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A Chapter by YouoweYoupay

If there was anything unfair right now, it would be his absolute inability to travel back in time and mentally prepare for that question.




She was not sure, but she just had to ask. She died to know if even a slight percent of her superstition was close to the truth. Big brown eyes averted briefly in hesitation before flashing to the edge aiming at the familiar face on the side, "Do you…like my brother?"


Dujaun's grin crumpled and faded and his eyes searched for the nearest heap of curtains to hide behind.


If there was anything unfair right now, it would be Dujaun's absolute inability to travel four and a half seconds back and mentally prepare for that question.


But how the f**k was he supposed to know that a twelve-year-old girl would ask a question not only regarding adult romance but also homosexuality. He literally did not see that coming.




Scene 4: Secret:


Knock. Knock. There was no declared grant of access so he pushed the doorknob down and peeked through the small gap, "Pst…You awake?"


"No." her cynical tone seeped through the fractured self-esteem.


"So you're not awake?" For a happy-go-lucky, contrastingly swearing, aimlessly meandering teenager who lost his younger sister before she could reach the age of being self-conscious about appearance, Dujaun thought he was doing pretty okay with kids; he could hear Nara's weak muffled sniggers from underneath the peach-pink blankets as he joked, "You respond to questions even when you're asleep? That's something…" It was quiet, except for the girl's leftover sniffles after a good cry and the regular ticking of the oval white wall clock on the right of the bed facing the cupboard. The door made a slight creak as Dujaun stood partially inside the borders of her room, "I'm coming in anyway." He said, mildly testing if she would object, as he leisurely stepped into the pink and purple princess chamber.


"Go ahead. I don't care." She said, "There's nothing to be ashamed of about this room…At least it's not bald." She muttered the last part, but the visitor easily heard it. The atmosphere was calm enough.


It was funny the way she put it, but the girl was right, Dujaun thought as he looked around. Her room was far from bald; a noticeable quality was the large window behind the bed, a passage for a good amount of sunlight, framed by a layer of neatly creased ice-cream pink curtains and another layer of transparent pale drapes beneath it, with light edges occasionally whisked by the early spring breeze. The carpet was of a creamy color, fuzzy, spotless clean and so was the light brown desk holding the few notebooks and pencil crate, the multi-purple shades of the walls, and the mirrors on the cupboard doors. There was a special pair of shelves above the study desk on which two music boxes, a few Barbie dolls and nostalgic looking happy meal free toys were arranged.


Her bedroom was right across Jad's, which Dujaun had never approached before. The thought of it rasped a wooden match against the inside of his chest and roused the itchy butterflies in his stomach, but he instantly shook it off his system. He did not climb up here to stimulate the fantasy habitually teasing the back of his mind.


"You know, I agree with you," he told her, grabbing the top wheel-chair before the study desk and scooting it closer to the left of her bed so that he could sit on it reversed with his legs like an upside down V on the sides of the chair, and his arms loosely folded around its curved crest, "Your room ain't bald. You are though." She was curled in bed with her knees folded up close to her chest, but he could not see the response in her expression, the sheets still covered her face, "but so what?"


"That's what you think." She defensively said, "It's much less embarrassing for a boy to have no hair."  


"Naw, that's not true," his eyes adverted up and his fingers lightly pulled a thick curl of brown beneath the red hat, "I'm happy with my hair at the moment. I'd be bothered if I wake up without it tomorrow morning."


She drew down the peach pink sheets uncovering the round head masked with a woolly soft-blue bonnet, "So, you know how I feel today?"


"Totally." He assured her shaking his head once, the honey brown eyes studying her new look, "This looks nice, by the way. You could have worn it before I got here. I probably wouldn't have found out you were bald!"


"I was going to, but you just suddenly showed up." She said, "And even if I had been wearing it…I mean, you are as stupid as my brother is. But no one's stupid enough not to notice." It's cool, he thought. No offence taken, since Nara tossed blunt insults almost at everyone and Dujaun was aware he was not the brightest individual in this room.


"But, you know, there's nothing wrong with being both female and bald. Hair grows back again, doesn't it?"


"It does…but--"


"You remember Hollywood from history lessons, right?"


"The neighborhood in Los Angeles, California, the United States of America. What about it?"


"It was also the land where pretty women worked as actresses. I heard some of them shaved their heads for specific roles. And sometimes, women shaved it so that it would grow back healthier and stronger."


Nara's brown eyes slightly widened, "That's crazy! I'd never do that."


"Normally, it would be your choice. But, uh…" Dujaun's eyes pointed at the bonnet and he slightly pursed his lips, "Getting bugs in your hair and further is not pleasant, but it's already happened, so you might as well look at the bright side." He shrugged. Nara preferred her brother's friend did not know about the lice problem, but after being seen bald, it did not really make any difference. The situation could not get any more awkward.


"You're right." She sadly muttered surrounding her head with her palms, "I'll wait for it to grow again…"


"Ha!" he grinned sitting up straight in the same position, "Now that's called being awesome! And it's also called being good at cheering up little girls."


"Don't flatter yourself." She looked up at him, regaining the dry, superior tone, "I still feel terrible."


His eyebrows crossed and his nose cringed, "Huh?...Psh," he shook his lowered head in disappointment, "You're even more depressing than Blue Head is!"


"No one is more depressing than Jad is. Trust me."


Dujaun hesitated for a minute. I'll just tell her, what the hell? "I'll let you in on a secret story then." He lightly smiled, his honey brown softly ignited with reminiscence, "When I was around your age my friends and I liked running around under the Ivory Bridge often. And uh," he chuckled, "We'd have power games and make dares. En' one day I--"


"Crazy dares, I bet!"


"Some o' them, yeah. So there was this homeless old fisherman who lived behind a couple of empty oil tanks. He would sit by the river bank below the bridge and wait by his fishing pole, but we never saw him actually catch anything. We'd huddle together and listen to him hum as he did his business behind the hedge plants. And one of our friends named Ali would laugh out loud, and our fun would end once the guy turned around and started to chase us away. "


"Poor man. You should have left him alone." She commented, "Was Jad there with you?"


"Yeah I remember that coward was there. Well, we all were cowards, but Jad was the biggest one. He refused to join us, always ranting about how that old man might suddenly hurl his fishing net and keep us aside for dinner time to boil us with his soup. Your brother preferred pacing by the river bank trying to make friends with the peeping little mice there." Nara laughed, the 'I'm not surprised' look sparking in her slightly cheered brown eyes. Dujaun laughed along, resuming the story, "So one day I took a peek at the oil tanks from afar and the old man wasn't there and I walked closer to investigate, not too close though; even when we teased Jad about being a wimp, we all internally believed his theory about being boiled in the old man's soup. So as I stepped towards his spot, I could see a part of his head and his hand limp beside it. He was lying down still on one side and he stayed exactly that way for the next coming days."


"Was he dead?" Nara slightly winced.


"Yeah, except we didn't know that yet." he recalled the awful stench that reeked once his feet tip-toed a step closer to the oil tanks, and the summer heat belting the spot only made it worse, "I assumed he was dead, but our older friend Malek disagreed. So we made a bet. If I was right, Malek would have to jump into the cold, dirty river water. And if he was right, I would have to jump in there. The three of us together walked right to the oil tanks and I was both creeped out and kinda relieved to know I was right, but they both ganged up and threw me into the water anyway."


"But he lost the bet. That wasn't fair."


"Hehn." he smirked as more flashes of his childhood crossed his memories, "The word 'fair' doesn't exist in Malek's vocab. He's always been a f*****g hypocrite."


"Now, the weird connection between this story and your hair condition is," Dujaun motioned his curls, "after I got back home that same day, this really strong itch started at the back of my head."


The horrifying sensation was not unfamiliar to Nara. Her ears seemed more interested to listen now. She gave him the 'no way' look, "Lice!" she gasped.


"Yep." He nodded, "I was staying at my grandmother's since my parents were out of town, and you'd never guess that the creepy old lady soaked my hair with gasoline to for a whole week!"


Nara's mouth dropped open. Listening to a story about a rich kid catching lice was strange enough; much less damage his hair with frying oil or something. That's when she learned that the luxury and comfort of medical shampoos and cleansers she knew did not exist a decade ago.


A few laughs and Nara sharing remarks of speculation regarding the Ivory Bridge story, Dujaun made a comment about Jad being the only friend to stay behind after getting swamped in the river water, "That idiot," he grinned, "didn't know about the hair lice afterwards, but he would always help me out with stuff whenever my other friends disappeared." There was a very very faint spark in his eyes as he talked that Nara had been studying and analyzing for weeks. Another hint.


She was not sure, but she just had to ask. She died to know if even a slight percent of her superstition was close to the truth. Big brown eyes averted briefly in hesitation before flashing to the edge aiming at the familiar face on the side, "Do you…" Her fingers tangled and twisted as she asked, "like my brother?"


This light-hearted conversation about childhood and hair lice had taken an impossible turn. Dujaun's grin dropped and his eyes searched for the nearest heap of curtains to hide behind. His mouth opened and closed, choosing to clear his throat as he scavenged for commonsense, fidgeting in the reversed seat, "Erm,"


Post world war three aftermath, starvation, pollution, and being thrown in a dirty river even after winning a bet. If there was anything unfair other than the previously mentioned, it would be Dujaun's absolute inability to travel four and a half seconds back and mentally prepare for that question.


The limit of his mortal knowledge and imagination did not exceed: a few girls around Nara's age clustered in a circle, their curious eyes almost popping out in disbelief at their science textbooks turned to the only few pages excluded from the academic curriculum; the reproductive system.


Do I like her brother? He internally repeated. If Nara was still young and she sensed his well-masked feelings for his male best friend, then the girl was either too keen or Dujaun was just too obvious. But how could he have been obvious when he easily managed a poker face instead of the glimmer trying to coat his honey brown eyes once they saw Jad's kiddy grin or half naked pallid form in the changing room after gym class? How could he have been obvious when he had even tried to secrete his feelings from the inner bully in his subconscious who always went like: Are you serious, you disgusting f*g?


But wait; maybe his train of horror rushed a few exaggerated miles forward. The word 'like' had more than the sinful definition he assumed. After all, she was still a child.


"Yeah," he said in a 'duh' kind of tone, "Aren’t best friends supposed to like each other?"


"I guess," Nara said unsurely, her eyes lowering to the fingers she slowly twisted and tangled.


I knew it! Dujaun beamed in relief, internally grateful to the God he occasionally communicated with.


"But…that's not what I meant." A fretful wave smacked his brain again. She would not shut up just yet, "I meant like as in 'like' like." Dujaun gave her a clueless look, but pretending to be naive was ineffective, "as in romantically?" she pronounced the last word slowly.


"Two guys? Romantic?" he raised his eyebrows at her and she gave the 'cute and curious' nod, "Where did you learn that?"


"Well," her eyes rolled up as she explained, "I would never have known if it weren't for a friend I knew back in my old school. She always got excited when she talked about this movie of two guys hugging and kissing and stuff. I didn't believe her at first, until--" she suddenly cut off her eyes adverting away.


"Until what?" Dujaun narrowed his eyes leaning back and crossing his arms. She reeled off words about how her friend 'made her' watch that movie and that she absolutely did not enjoy it and thought it was 'utterly gross'. Dujaun listened, occasionally nodding with an 'oh' or 'okay'. What else was he supposed to say? Besides, participating in the conversation would probably make her crave for more details, like what happened by the end of the minute-long awkward silence, "So, it's true? You like my brother?" what was that persistence about?


His hands remained folded against his chest and his eyebrows crossed, but he was not frowning. He was still trying to contain the situation with artificial carefree responses, "Assuming I was gay, why do you think I might particularly like him?"


"Well, it's because when Jad's not around, he's all you talk about." That was a bit exaggerated, but not incorrect, "And when I steal Jad's cell phone to play Snake, the main screen always shows missed calls from you." That bit was exaggerated as well… or was it? The discussion was getting more uncomfortable and Dujaun silently called himself an idiot for being careless around that keen brat, "You like to ruffle his smooth, shiny hair," Nara batted her eyelashes once and pursed her lips in a snooty smile, "which he copied from me." wasn't it supposed to be the opposite, since she was born later? It did not take long for her to brag about her hair again, even when it still hadn't grown back out of her skull.


"Okay," Dujaun tried the wise 'nice try, but uh…no,' smile as he shifted in his seat, and it did not suit him at all, "You've got some wild imagination, little girl and you might be proud of the clues you collected, but you're misunderstanding something here…Jad and I are like--"


"Yeah, I know you guys are like brothers." She rolled her eyes "but you call him cute nicknames and you compliment him and you're nice to him especially around your other friends…You're too nice sometimes." Her tone grew more assured as she connected, "Brothers don't do that."


F**k. She was good, Dujaun thought, opening his mouth to attempt another defense, "You can say whatever you want, but I'm not--"


"I know," she interrupted in a musical tone, "You're not gay. I've seen you with girls many times. Hmm, but my brother probably is." She tilted her head at him and smiled victoriously, "Any more inquires?"


Dujaun slowly shook his head, "…Naw, I guess not." he said internally awed by her mind-reading, spacing out for a whole minute in a trance of remembering the nice smell of Jad's downy blue-black hair, the long dark eyelashes around the ordinary shade of brown, his thin body and hands, moving downwards to the slender waist…Ah, his-- Hey, carefree idiot. A voice yanked him back to reality, you're forgetting something, the girl knows now. Jad might hear of this. There were two arguing voices growing nearer from the base of the stairs. Jad's mother was yelling something about taking a tray upstairs, complaining about her chronic backache and weak knees. Somebody was approaching. If this leaked to him in anyway, it might end up with a very discomfited situation, especially since Jad was the type that could not hide emotions like self-consciousness.


"See? I told you I was right." She beamed.


Dujaun shook the dreamy thoughts off his head, "Hey," he lightly lectured her, trying hard to prevent her grin from infecting him, "don't go telling your brother weird things, he'd freak out."



"No, no don't worry." She assured him the aura of 'being right' still saturated in her excited tone, "Your secret's safe with me."


"So I get it that you feel better now. Didn't I tell you I could cheer up little girls?"


"Not really." Her eyes were closed as she sighed in an uninterested tone and Dujaun made a face, "I might seem better but I'm still--" she screamed and unleashed a sequel of laughter, taken by surprise once Dujaun shot up from his reversed seat and sprinted to her side of the bed, pulling up the peach-pink blankets over her head.


On the side of the door, Jad had just reached the top of the stairs, cursing under his breath for having to carry the tray of cookies and milk all the way up to the princess chamber. He paused before the door of her bedroom upon hearing her giggles, impressed by Dujaun's ability to not only put a cork in her noisy throat, but also bring her back into a good mood, which was essential to the peace and quiet of the house. Jad laughed quietly entirely oblivious of the last bit of conversation that had just ended.

© 2011 YouoweYoupay

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*Image: A Secret
*by ~LarissaArt

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Added on April 15, 2011
Last Updated on April 15, 2011



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