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When the Lilies Turn Orange (Chapter 8)

When the Lilies Turn Orange (Chapter 8)

A Chapter by Raven Held











Trust was a fickle thing.

And dad was fan of it. He was a firm believer in it being one of the most valuable things you can earn. When Dean and I were younger, he’d slip us ten dollars or more whenever he and mom left us alone at home to attend some function. Dean used to get more, because of his responsibility as big brother. It wasn’t until he started going out at night and left me alone that dad gave me more money for taking care of myself and not throw a bathtub party in the backyard or something.

But tell a lie, and dad withdraws ten dollars from you, sometimes more depending on the magnitude of the lie or breech of trust.

“Trust is not a bonus,” he would never fail to remind us. “The money is. Trust is your paycheque.”

I guess this way, it’s made me warier of people. Some people could hug some acquaintance they just made two days ago or sleep over at their houses, but I had to edge forth like a tentative handshake, a slight prod and then a nudge – and people around me earned their paltry, long-overdue paycheque this way.

What dad did not teach, though, was when to know whom to trust. I got the part where you’re not supposed to trust someone so wholeheartedly and stupidly, like trusting so much in the sun’s brightness that you forget it could also cast shadows.

 But what if everyone said a fork was a spoon, even though it’s got four spears and can’t hold soup in it no matter how much you tried?

What if you weren’t shown how someone was worth his paycheque, but everyone else shows you how they were worth theirs? Was trust only built upon solid evidence, or does it count if your emotions played a part in it too?

If lies made up a bog, then love – or what seemed like it – pulled you down into it, a silver chain that you couldn’t reject but later seemed like a bad idea too because of what it entailed.

Magenta was the first encounter. It was in the supermarket the day after the photoshoot. Mom was in a good mood, because she seldom wasn’t, so she decided to whip up some dinner for us, and invite Rox and her family , and ‘that nice boy Dominic’ over as well.

It was just like it was a week ago: Dean, Rox, Dom and I were sent to get the parsley, onions, salmon and lemongrass. While Dean and Rox were trying to make conversation out of anything possible just to fill the vacuum that my silence created, and Dom cluelessly joining in the stilted conversation struck up, I stared morosely at the innards of cows and pigs packed in their airtight boxes, stacked and lined neatly in the refrigerators.

“I’ve read that the oil from lemongrass can be made into perfumes! Imagine how cool it would be if we could make our own perfume, huh?”

“Maybe if mom has some left over after dinner, we could ask it from her,” Dean suggested.

“Perfume?” Dom repeated. “Why the hell would we want to make perfume?”

“Heck,” Dean corrected. Dom rolled his eyes and simpered.

“Lemongrass,” Rox was saying, just as I was getting sick of all that aimless talk about the stupid herb. “Hey, pig. Isn’t that the one with leaves, like, as long as your arm?”

Whatever grief I was about to heap onto my brother and best friends was dammed up temporarily as Magenta came ambling by with a trolley and her precocious five-year-old Daniel.

 “Raven, honey! Roxanne! Dean! And – hello, you must be Dominic, I presume!” Magenta cried out, as though it were not just a couple of days ago that she had just seen us. “What’re you all doing here?”

Dean lifted the salmon in his hands and said with a grin, “Family-and-friends dinner.” He ruffled Daniel’s hair and said, “Hey, buddy.” Daniel landed a punch on Dean’s thigh in ecstasy in seeing him.

Magenta then looked at me, her eyes brimming with pity and sorrow, as though she had just discovered the hero of one of those romance novels she always reads had died to save the heroine.

“I heard, Raven,” she said tragically. “And it’s not your fault at all.”

“What isn’t?”

Her eyes became slightly sterner. “Avoidance of the existence of the problem is not my recommended solution.” Her features melted again as she said, “But if it helps you deal with it, then take a sabbatical from it for a while. But you mustn’t run away from it forever.”

Magenta, crazy as any middle-aged housewife can possibly be over soap dramas and romance novels, was actually not a dramatic in nature. Which explains our bewilderment at her behaviour at the moment.

“I don’t – I don’t think I get what you’re driving at, Mag,” I said slowly.

“Yeah, Raven doesn’t have a problem,” Rox said.

“Unless you count the ability to annoy,” Dean quipped.

Meanwhile, confusion seemed to have thrown Dom into uncharacteristic silence.

Magenta frowned. “Raven, being involved with a boy who comes from a … disturbed family is not something to be ashamed of. I’ve met Connell, and there’s nothing wrong with him. The more you treat him like a disturbed kid, the more he seems to live up to the view you hold him in.”

A flame of fury was struck within me, rapidly surging through my body, burning my limbs, my gut, my rage-addled mind. “Connell isn’t disturbed!” I snarled, vaguely feeling Rox’s hand on my shoulder. All I saw was Magenta’s round, flushed face, initially pulled into a picture of sympathy and knowing, but now frozen in shock. She was being so stupid. What had she heard that had made her say such things to negate the intelligence I had seen in her all along?

I was aware of Daniel staring up at me in curiosity, as well as the cashiers and other shoppers. The beeping caused by the barcode-scanners paused and only the Eagles playing softly overhead could be heard.

“There’s nothing wrong with Connell, I never said there was!” I continued yelling, despite all the eyes and ears on me. I felt myself shaking all over.

“But – but,” Magenta spluttered. “I heard he’s – well, he’s, you know, crazy.” She whispered the last word as though it were a contagious disease that would infect her if she said it too loudly.

Crazy?” I spat.

“Well – you can’t expect the news about Saturday night’s incident to not spread like wildfire in Wroughton! Everyone’s got their conjectures about it, and it’s just something I heard, Raven. I don’t quite dare to believe it either, but –”

“So word on the street is that Connell’s got a screw loose in his head, is that it? Is that why he broke into a house in the middle of the night?” I was thankful that even in my state of unbridled emotional outburst, I was still able to retain some information that people did not have to know.

The supermarket was silent, save for the Eagle’s last few jovial notes.

“Actually,” a faint voice piped up from the Confectionary aisle. Everyone turned to look at the one who spoke up. It was Allison, a twelve-year-old who was always on a fad diet or other. “What I heard is that his psycho dad made him do it, as part of a ‘milestone in one’s life’ kind of experience.”

“Yeah, that too,” another guy at Counter 5 added. “Except that he was also trying to show off a bit in front of a girl that he’s living up to his crazy dad’s expectations. That’s the part where you come in, Raven.”  

I was, by then, fuming so hard I could barely think straight, much less see where I was going. I wanted to wreck the entire supermarket and beat the lights out of all those who spoke and all those who believed those ridiculous rumours, but Rox and Dean gripped on to my shoulders so hard I could feel the dull hurt it caused.

“I’m fine,” I said lowly, and felt the slow easing of pressure on my shoulders.

And then I strode out of the damn supermarket, my fists balled up at my sides.

Rumours were strange things. They hardly seemed to carry any weight, being so frivolous in nature, and they seemed so petty like gossip and lies. Yet, they gathered like a charged rain-cloud, crackling and oppressive over a neighbourhood as sleepy and closed as Wroughton, threatening to run through it like a fracture between the believers and non-believers.

Oh yes. Rumour was the poison of trust.


© 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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