When the Lilies Turn Orange (Chapter 1)

When the Lilies Turn Orange (Chapter 1)

A Chapter by Raven Held











Shame and love have more things in common that people think.

The deeper you sank into them, the further you drifted away from yourself and the world.

And the further you drifted, the happier you were being isolated from humanity.

And the happier you were away from everyone else, the more willing you became to set fire to whatever bridges that served as relics to life before the reclusion set in.

And when you finally realised how far out you’ve swam, suddenly, you start trapping water, hoping to dog-paddle back to shore as fast as possible – before the immensity of it all consumed you whole.

Back then being an island on our own didn’t seem like such a bad idea. But later, when things started spinning, I found that I had no-one I could hold on to lest I got swept away. As such, I began riding the wind, spiralling in that vortex, waiting, hopefully, to finally get spit out, so I can touch solid ground again.




Of course, you could say I brought it all upon myself. It is a perfectly established stand. But cut me some slack; how was I supposed to know?

“Ignorance is never an excuse for anything; in fact, ignorance is inexcusable, but to give excuses is a sign of ignorance.” That’s probably what my dad would say. He’s big on all the preachy stuff. He may seem to be riding the same wavelength as the times, but everyone knows his mind is a big-time conventionalist’s. At least, to his kids, he is. To his patients, he’s all, “Let’s pretend we’re in Laura’s mind for one moment; what do you think she’ll be thinking?”

When dad tries to use his psycho-analysis method to sort out domestic conflicts, everyone will shut their eyes. Dad really shouldn’t have told us that little titbit about our eyes being windows to our minds. There was once when he caught my brother Dean surfing the Net, shopping for motorbikes.

“I swear, dad, it’s for a class project!” Dean had said, his eyes wide as a moon on a cloudless night. It was a stupid lie – even I can think of something better – but Dad stared right back and replied calmly, “If I see you blowing your savings on a Harley, you’re coming for therapy sessions with me for a month. I don’t care if you’re considered an adult by then.”

Blowing his savings on a Harley was exactly what Dean was planning to do when he was twenty-one. And since then, everyone knew better than to stare unblinkingly at dad when they were fibbing blatantly.

While dad was the more, “Do you want to talk about it?” kind, mom was the exact opposite. It’s always been a mystery how the two of them could fall in love. While dad was level-headed and methodological in solving problems that tangled up the mind, Mom was vivacious and romantic, starry-eyed and wildly imaginative. She started out as a poet, hoping to earn some money by publishing a book of her compiled poems. Which was plain stupid, as dad never failed to add. “Everyone knows you can’t keep yourself alive writing poems. It’s completely impractical.”

That was precisely what my mom was. She saw the world framed with curlicues and flowers with butterflies flitting about, and cried everytime she watched The Phantom of the Opera, although I really don’t understand what’s so sorrowful about it. Mom says the Phantom suffers discrimination for something he couldn’t really help, and later still had to endure a betrayal from the woman he loved. Whatever. I have always rooted for Raul, and will always root for him.

Mom always argued with dad’s level-headed theories by saying, “Passion can keep a man drowning in desperation afloat.”

“Yeah, but not before it drowns the man itself,” dad would scoff. You’d wonder how they ever decided to get married.

Mom’s not a full-time poet anymore, though she does pen a couple a day from time to time. She’s up to her eyes now with the nursery. It started three years ago, when, after five years of devoted study to flowers and their secret language, she decided to open a nursery. Dad thought it wouldn’t last a year, but three times in a row, mom’s had the last laugh.

She tried to teach us about her latest passion too. “The language of flowers,” she said, her eyes sparkling, “is a way of writing a coded message to someone. It began in the Victorian era and it lets you express feelings that you can’t put in words.”

“If that person doesn’t get the code, then how are they supposed to know what the other person wants to say?” Dean asked. You could see him logically trying to work out mom’s theory. He’s very much like dad in that way.

“That’s why I’m teaching you now.”

“You’re teaching your son about flowers?” Dean asked. “Seriously, mom. I don’t think the chicks won’t be too impressed about my knowledge of flowers.”

“Don’t call us chicks,” I objected.

“I didn’t call you one.”

“I know they’ll be more impressed by your knowledge of flowers than by your cringe-worthy pickup lines,” mom said. Which was true.

I guess mom kind of had me fascinated with all that romanticism stuff too. I went around imparting my knowledge about flowers to my friends like mom had with us. And on Valentine’s Day and Friendship Day and even Labour Day, mom and I would go about the entire neighbourhood and place a stalk of daisy or a bunch of iris on their doorstep. Once, mom even tried to create a ‘Flower Remembrance Day’ on 5 May, but it never quite caught on. Everyone, except those warm old ladies at the Beaming Rose Home for the Elderly, found it utter nonsense. Dad had quite a laugh over that, very much to mom’s indignance.

“Why do you even bother, Ruth?” he asked. “No-one cares about flowers. All they do is beautify a place. They’re not sent by greater beings to tell us the secrets of the world. Seriously.”

“They can represent passion, love, vengeance and jealousy, Jason,” mom replied patiently. “And as history has shown, any one of that can destroy a person completely. Look at Hitler and his comeback of vengeance, look at Napoleon, assassinated by jealous rivals, look at The Black Dahlia…”

“Ruth, you’re making assumptions!” dad exclaimed disbelievingly. “The Black Dahlia murder, to date, is still unsolved. You can’t claim she was killed by someone passionately in love with her, or by a jealous rival. And ditto Napoleon. Maybe he really had died of stomach cancer –”

“Yeah, if he had, then my nursery would go bankrupt tomorrow,” mom retorted with much scorn.

“That might actually be possible,” dad mused.

Dean rolled his eyes at me. “Sometimes, I suspect they enjoy doing that,” he remarked.

“Doing what?”

“Getting a rise out of each other, comparing how different their viewpoints are. Our folks are so weird that way,” Dean replied, shaking his head.

“The point is, sometimes, when seemingly innocuous emotions like love and passion escalate, they can get dangerous. They can wreck someone. Maybe if Elizabeth hadn’t called herself The Black Dahlia, things wouldn’t have ended up that grisly way. It could’ve been an omen. If she’d called herself the Pink Poppy or something …”

Dad didn’t stop laughing all through dinner.

That night, when I went to bed, I couldn’t help thinking about what my parents had been arguing about. No, it wasn’t about the flowers and how they can represent so many things. That, I understood. What didn’t make much sense at that time were two things.

Firstly, even though The Black Dahlia murder was hugely publicised, I was still pretty much unacquainted with it. All I know was that some hooker had gotten herself killed, naked and bloody. And it’s not like I want to know any further.

And secondly, what I didn’t understand was how love could destroy someone. Wasn’t it supposed to complete, instead of obliterate? I knew vengeance was dangerous. Everyone knows vengeance is dangerous. When people felt this intense surge of hatred welling up in their mantle, fuelling their fury and making them do things they never thought they were capable of. It could drive them to kill, drive them nuts … Well, you get my drift.

And passion – passion seemed grand, fantastic … but scary. When artists feel passion melting everything in them, they create stunning works of art that take your breath away. But passion wasn’t all sweeping and Renaissance-y. Trailing along in its shadowed wake was obsession, wasn’t it?

But love. Why would it destroy?

I guess I understand it now. At least, I now know love isn’t all cotton candy and rainbows.

“You’re reading too much Othello, Ruth,” dad always said to her. “Try not to become so dreamy like your mother, will you?” he would then say to me. “Sometimes, it’s good to clear the fog with rules ingrained since young.”

Funny, weren’t psychologists supposed to welcome idealism? After all, their patients were pretty much always cynical.

At least, Connell was. He was a dense fog, a towering anvil of cumulonimbus cloud, rumbling and ready, drawing you in with his own secrets and his avid protection of them. It was like venturing to the edge of a cliff. You were mesmerised by the view from atop and looking down, you had the overwhelming urge to let yourself go, free-falling, and plunge straight into the grand vastness below. But when you actually made yourself look down, you got dizzy and quickly stepped back, trembling, before you really fell to your death.

I had no wish to get sucked into Connell’s world. 

Oh, correction: I had wished to enter his world. And let him enter mine. So we could share what we had together. It seemed hidden, but like a gem glowing beguilingly in a dark chest, it was fascinating. I wanted to get closer – close enough to touch it, to hold it in my hands.

Those people who came up with the cliché of ‘Beware what you wish; it might just come true,’ definitely knew what they were talking about.

I knew his world was bitter from the start (after all, he sat in my dad’s office); I knew it was something I would probably never come to understand. It was too dark. Why did things have to be so complicated, anyway? When things seemed fine and dandy (like how dad like to put it), a veil of doubt always had to come along and obscure your vision, until you felt so blinded you were willing to place your faith in anything that came your way.

But sometimes, like my mom said, love is a shape-shifter. It came in a masquerade and you have to catch yourself from time to time, to see if you’ve been tricked.

If that’s so, then trickery may not be such a bad thing.

But on second thoughts, maybe it is.


© 2008 Raven Held

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Added on February 15, 2008


Raven Held
Raven Held

Singapore, Singapore

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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