When the Lilies Turn Orange (Chapter 10)

When the Lilies Turn Orange (Chapter 10)

A Chapter by Raven Held
"

The long awaited chapter 10. Sorry this took sooooo long!

"

 

Ten

 

 

Rhododendron

 

 

“I thought all models starved themselves for a week before a runway show,” I said over my mango smoothie.

“Not this model,” Reilly scoffed through bites of her sinfully buttery blueberry waffle. She still had a chocolate muffin and an on-the-house strawberry sundae waiting for her. It helped, according to her, to have done a photoshoot at Miss Macy’s Bread ‘N’ Breakfast once; now she got to enjoy sundaes on the house, or unlimited flow of tea and coffee, among other things. She was, basically, like some mini superstar �"all that just for a photoshoot. How people revered models. “As far as I’m concerned, I need my fuel for the show. They drain you like you wouldn’t believe. People think modelling is just looking starved and strolling down a runway.”

“It isn’t?”

She looked at me pointedly. “All I’m saying is, it’s a good thing the pay accounts for it. Otherwise, you wouldn’t catch me dead pouting at the cameras dressed in D&G.”

I watched as she washed her waffle and muffin down with orange juice. Reilly was not emaciated, in-need-of-a-double-cheeseburger-now skinny; she was tall and slender with long, slim bones and had high cheekbones, like Gisele. The thing about Reilly was that she oozed energy out of her pores the way a teenager oozed facial oil. Her nervous energy was probably what kept her naturally skinny. In fact, the energy within her overflowed and sizzled through her skin, making the people around her edgy by proxy.

Connell, for one, was showing signs of restlessness, fiddling with the napkins and spreading the remaining maple syrup from his pancakes around the plate.

It was only Connell, Reilly and me today. The rest of the Minivan Crew was mysteriously going about their business, but Reilly said they would be coming for her show later. She was doing a runway event in town later on in the afternoon, and called me out for breakfast first before heading there.

I told my parents and Dean that I was going to Rox’s house, and Rox that I was going out with my parents. I’m sure that wasn’t exactly lying, because those were my two options to spend the first Saturday of my June holidays �" that is, until Reilly called.

“So,” I said, “a runway show, huh? How many times have you done this?”

“Like … five hundred and eighty six or so?”

“She fell once, did she mention?” Connell quipped up.

Reilly scrunched up her face. “Connell, is there nothing else you find interest in other than making me look like a total moron in front of everyone?”

“It was.…” A bubble of laughter fled from him. “Sorry,” he muttered to Reilly, who was glaring at him. “It was tragic,” he said to me, pulling a deadpanned face.

I couldn’t help but grin. “What happened?”

“Well, basically, there was this hole in the runway that was made by some martial arts guy hired to do some stunt for goodness-knows-what reason. And everyone was so careful to avoid it.” He glanced wryly at Reilly. “Everyone except her, that is.”

“But,” Reilly sniffed, sitting straighter in her seat, probably to recover some modicum of her dignity, “like a trained professional, I got over that, so you should too.” She looked at me pointedly.

I shrugged. “I’m not the one laughing.”

“Traitor,” Connell said, though he grinned lopsidedly.

“Infant,” I retorted. And we both burst out laughing.

“Okay, I’m fed,” Reilly announced happily. “Where next?”

“Shaver for Crew,” Connell replied boredly. “I don’t know how the hell he broke his while shaving.”

“I always knew his hide was too thick for his own good...” Reilly said as she paid for our meals, which she had insisted on paying for.

We walked to the supermarket, relishing in the crisp morning air and the weight of possibilities in a new day. In Wroughton, everything was within walking distance.

I had forgotten all about the incident in the supermarket the other day, and my subsequent loathing for supermarkets. But I was soon reminded of that the moment the three of us stepped into the cheerily-lit store, when I noticed the air held itself as still as possible upon our entry. Heather, one of the checkout girls, signalled to the others of our arrival, and even the bread distributor stood still to watch us.

“Well, hell-o,” Reilly said loudly to everyone who was staring. “Nice to meet you all too.”

I felt ashamed of them, all those people in the supermarket, who gave themselves in to ludicrous rumours and made-up tales, and whose ignorance gave rise to such a discriminatory slant like the one they had against Connell.

“I can go grab the shaver, if you want,” Reilly murmured to him.

Connell shook his head, looking irritated. “I can do it on my own, Reilly, stop your babying.”

I went with him to the shavers, while Reilly scouted for a bottle of cleanser.

“They’re just adverse to the unfamiliar, really,” I said. “Don’t mind them. Once they get used to you �"”

“They will never get used to me,” Connell snapped. “And you know the reason why. I’m just trying to keep as low-key as possible, okay? This is the way we work.”

I stared at his back as he bent down to search for the shaver Crew wanted. Reilly shook her head at me, not in disapproval, but to tell me not to take offence.

“Isn’t that the one?” she pointed out and took the shaver from the rack. Connell silently took it from her and marched towards the checkout counter the way a soldier would march to the battlefield.

“Well, good morning!” Sandra, the checkout lady, chirped with false brightness. “Hi, Raven.”

“Hey,” I murmured.

“You both are new here, aren’t you?”

“We are,” Reilly said, smiling politely.

“How do you like Wroughton so far? I mean, yes, it’s a sleepy, boring little town with nothing much happening everyday….”

“It’s a neighbourhood,” I said, quite irrelevantly.

Sandra waved the technicality away. “We’ve got fresh tomatoes and tangerines today,” she said, her voice still bright. “Would you like some?”

At least Sandra was trying to extend some form of welcome �" which was more than I could say for the rest of them in the supermarket, who were watching our performance so closely you would have thought their jobs depended on it.

“Hate tomatoes,” I said, again quite irrelevantly.

“I love tangerines,” Reilly said, smiling less stiffly now. “How much for a basket?”

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” Sandra said, beaming. Normality was what assured the people here. As long as you were boring and looked like you didn’t have a past to hide or run away from, you were immediately part of the lovely Wroughton community. “They’re on the house today. Hey, Carmen! Get me a basket of tangerines.”

While we waited for Carmen to arrive with the tangerines, I pretended to dither between the dark chocolate M&M’s and the almond ones. Sandra continued prowling around Reilly and Connell, hoping to weasel some information out.

“So how long have you been here already?”

“A couple of weeks or so,” Reilly said.

I snuck a look at Connell, who, I found, was looking at me. I held up the two packets of chocolate for his opinion. He grabbed the almond one without question.

“Oh, you performed at Howard’s homecoming, didn’t you? I saw you there, too, Connell,” Sandra was saying.

I winced. Connell nodded.

Reilly threw me a sidelong glance. “I’m Reilly,” she said, and initiated a handshake. “Nice to meet you … Sandra.” Nametags were handy for that.

Sandra looked at Reilly’s hand, unsure of what to do with it. Nobody gave handshakes here in Wroughton. She put an arm around Reilly in a half-hug and pushed the tangerines and shaver to us. “Enjoy.” And then she pulled Connell in for a hug too. He almost lost his balance.

“Thanks,” Connell said with an awkward wave before we left.

Thank you, I mouthed to Sandra, before throwing a glare around the rest of the supermarket, where normality seeped back in and everyone crept back into their dreary routine, just like the way it was before.

 

*

 

“I can’t believe you lied to me. Me! And I actually believed you!”

“Rox,” I said, literally holding my phone away from my ear. Her lung power was tremendous. “Calm down.”

“You lied to me,” she said again, “and you expect me to calm down? Why did you have to hide the fact that you were having breakfast with Connell, anyway? It’s not like I don’t know you like him.”

“I don’t.”

Please,” Rox said boredly. Then she sighed. “I wish you hadn’t lied to me, Raven. Now I feel like I don’t know you anymore.”

She was really serving me the guilt card. Why had I lied to her? Rox might not approve of Connell very much but at least she wasn’t unfriendly towards him. She just preferred me to be with Dom. And stay away from Connell.

“Where are you now? Or is that a secret too? You don’t want me to come along? Is that it? You’re going to shut me out of this part of your life?”

“No! Look, just hold on to the dramatics for one minute, okay? I’m in the Ladies at Riverside Mall. Reilly’s have a runway show later at three, and the rest of the crew’s coming. Come, okay?”

“Can I bring Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum?”

Who?

“Your brother and Dom.”

I sighed. “If you must.”

“Great, you call your brother, I’ll call Dom �" or, would you rather call Dom yourself?”

“Then you’d have to call Tweedle Dee,” I pointed out.

“Good point,” she said and hung up.

I shook my head and headed out to join Connell and the rest, who had arrived and were having their brunch at Carl’s Jr.

“We were just thinking of fishing you out with a plumber,” Tate, the wasted guy that night in the alley, said when he saw me approach. No hey, you again, or even a hi.

“It’s called a plunger,” Carly corrected. 

“How intelligent,” Crew said drolly.

“I love these shows,” Carly said, ignoring him and sipped on her Coke blithely.

“I don’t,” Connell said glumly. He seemed a lot tenser now that he was in a mall with people milling about everywhere, with normality buzzing around him.

Carly glanced at him, looking kind of sorry she had said that.

“Come on, that a-hole deserved it the previous time. You were just doing us all a favour,” Tate said.

“Just don’t make it a habit,” Crew said simply, like that was all they needed to take away from the experience.

“What happened?” I asked, jumping at anything that I could lay my hands on about them and their past, sordid or embarrassing.

Tate looked, for the first time, slightly uncomfortable. “Well, he beat up a guy the previous time because … well, because �"”

“Because he sat next to an old man who looked like my grandfather,” Connell finished.

They were all looking at me, waiting to see how I would react to that. But what they did not know was that I had heard of worse things that people did when they lost it. Dad did not always share them with me, but Dean somehow always knew. He would barge into my room and start exclaiming, “Did you know there was this girl who got up in the middle of the night and started playing Midnight Sonata on the piano �" while she was asleep? Her mother completely freaked out!” or, “This guy tried to slit his brother’s throat because he thought he was helping the government track him down and use him as collateral for the German army!”

“The guy was insufferable,” Carly said, cutting through my thoughts. “I was close to slapping him myself.”

“Yeah, but you didn’t,” Connell said, with a shrug.

“Whatever, Connell,” Tate said. “It’s past tense now. Get over it.”

I stared hesitantly at him as he went back to his bacon cheese burger, unsure about the sharpness of his tone and how Connell would take it. He seemed to swallow it, however. Maybe that was just how they dealt with his self-debasement.

“So what happened next?”

“Take a guess,” Carly said.

“Did your �" dad do anything?”

“Do anything?” Connell said. “He practically arrested me.”

It was then when I started wondering if he had ever told the rest of them that his dad had murdered his grandfather.

“I don’t even know why I’m here today,” Connell went on saying. “What if it happens again?”

He looked at me, a dense fog rolling across his eyes. His fingers brushed against mine on the table as he reached for his glass of water. I was sure that was not entirely unintentional.

“Studies have shown that if you create your own ‘what if’s, the tendency for it to happen doubles,” I said. I figured if I threw in some figures, he would be more convinced.

“But this is Connell,” Crew said, temporarily ignoring his burger, which probably showed how serious they were all treating this conversation.

“Then he’d just be another statistic if he were one of those studied,” I said, with more conviction this time. “Schizos aren’t always necessarily violent, surely you know that.”

I guess I had shocked them with my candidness about Connell’s condition. But seriously, when your dad entertained even weirder and crazier people everyday, it was hard to get upset over a minor scuffle because of a case of mistaken identity.

We headed backstage to look for Reilly after the rest of them were done with their brunch (although it was really more of lunch).

Backstage at a runway show hardly seemed as glamorous once you experienced it in the flesh. It was smelly there, due to all the hairspray, and other chemicals meant to preserve your beauty for two hours before the show ended. Plus, everyone there looked unfriendly or unhappy, with their smoky eyes, sharp regal noses, tight complexions and pouty lips. That was just my personal opinion, of course, but it radically altered my view of the modelling industry. It’s funny how our own experiences could so easily shatter the illusions we upheld.

Carly, however, was practically salivating. Like a typical teenage girl who reads way too many fashion magazines, she could barely restrain herself from picking up a tube of lip gloss to inspect, or saying hello to some of the models there. She even inhaled deeply at one point, the way I did whenever I was in the Garden.

“This is getting really unhealthy for her,” Connell remarked as Carly bounded around watching as hairstylists and makeup artists worked their magic on the models.

“I think Miss Sixty designs are absolutely gorgeous!” Carly said to anyone who was listening �" which basically meant she was talking to herself.

Reilly was getting her makeup done. Before we could reach her, however, a man in black skinny jeans and a fedora hat called out, “Show’s about to start. Those who have no business here, please leave the room, thank you.”

So we left. Rox and the rest met us just as we were finding a spot next to the entrance, outside the VIP area. Introductions were placid enough, and before anyone could say much besides how are you?, the show was announced to be starting soon.

“You look good today, Raven,” Dom said, smiling at me. “I mean �" that pink sweater �" it looks good on you.”

“Thanks,” I said with a smile. I couldn’t stop my eyes from flicking over to Connell, however.

He looked kind of edgy, and could not stop fidgeting. It was a lot worse than when we were at Miss Macy’s Bread ‘N’ Breakfast. He was looking about furtively as though expecting someone, and every muscle in his body was tensed up. It was made more noticeable by the form-fitting grey t-shirt he had on.

“Hey,” I said, nudging him. “You okay?”

He blinked at me. “What �" yeah, yeah I’m fine. I just �" don’t like crowds.”

As the lush thumping music began to play, more people were drawn to the centre stage. Psychedelic spotlights roved about, and nameless faces were thrown from the shadows into the coloured lights. It was making me slightly dizzy. It was truly commendable how the models could stay so balanced and not get distracted by the lights.

Rox nudged me suddenly and nodded at Connell, looking somewhat fearful. But that was probably due to the weird lighting.

When I turned to look at Connell, however, I felt almost as fearful as Rox looked. He was swivelling his head about, scanning the milling crowd, as though he had forgotten where he was. Everybody got that sometimes, that disorientating feeling of not knowing where or who you were all of a sudden. But Connell looked seriously lost �" and scared. I detected that from those eyes that were reflecting the crazy strobes of coloured light as he stared wildly around.

I reached for his hand. “Look, there’s Reilly,” I murmured.

In front of me, I heard Carly sigh as she watched Reilly strut confidently with a natural ease down the runway. “If only I had her legs.”

I didn’t dare to alert them to whatever was going on with Connell, in case I set a fire to his gunpowder.

“They’re coming for me,” Connell murmured.

That was when I knew for sure something was seriously amiss. I mean, I watched A Beautiful Mind. Plus, having a psychiatrist for a dad meant you were trained to look out for signs of mental disorders �" slight or serious �" just like you were trained to recite what each flower meant.

“Who’s coming?” I said, keeping my voice down.

“Those people my dad hired,” he said, still glancing furtively around. His posture was poised �" poised for the perfect getaway. “He’s tried to sic them on me ever since … ever since….”

“Connell,” I murmured, squeezing his hand. “Do you want to go someplace quieter?”

“No!” Connell muttered. His pupils were actually dilating. I never thought people could notice them. “Don’t alert them.”

I glanced over at Rox, who had witnessed everything. She widened her eyes meaningfully at me, telling me to do something!

“Connell, what day of the week is it?” I asked, but he did not reply, just kept muttering to himself about them coming to get him.

Rox rolled her eyes and hissed into my ear, “There’s obviously something wrong with him, Raven. You don’t even have to check. Look at him, he’s hyperventilating!”

He was.

“Connell,” I murmured again, though I was looking at Dean. It was the natural thing to do, looking for brotherly advice. But his gaze was riveted on the runway, where pouty models sashayed up and down, throwing forth their endless legs in a hypnotic rhythm. No-one but the two of us had a clue.

I actually gasped and jumped a little when Connell gripped hold of my hand. He was trembling, and his grip hurt.

“They’re coming,” he said, his voice throttled by fear and urgency. “They’re coming! They’re coming! I knew it!”

“Connell!” I yelled.

Everyone turned to look.

Strobe lights screened past our faces, momentarily blinding me. When the light cruised by with detached interest, I saw a few pair of eyes staring straight at us, at Connell, who was still shouting for everyone to hear, as though he wanted them to hear, “I knew it! A ploy! That’s all it was �" a ploy to get me here, and then arrest me!”

“Let’s get him out of here,” Tate said and held on tightly to Connell’s shoulders as he marched him out.

Rox grimaced at me, glad that the ordeal was over as quickly as it came. My brother and Dom were staring at Connell as though he had just snorted fire, but did not follow us out. I kept my gaze firmly on Connell, making sure he left the place without drawing anymore attention to himself.

But a security guard stepped forth at that moment, all portly five-feet-three of him, with a moustache (I never knew anyone who still sported one). The buttons at his belly seemed about to pop any minute.

“Now what seems to be the problem here?” the guard said, all self-importantly. “We’ve got distinguished guests here today; we don’t want anyone clowning around.” When he frowned, his moustache became lopsided.

The security guard reached out for Connell, but Connell swung his arm wildly and slammed his fist into the guard’s jaw. He tumbled amongst feet and more people started looking. Rox screamed. The attention seemed to close in on us now, and I felt sweat snaking down my temple.

“Let go of me!” Connell roared and tore himself from Tate’s grip. He barrelled past the security guard and ripped through the mass of people, earning stares and expletives along the way.

I didn’t realise my wrist was still in his grip when I felt myself being dragged through the crowd of faceless people after him. I barely had time to apologise for treading on some people’s feet. When time forbade you to linger, it became the one thing you wanted to do most.

“Raven!” I heard Rox scream.

It sounds stupid to say that we flew out of the mall and pounded out onto the sidewalk, but it was exactly what we did. It was sunny out, and only a few people were out in the streets braving the midday sun.

“Connell, please stop,” I panted, but he did not seem to hear me. He towed me along the sidewalk without looking back once until we reached the back of a row of revitalised shop-houses.

We finally stopped at the landing of a spiral backstairs. I collapsed on the steps, watching as Rox bounded up to us and Connell peered over the ledge.

Rox collapsed next to me, panting for all she was worth. She looked at me, and everything she wanted to say was conveyed.

“See, Connell?” I said. “There’s no-one after you. Now sit down and catch a breath.”

“There are! Look!” he yelled and I looked.

S**t. Why couldn’t they have just kept watching the show?

“Raven? Rox?” Dean called out. Dom spotted us on the landing and they started clambering up the stairs, almost tripping over the narrow steps.

Connell started backing away, into the balcony of someone’s house. There were potted hydrangeas and tangerine plants all around and a small shovel next to a pot. A row of clothes was hung out to dry, flapping slightly in the torrid breeze. The white ones caught the sunlight.

“Stay away, d****t!” Connell growled.

“Just leave them alone!” Dom yelled. It was the first time I had ever seen him so worked up. He reached out for us, his eyes landing on mine.

I stayed where I was.

“Raven, come on,” Dom said, waving his hand a little. I just stared at it.

“I think I’ll stay with him till he’s calmed down,” I said, rubbing my brow.

Comprehension dawned on Dom’s face. He stared at me sadly for a full half a minute or so. His proffered hand slipped back to his side.

“Raven,” Dean said quietly. “I think we should call dad.”

My response was never granted, because before I could think of anything to say to that, Connell had grabbed the shovel and flung it against Rox’s head. A sickening crack was heard; I almost vomited, and a chill that stemmed from my head spread around my body.

Rox slumped to the ground immediately. I froze, my hand on my mouth as I stared in wide-eyed horror. I could think of no consolation, except for the fact that Rox was not bleeding �" at least, not that I could tell.

“Connell,” I breathed, my voice cracking.

“What the hell �"”

And Dean burst forth and sank his fist into Connell’s jaw. Connell was sent sprawling onto the ground.

“Dean, stop it!” I screamed.

I could not hold him back; he picked himself up and staggered towards Dean, who was glaring at him with such savagery it scared me.

“Don’t do this, Dean,” Dom said, and laid a firm grip on Dean’s shoulder.

“Connell, stop it, please,” I said, stepping right in front of him. “No-one is coming for you.” I laid a hand on his chest, and held his face in my other hand, forcing it to face me. “No-one’s coming for you,” I repeated with firm evenness. “Okay?”

I had almost calmed him down, but Dean, being Dean, intelligently chose that moment to shake Dom’s hand off and step towards us, his fist flexed and jaw clenched.

Connell tensed under my grip. “Dean, back off,” I warned.

It was the first time I felt truly helpless, and I hated that feeling. I wanted to help Connell, but how did you even begin? How did you even love someone when he was not always aware of himself? The thing about helplessness was that it was almost synonymous with fear, or at least, it begot fear. When you stood before a crashing torrent, with only the wind as your ally, there was not much you could do �" the waves were never in control of themselves.

Dean grabbed the hose from somewhere behind him, and Dom turned on the tap. We were drenched in a refreshing jet of water and a cool mist soon descended. Water sprinkles danced about, glittering.

There was a shout when I opened my eyes. My brother and Dom had Connell solidly pinned to the ground. I winced at the impact at which Connell landed on the ground.

Don’t hurt him, I wanted to say, but Dean said first, “Raven, call dad �" now. Then call an ambulance.”

With a quaking hand, I pulled out my cellphone. Connell had gone slack, but the guys held on firmly to him anyway.

Dad picked up on the second ring. I did not realise that I had been holding my breath, or that my emotions had been stewing within me, just waiting to burble up, until I heard dad’s voice.

“Raven?” It was deep, calm and dependable. It was the voice that made me dissolve in tears instantly because I was so relieved. It felt good to finally hear a familiar voice that would know what to do, amidst all that strange happenings that were seriously scaring the hell out of me.

“Dad. It’s Connell. He �" he lost it, somehow. We’re in someone’s balcony now, and Rox’s unconscious and I don’t know if she’s … Dom and Dean have got Connell, but �" I don’t know, I’m just really scared….” Sobs fled from me, and I kept choking on them.

I called the ambulance after I got off the phone with dad, who said he was on his way after asking me where exactly I was.

“Rox?” I whispered, shaking her. She moaned. “Roxy!” I screamed, as another wave of relief coursed through me. “Roxy, you’re okay, you’re okay,” I said, turning her around as Dean came over to cradle her bleeding head.

As I walked over to Connell, I could feel Dom’s gaze wedged on me, but I kept mine on Connell. His eyes were shut, and for a moment I feared he was unconscious too.

But when I laid my hand on his face, he slowly opened them. He looked up at me, and then turned away. He seemed almost close to tears himself. It was all I could do to not dissolve in tears when I saw the pain on his face.

“Oh, Connell,” I whispered, and helped him get to his feet. A teardrop fell and bruised a spot on the red-tiled ground. I could barely see, being blinded by the veil of tears in my eyes.

He just kept looking at his feet the whole time until my dad came. The ambulance came soon after, wailing a distant cry that I once only associated with bad things that happened to other people, the poor souls.

Then came Tate and the rest.

“We saw the ambulance,” Reilly explained, “so we figured….” She squeezed Connell’s arm as he walked past them, trailing in my dad’s wake.

“Is she going to be alright?” Dean was asking the paramedics as they laid her on a stretcher.

I felt tears welling in my eyes again as I watched Rox being wheeled into the ambulance. The door snapped shut with an awful patronising clap, as though singing, Now look what you’ve done.



© 2012 Raven Held


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Again absolutely incredible!!! I could not stop reading for a moment. The only disappointment came when I realised the chapter had come to an end! Wonderful story, keep those chapters coming! :D

Posted 7 Years Ago



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Added on June 27, 2012
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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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