When the Lilies Turn Orange (Chapter 9)

When the Lilies Turn Orange (Chapter 9)

A Chapter by Raven Held

 

 

Nine

 

 

 

Lavender

 

 

 

“Well, I suppose cherry tomatoes are good for you. At least, they’re fruits … Or are they vegetables?”

“I don’t think that’s very much the point right now, Dean,” Rox snapped. Then she reached over for a cherry tomato from the box sitting on my lap. My mind was stewing, and stagnant thoughts churned about in a recycled, tail-chasing process of questioning and doubting.

That eruption in the supermarket was, I admit, pretty dramatic, what with my high-decibel screaming and storming out of the damn place in the midst of all the speculations flying about as those people with nothing better to talk about exchanged stories and gossips. I hate supermarkets.

“Thank goodness for cherry tomatoes,” Rox remarked breezily, in an effort to draw me away from my thoughts to shallower talking grounds.

I ignored that comment, just as I ignored Dom, who had turned mute since he heard what Magenta said about Connell, just as I ignored Dean when he grabbed a handful and stuffed them into his mouth. Rox grimaced.

“What? They’re tiny,” he said. A long moment passed where none of us spoke. Then Dean, never one for quiet companionship, broke out, “Raven, come on. There’s nothing you can do about this. It’s what they choose to believe, choose to say, you know? You can’t stop it. It’s bound to happen sometime or other, with his condition and all –”

“It’s the injustice that’s killing me,” I blurted out, “The way they’re saying all this s**t about him that’s not even true!” I turned to fix my brother with an austere gaze before adding, “And Connell doesn’t have a condition.”

“What makes you so sure of that,” Rox said flatly. I stared at her. “You keep defending him, like you know him so well, when you don’t even know the most basic thing about him.” I continued staring. “What is this condition that your dad and Reilly keep talking about, huh? Even he admitted he has a problem – but he doesn’t want you to know. I don’t get how you can still trust him so!”

Rox have always had this bad habit of eavesdropping on conversations, especially mine, feeling that she was entitled to her right to do so since she was my best friend.

She suddenly turned to Dom. “Any feelings on this matter?” she said.

Dom turned slowly, as though just realising he existed. “I hardly know the guy, Rox. I don’t think I’ll make very sound judgements.”

“No-one’s supposed to make any judgements in the first place. Just because he’s a new guy here, and he’s going through a rut right now after his grandfather’s death, all of a sudden, he’s turned into the talking point of the town?”

“Estate,” Dean corrected.

“Dude,” Dom said. “Shut up.”

“So now you think he’s an unhinged nutcase who’s trying to be a good son to live up to his psycho-dad’s expectations, just like everyone in Wroughton says, do you?” I continued, my volume rising as quickly as the heat in my face was.

“Alright, Raven, take it down a notch,” Dean said quietly, laying a hand on my shoulder. I was sick of hands on my shoulders.

“I’m just saying,” Rox said calmly, the queen of reason, “that everyone wouldn’t be saying it if there wasn’t an element of truth in it.”

I shook my head in disgust. “I can’t believe you would rather believe those people who know nuts about this whole thing than believe me.”

“Oh, right, because so far, you’ve done nothing but tell me all that you know about Mr Shady.”

“We should get home,” Dean said hastily, getting up from the side of the parking lot where we ended up (well, I ended up, and the two of them caught up after paying for the groceries). If I didn’t know better, I’d say he was feeling nervous, being caught in the middle of a fight involving his little sister and the all-time target of his affections.

Rox and I had our disagreements, usually about how she always ordered salted popcorns at the movies when she knew I hated salted ones, and about how blinded I was about how much Dom cared for me (blah, blah, blah), and about how good she looked in a motif skirt (even though she declared how sexist they were – believe me, I’m just as baffled as you are about this) if she’d only just try wearing it, for goodness sake.

But this was different. We never argued about a person I trusted and she did not – because that was what this whole argument was all about: me placing an irrational amount of trust in Connell even though I knew absolutely nuts about him, and her not trusting him enough. Of course, it didn’t help that Connell visited my dad on a weekly basis.

“Look, Raven,” Rox said, after inhaling hugely. “You’re behaving weirdly. Just because the guy kissed you passionately doesn’t mean he’s a damn saint. Who knows what kind of person he really is? From what I’ve gathered so far, he probably –”

“Wait a minute,” Dean butt in, looking kind of outraged for some reason that I couldn’t even begin to fathom. “He kissed you?” he demanded of me.

Only that last sentiment was echoed by Dom, looking even more purple in the face than my brother did.

I glared at Rox. She never broke promises and let out my secrets – until now, apparently. However, my weak, “It was … nothing,” corroded my steely glare.

“And you let him?” Dean continued demanded in incredulous tones.

“Can’t believe he kissed you,” Dom was muttering hotly. “So obviously trying to get lucky….”

I winced. “Not you too,” I muttered. “You guys are acting like a couple of stuffed-up pricks. All he did was kiss me. That’s not what makes me think he’s normal. I know Connell. I may not know much, but enough to know that he….”

Rox held me in a challenging stare. “He what,” she stated.

“Dad trusts him,” I finally managed, returning the gaze defiantly. “That’s all I need to trust Connell too. People have secrets, okay? Who am I to him for him to spill them all to me?”

“Who are you to him?” Rox repeated, except that it sounded rhetorical when she said it. “Oh, I guess that kiss was really just a fleeting fancy then, huh?”

She stole the next words from my mouth.

 

*

 

Sometimes, it seemed as though it only took a couple of turns and some manoeuvring to tangle up two lives. Like how you had to figure out the technique of disentangling a ball of yarn or the headphones to an IPod, the process of entanglement can also be a tricky one too. The trick is to coil different sides alternately.

I was becoming more and more involved in that family – the mystery family that has gotten the entire estate so intrigued. After that first meeting in dad’s office and that chance meeting (though, on hindsight, maybe not quite) in the Garden – and many other more that I can list down – Dad invited Connell and his family to dinner tonight.

Oh, believe me, mom was none too thrilled about that, even though she was close with Amanda for a while but afterwards lost contact with her. It’s weird how people’s opinions can change with just some whispers in their ear, or nudges in the intended direction.

When we returned from that less-than-enjoyable grocery-shopping trip, mom was looking somewhat distressed, with tufts of hair escaping the grasp of the scarf she had tied onto her head.

“If you could have told me about it earlier, I wouldn’t have to rush like that now,” mom was saying to dad.

“Sorry,” dad said with an easy shrug. “Just thought it might be a case of ‘the more the merrier’. Besides, if there isn’t enough for all, we could always turn the formal dinner into a backyard grill party. Spontaneity, Ruth, weren’t you always a fan of that?”

“You just want to try and change my view of the boy and his father,” mom said, but not in a grumbling way.

“And what view might you have, mom?” I snapped, almost immediately regretting it.

She turned slowly, exchanging a look with dad, who stared at me.

“We actually bought some cherry tomatoes,” Dean interrupted. “But they were so good I think we finished them on the way home.” He shrugged sheepishly. “Sorry. But we bought ice-cream.”

“Raven, do you mind giving me a hand with the food?” mom said, her gaze still fixed thoughtfully on me.

I looked away. “Actually, I think I need a shower –”

“The kitchen, Raven. I need you in the kitchen.” Her voice was marmalade spread evenly on a slice of bread.

I headed into the kitchen in her wake. 

She leaned against the counter, sizing me up with those doe-like eyes. Silence germinated, taking root in all the things unsaid but understood.

“So – what’s the scene like between you and the boy now?”

“He’s got a name, mom,” I began, annoyed, then halted. “What boy?”

Mom rolled her eyes, chuckling. “Raven, I’ve read enough of those trashy romance novels to identify something in my daughter’s eyes when she talks about someone she deems special.”

“Okay,” I said slowly. “The truth is, I don’t know.” I looked at her helplessly. “He doesn’t want to tell me anything about him. And what he tells me, I don’t know whether to believe.”

She stayed silent, but her fingers were doing so much talking by fiddling with the hem of her shirt, smoothing her skirt, rubbing against each other.

“You know something,” I said flatly.

Those fingers ran through her hair as she pulled off the scarf.

“And you’re not telling either.” I pulled open the fridge door and got out an apple to wash. “Fine, then.”

“All I’m saying – no, all I’m telling you to do – is leave Connell alone. You’ve got a nice boy like Dominic at your heels, sweetheart. Why go and get involved with –”

“Someone dangerous and crazy like Connell?” I finished, staring her solidly in the eye.

She froze. “Passion is exhilarating, Raven, but dangerous too,” she said melodramatically. “It makes you forget yourself, and the person you are with. It blinds you to –”

“Mom,” I said, taking a bite of the apple. “Save that for your poetry group meeting.”

The kitchen door slid open. Mom and I turned to see dad’s head sticking in.

“Change of plans, ladies,” he said. “We’re taking out the grill.”

 

*

 

“You can’t cook even if I held you at knife-point, pig, so just let them handle it,” Rox was saying in exasperation.

“Well, yeah, I imagine I’d be too scared out of my wits to focus on what’s on the grill,” I said and got up after taking a swig of lemonade. I would much rather get involved in some physical activity than sit there making endless chatter meaninglessly. An ice-breaker, I was not.

“What’re you doing here,” Dean said when I got to the grill, where he was with Dom and Connell. Dom and Connell’s heads snapped up, both brightening up, but Connell’s eyes lost the vividness after a moment, sinking back into the shadowed hollows of his sockets. He turned back to watching his salmon smoke like he had never witnessed such a wonder before.

“Go sit pretty and wait to be served,” my brother added – patronisingly, might I add.

“Aren’t you the sexist pig,” I retorted. “Need a hand?” I asked Dom.

“Yeah, sure, we could use the extra help,” he said brightly. He looked at Connell, then back at me, clearing his throat as he exchanged a glance with Dean. “We were just asking Connell about his moving here. He said his dad had to move here because he switched bases for his job.”

“Did he,” I said with obligated interest, taking care to keep my face passive and even.

It was perfect weather for a backyard grill party, heavy, slow, and still, with flies buzzing about, the smell of cut grass and smoke hovering above palpably, and the setting sun a burning disc in the distance.

The only thing was, it was getting a little too crowded around here for comfort.

Rox was trying to make Charm comfortable in this place where she knew no-one, and it looked like they were doing fine. The dads were talking over the task of ice-picking, and the moms were hitting it off over preparing salads. It seemed easy for parents to fall into place with each other. They could always talk about the fact that they’re parents and have the upper hand over a bunch of offsprings and compare said offsprings in every minute detail.

What do you say when you’re with your brother, your Geography partner who you know has a crush on you, and a guy with whom you shared a kiss but are mad at? Do you talk to your brother about who’s scrubbing the grill later, or to your Geog partner about the latest assignment on riparian states and their conflicts of interests, or to the last guy about how his salmon is smoking so much now it might probably set off the smoke detector in the next house?

“Your fish is burning up,” I blurted out before I could stop myself.

Connell blinked, turned to look at me, then where I was pointing (across Dom), and sprang into a flurry of action. He scooped up the salmon and slid it onto a plate deftly. After the commotion died down, we all stared at it. It laid there, charred on one side and smoking like a chimney.

“Nice save,” Dean remarked. Then he looked at me. “Try not to let that happened to everything you cook, okay?” Turning to Dom, he said, “We need more food. This lot isn’t enough to last us till tonight.”

“And you’re telling me this, hoping that…?”

“That we’d go out and grab some more,” my brother said, rolling his eyes.

Dom eyed the ammo we had. “I don’t know,” he said in hesitation. “Looks enough to last till my birthday.”

“Your birthday’s next week.”

“Exactly.”

Dean rolled his eyes again. I’ve got a sudden craving for cherry tomatoes, okay? Now let’s hit it. These two can handle it here.” The last statement was made soaked in doubt.

Dom’s inertia was blatant as he handed the … whachamaycallit … grill spade to me and left.

I hadn’t realised I had voiced my address of the grill spade until Connell said, with a smirk, “Spatula.”

“What?”

“It’s not a grill spade,” he explained, a snicker palpable in his tone. “It’s a spatula.”

I glared at him. “Whatever. Did I tell you that I’m still not speaking to you?”

He returned to his cooking, falling back into troubled silence. A moment later, he blew out a sigh and turned to look at me again. “You really want to know what’s wrong with me?”

Was it this easy all along? “Do you want to tell me?” I countered.

“Cut the Miss Understanding act, Raven. I’ve had enough of reverse psychology,” he said impatiently.

“Alright,” I said, putting the spatula down and crossing my arms. “What’s your story then?”

“Eyes on the food,” Connell ordered. I glared again and grabbed the spatula like it was a tennis racket. He looked down, took a deep breath, sighed again and finally said, “I’m a schizo, okay?”

It was unexpected, but then again, not quite. I didn’t know why, but I hated myself for being less shocked than I should have been. I knew he was telling the truth, and I didn’t doubt his words this time round. For that, I hated myself. It was as though some part of me had almost been expecting this, preposterous as it may sound.

“Okay,” I began slowly. Then I found my footing again. “Okay. I can deal with that.”

He stared, looking even more shocked than I probably had. “That’s it? I can deal with that? After all the agony of deciding whether or not to tell you, that’s all you can say in response to that?”

“You should’ve given me more credit than that, then,” I said, somewhat smugly.

“But – aren’t you afraid?”

“Of what?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Connell said, flipping his patty and rolling some sausages over. He did not meet my eye. “Of me suddenly going nuts and start punching you.”

“Connell,” I said in a voice that made him look up at me. “I may not be pursuing a degree in psychology, but I do know that schizos aren’t necessarily all violent.”

“What about springing up with an elaborate untruth that gets you doubting my credibility?” he shot back.

At that, I had no choice but to fall silent. It was not until he reached out to touch my face that I felt the trail of moisture left behind by my traitorous tears.

“I’m dangerous to be around with, Raven, melodramatic as that may sound,” he said softly with a mirthless laugh. “Sometimes, I’m in control of my faculties, like when I’m around the – crew – and when I’m with you. You’re all what ground me to my sanity.

“But when the subject of my family comes into the picture,” he went on, dropping his hand and looking beyond my shoulder, “it’s like everything in here” – he pointed to his head – “gets thrown into disarray. I’m not even sure of who or what I am when that happens.”

“S**t happens,” I said softly, now fully aware of more tears flowing down my face.

“Yeah,” he said, “and believe me when I say it pisses me off.”

He reached over and flipped the meat I was cooking. It was slightly burnt. Like I cared.

“I guess sometimes rumours turn out to be true. So are you properly afraid now?” he said in bitter amusement.

“Yes.”

He looked at me, sadness in his hooded eyes.

“Yes, I’m scared as hell,” I said again. “But I’m not afraid of you. I’m afraid of how I can’t help you.”

Frowning, he said with mild indignance, “I’m not a charity case, Raven.”

“I’m not treating you as one. I’m treating you as someone who hates himself and needs to deal with his condition more positively,” I said with a shrug and held his gaze

He smiled, appraising me. “Spoken like your dad’s daughter,” he remarked.

“Yeah,” said a smiling voice from behind me. Dad put an arm around me, but addressed Connell. “Guess all that agonising was for nothing, huh, Connell? She could take it better than you thought.”

He said it like it was something to be proud of. Which, I suppose, in a way, it was, to a dad.

“She might’ve had some prior notice about it,” Connell joked, but there were more serious undertones rippling beneath. He knew – or at least, he suspected that those rumours had gotten to my head too.

“You have no idea how happy your dad is now to see you fitting in here,” dad said lowly, his gaze earnest.

Connell glanced over at Keith, who was sitting with Rox’s dad before the TV, enjoying a salmon sandwich. The salmon, I saw, was charred only on one side.

“Huh,” Connell said flatly, unmoved, then turned away in something that resembled disgust.

And no-one ventured to comment anything more about his dad.

“Speaking of dads, where’s my son?” dad said instead.

I grimaced at the corniness of it. “Out buying cherry tomatoes.”

“Or so he says,” Connell said.

I shrugged. After his little anticlimactic confession, it was as though everything between us had unknotted on its own. There was a lightened ease in the inches that hung between us, like we could edge closer and not feel the need to push away. I wondered if he felt it too.

“You know,” Connell said, looking at the plate upon which we had dumped whatever we had cooked. “I think we’ve cooked enough. We might even have to invite the whole estate to finish this lot off.”

So he did feel it too.

“Says you,” I said. “I’m so hungry I could wipe everything off this grill.” He grinned. “You know what,” I went on. “Let’s play a game.”

Connell actually grimaced. “That sounds ominous.”

You got me started.”

“Yeah, sure. Heap it all on me.”

“No, really,” I insisted, “it was when you used the word untruths. It just sort of got me thinking….”

He eyed me warily, heaping food absently onto plates. “I’m listening.”

“Good. See, this is how it goes: for every untruths you tell, you have to pay back for it twofold. Easy, right?” I said and helped myself to a chicken patty wrapped in an English muffin stuffed with lettuce (did I mention I hate – sorry, abhor – tomatoes?).

“Sure, unless you’re the one who’s – wait, let’s take a step back here. Define untruths.”

I paused mid-chew and thought about it. “Untruths are … essentially, principally, basically … truths that we create, but which we do not realise are not true.”

He thought about it, and eventually remarked, “Sounds debatable.”

I frowned. “Come up with your own definition, then.”

“Lies that you have come to believe,” he simply said, without pausing.

“That’s what I said!”

“It’s different – albeit in a very slight way, but the difference is there,” he insisted. “Your definition is slightly more redemptive than mine is.”

“Fine, if you want to get all technical about it –”

“Hey, Raven!” Rox called out from where she was seated with Charm, Dean and Dom, who had, apparently, returned. Connell and I turned, slightly annoyed by the interruption. At least, I was. “If you two antisocials are done with the grill, how about taking a break with us here?”

Blushing was not something that was usually associated with me (at least, I think), but my mortification at that moment was able to break all barriers of definition to my name and set my face aflame.

“Guess we’ll file this away for another day, then,” Connell muttered, relief so blatantly evident in his voice it was having a concert on its own.

“That’s a promise,” I muttered back.

“I understand privacy, Raven,” Dean leaned over to whisper theatrically into my ear as we sat down at the wooden bench, me in between Dom and Rox, and Connell beside his sister, “but in front of the folks? You two looked like you were flirting up a cyclone there.”

I hit my brother on his head as hard as I could with a spoon I found in my hand.

“Raven, I saw that!  Quit it,” dad said. It kind of brought me back to when I was five and Dean threw a handful of sand into my face for fun. Except that the roles were reversed this time.

“Yeah, I think I can feel a dent in my skull now,” Dean said loudly for dad’s benefit.

“Toss over the nachos, Charm,” Connell said. It sounded natural enough, so natural that it made me wonder if any form of tension between the two of them had only been my imagination.

But then again, I could not help but notice a contrived ease on Connell’s part when he spoke to Rox or Dom or Dean.

Isn’t that the whole point of keeping things, hiding them from others’ sight – to keep up that image of who they are?

It was funny how Connell’s words seemed to apply everywhere. It was even weirder that I seemed able to repeat his words verbatim, like I had been clinging on to them ever since he uttered it, if only for proof of his sanity and existence.

Secrets were like an undercurrent, rippling with a tension only the truth could break, like how the warm sand broke the choppy waves. The thing is, secrets could only hold for as long as you held them; it was, ultimately, only a matter of time.

And when that wave broke free, flinging off its chains with a swash of liberation, it could tow you along on its backwash too.

 



© 2008 Raven Held


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Featured Review

i am absolutely DYING to read more
i read and reviewed all these chapters before the site crashed and deleted everything
such a sad time that was....i was more upset that other people lost their work because it was so brilliant and i wanted to be able to read it and share it.
brilliant and entracning pieces such as this
I cannot wait till the next chapter
you will have to let me know when it is ready :)
luv ~wandering soul~ xx

Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

just re-reading my favourite pieces on here again
even after all this time this story is just as amazing if not more, than the first time i read it.
still no chapter 10 uploaded yet?
please tell me there is a chapter 10 in existence!
this story is FAR to good to just leave it here!
hope to be reading more of this soon :)
~wandering soul~
xxxx

Posted 10 Years Ago


i am absolutely DYING to read more
i read and reviewed all these chapters before the site crashed and deleted everything
such a sad time that was....i was more upset that other people lost their work because it was so brilliant and i wanted to be able to read it and share it.
brilliant and entracning pieces such as this
I cannot wait till the next chapter
you will have to let me know when it is ready :)
luv ~wandering soul~ xx

Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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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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