested that my grief may have made it slip out of my memory,” he said flatly. “He says it can happen, that the mind works differently for different people who are grieving. The shock of knowing the truth may be the cause of my memory loss.”

I nodded slowly, trying to make sense of that. I realised that I had been holding my breath. I had always wanted to know more about Connell and his life, even requested for him to tell me. Now that I was beginning to peer into it, I didn’t know if I could ever pull myself out, or see the things outside the peephole the same way again. It was like quicksand. Some things sucked you in once you dipped just your toe into them and begin flailing around helplessly but hopefully. I never imagined the truth would be something this big – so big that my mind couldn’t even begin to wrap itself around it.

“So – your family,” I said, moving on to something else. “How did they react to this? Wasn’t your dad ever caught?”

“Oh, I don’t think he straight-out murdered him,” Connell said. “My theory is that he slowly fed him … medication … that made him die slowly.” He shut his eyes. “Yes, I can see it. Grandpa’s body degenerating, eventually collapsing.” He opened his eyes. “It’s my dad.”

“Oh, Connell,” I said and held his hand, clutched it. “My god, Connell, your dad,” I whispered.

“I know,” Connell said, his voice finally beginning to waver. His hand tightened around mine. “More to him than meets the eye, huh.”

“Oh, Connell,” I said again.

“Then he sent me to therapy,” Connell said bitterly, his voice louder, angrier. “Said I was grieving too much I was going crazy. Even my sister thinks so now.” He smiled bitterly and threw a stone into the stream. It landed with a soft plop and droplets of water sloshed up.

“Are you ever going to….” I trailed off, wondering how to continue. Connell turned and looked at me questioningly. “Well … turn him in?” I asked in a low voice, the words choking up in my throat.

“Never thought about that,” he admitted, staring at the stream again. “But if – when – I get back my memory, I will. I swear, I’ll put him behind those bars where he belongs.”

He said that with such a savagery I almost pulled my hand out of his. But I stiffened my muscles and tamed it there.

“Do Reilly and the rest know about this?” I asked.

He blinked, as though he had forgotten who they were. Then he smiled. “They’ve been there for me, since forever. The few weeks after grandpa died, they took me out in that van everyday, making their usual noise and playing their music, just to get my mind off everything.”

I smiled. “You see? You’re not so alone in all this. And now you’ve got one more person in it together with you.”

He looked at me, his brows raised. “Who?”

“Me.” I smiled again.

The next thing happened so quickly I could barely breathe. He cupped my cheek and leaned closer to me, pulled me towards him and pressed his lips against mine. I felt his fingers burn where they came in contact with my skin. It was my first real kiss. And it felt perfect. Our lips fit right into each other’s, and he held my face and his hands swam through my hair like they belonged there and knew every inch of it well.

I don’t know how long we kissed, with the stream flowing quietly before us like it was afraid of disturbing, under the hooded glow of the waning moon. Time slipped past like fine sand that leaked through your fingers.

Eventually, we broke apart. I was panting, my breaths coming out as heavy and noisy inhalations and exhalations, entirely too loud for the tender silence around us.

We stared at each other for a while, disbelieving of what had just happened.

“That’s my grandfather’s holiday shack,” he said, gesturing to the house, breaking the silence. It had a few steps leading up to a veranda, Southern US-style, and a green roof. “Our whole family would go there almost every weekend, barbeque, chill – the usual stuff you do in a weekend house,” he told me. “Grandpa had all these paintings that he did hung all over the house. Later, he hung mine too, when I started to paint as well. Before that, it was always just stuck onto the fridge door. But when I did my first painting, grandpa was so proud he hung it right next to his painting of a man sitting in a boat on his fishing trip.”

“Bet you were flying that entire day,” I said, smiling.

He chuckled. “The entire week,” he corrected. He stood up suddenly and pulled me to my feet too. “Come on.”

“What – where’re we going?”

“In there,” he said, pointing to the house. “I want to see if I can find anything that may jolt my memory of what happened. Let’s go.”

“Do you have the keys?”

He stopped short and thought hard. “No,” he said slowly. “But we can climb in through the windows.”

I looked at him in apprehension. “Don’t you guys have a spare key somewhere?”

“Can’t remember where it is, if there ever was one,” he replied as he walked towards the house. It was dark. Well, of course it was. It was vacant now, wasn’t it?

Connell was unlatching the window through an open on above it. I guess they felt that since it was buried in so obscure a location, they didn’t have to bother with locking.

“Does this constitute breaking and entering?” I asked nervously, my hands in my sweater pocket.

“Not if it’s your granddad’s house,” Connell said, successfully opening the window. He lifted it. “Watch how you land,” he warned.

I began to stick my upper body in –

“No,” Connell said, pulling me out by the waist. “That’s not how you do it. You’ll roll into the house and make that bump worse by falling all over the place. Put your leg in first, then bend forward and slide your upper body in.”

I followed his instructions and got in soundlessly. Connell entered in the same manner too. As I let my eyes adjust to the complete darkness in the house, he muttered, “Lights … lights….” and moved away in search of it. He seemed slightly unsure of himself and even bumped his knee against a table, which made a half-moaning/half-grunting noise. Finally, he flipped on the lights, throwing everything into clarity.

I blinked and looked around, expecting to see a house blanketed with cobwebs and dust like old, long-vacant houses always are.

But it wasn’t. It was clean, dust-free and definitely cobweb-less.

I frowned. “Connell….”

The more I looked around, the more I felt like I was in one of those What’s Wrong with This Picture? scenario. The house wasn’t only clean; it looked like it was lived in. There were still fresh coffee stains on the table where the mug had been placed, and bags of Doritos lied opened, half-eaten, on the coffee table, as though someone had just left the living room for a pee, and intended to come back and gobble it up again.

I picked up a magazine from the bottom rack of the coffee table and scanned the date of issue. May 2007.

This is wrong! my brain screamed. This is all wrong!

“Connell,” I murmured, not looking at him, but still on my quest to find out what the hell we were doing and where exactly we were.

There were framed photographs on the mantelpiece. Grinning kids – two boys no older than seven – holding up spades, snorkels dangling off their little necks … A lady cradling her newborn, beaming sunnily at the camera … A man with his hands propped on a golf club.…

They looked nothing like Keith, Amanda, Connell or Charm. Not to mention, there was not a single picture of an old man. Wasn’t this Connell’s granddad’s holiday shack?

“Connell, maybe your dad sold this place off….” I said, slightly distressed.

I looked over at him. He was tracing his fingers along the back of the couch as he walked around, on his face a look of utmost concentration, as though he were trying to rake up some memory.

“Connell….” I said again, more uncertainly and urgently this time. “I think we should leave.”

“Shh….”

“Connell, someone else lives here now,” I said, walking over to him and holding onto his arm. “We have to go. This is not your grandfather’s place anymore.”

“No, he wouldn’t sell it,” he said with all conviction.

“Well,” I said, trying hard to keep my patience in check, “maybe he wouldn’t. But maybe it was your dad who sold it.”

“He –”

Before he could say anything else, someone yelled, “Hey!”

I froze immediately, every muscle tightening in me.

“Don’t move!”

I jumped and looked up. A man in pyjamas was standing at the top of the stairs, pointing at the both of us. We actually put our hands in the air like people always did in TV shows, when they had guns pointed in their faces.

“Sir, we don’t –”

“I’ve already called the police, so you just stay in that spot until they come,” he yelled as the lady I saw in the photo joined him at the top of the stairs. She yawned and said, “Andy, what on earth….”

Then she caught sight of us, and blinked. “Who’re you people?”

I looked over at Connell, whose face was a portrait of utter confusion, and realised he probably felt as disorientated as I was.

“We live in Wroughton,” was all I managed to eke out.

The entire time we waited, Connell stayed silent and avoided my gaze.

 



© 2008 Raven Held


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Added on February 15, 2008


Author

Raven Held
Raven Held

Singapore, Singapore



About
Aspiring author, dreamer, TV addict, fed with a steady diet of grapes, green tea and supernatural fiction. I have five novels under my belt and is working on her sixth. more..

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