My dear lady

My dear lady.

Forgive me for being so forward but I must speak. I have observed, for some time now, that you seem troubled. I have taken it upon myself to offer you words of comfort, if I may be so presumptuous. You place far too much stock in the ramblings of others of your sex. It is unnecessary. Although I may not suggest that you disobey your parent, I must caution you to listen with all your faculties intact. Said parent knows you well, and will seek to get her point across by possibly upsetting you, thereby goading you into words that you had no intention of uttering unprovoked.

Might I make a guess as to the reason of your unease? You might feel that the days pass by rapidly. Far more than you might have anticipated. Maybe you worry that you lose a certain chance by waiting?

Please, my lady. This you must put from your mind. There is a case to be made for solitary maneuvering. Just plain getting on with it. You listen too closely to the ramblings of other females who, I might say, do not know their own mind. You have a fine one, dear lady, a superb insight into the nature of the beast. Forgive my crassness.

I beg of you. Consider more carefully, and do not fret overmuch. You are unlike your tormentors, and you must bend only as the wind sways you.

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The Face

Rainbow horizon

I’ve seen it so many times, it was hard to imagine it as never part of my existence. Its continuous presence in its pride of place at the top of the stairs was now like a ritual, so blatant in its obscenity. As i gazed upon it as i’ve done everyday for almost a decade, i was thrown into the past to recall how it used to be. Why this wood framed monstrousity was etched in the lines of my life for all eternity.

“Give your mummy a kiss goodnight, kids,” was the mantra that followed the ritual. I obediently did, each and everynight, along with Lucy, Consuela and Alfric. There was no refusal, not even the thought of one. It was just the thing to do. So i was told.

Mummy left us before i was one. This made her a mystical figure in my imagination and i idolised her for it. I held her close to my heart, by the sheer power of my will. Daddy never allowed a miniature to be made for us kids because he was too sad. Lucy and Consuela said it was because he was angry at what mummy had done, but no one would explain that to
me. So i did what i could to keep her close to me.

I dreamt of her every night. She cooked me breakfast, parted my hair properly before i went to school, and made sure my clothes were clean and i smelt good. I smelt good only because i smelt like mummy.

I even talked to her when i was alone. Under my bed, when i was hiding from Alfric and his bugs, i would talk to mummy for hours. We would plan our revenge, plot of ways to get Alfric back for putting that cockroach in my soup. These were the best moments of my life. I cherished them like the rare treat of chocolate grandmother managed to sneak in when she
visited once a month. Whenever daddy asked how my day went, i would tell him it went brilliant. I would smile to prove this. He never smiled back. He’d just stare, most times for up to a minute. Then he’d continue with his meal. It was as if he knew my special connection to mummy and was afraid of it. I did not understand it but i did not mind. If daddy wanted to know why i was so happy, he could ask.

Back in the gloom of the hall, she stared down at me like a vision from a part of God that isn’t good or bad, just is. That face. The beginning of all that brought me to this point. I needed to find daddy and explain what was happening. My fingers felt stiff from gripping so hard. My shirt stuck to my skin and my tears dried midway down my cheeks. I was breathing hard, trying to calm myself, but it was no use. It could not stop. I looked up again.

“Help me, mother,” i said. Her smile was serene from red lips. If i’d thought about it more, i would have called it seductive, but i didn’t. She wore pearls, three lines of them, and a pretty pink ballgown with puff sleeves. She was beautiful. I knew she hadn’t liked that dress, because i’d once snuck into aunt Evelyn’s room, while she was visiting and staying in mummy’s old room, and looked through mother’s things. She had a distinct style. Bolder colours, no pastels, always low cut. I could imagine father falling in love with her in those alluring clothes.

She’d left me so long ago, i had no right to claim her as mine. But claim her i did. My little secret, my treasure. Everyone had a right to have secrets. I had a right to hold them tight to me.

If only they’d just told me the truth. Explained to me why it wasn’t okay to love mummy so much. Explained to me why i had to forget and find other engagements more becoming of my station and stage in life.

The metallic taste in my mouth made me blink. Then i remembered why i had come.

“Dad!” i screamed as i continued up the stairs. The house was silent, oh so silent. Her eyes seemed to follow me with approval. This gave me courage. “It doesn’t work!” i called out. Then more a whisper, “it just doesn’t work.”

A door slammed somewhere down a dark corridor. I hurried my steps.

I don’t remember the death or the funeral. No one ever told me much about it either. Although grandma Ruth’s face became very pinched anytime someone mentioned her. Grandma was too powerful to upset so no one did.

“You should have had her committed Edward, after that third adoption,” Grandma had said one day. Dad had helped himself to more brandy, saying nothing. “He has her eyes, you know. And that smile.” She shuddered as she said this. “It’s like she never left. No, Edward, i am convinced of it. You should have had her committed. Then we wouldn’t have this dread constantly over our heads.” She huffed once and stared faraway. I crawled out from under the table where i’d been hidden by the long white table cloth and snatched a portrait off the grand piano. I looked into the lovely face of mummy and tried to see my own. I saw it. We were one. She was me and i was her.

They put me on a regime when i attacked a teacher. Daddy said i was so upset they had to medicate me. I couldn’t remember it. I couldn’t remember what upset me so much, and i couldn’t remember anything else once it was over. Alfric came once or twice to visit, but he was always aloof and disinterested. He did his duty and left. There was always scorn in his eyes. And something else that i figured out only much later. There was fear.

Lucy and Consuela came home from school during the holidays and were good to play with. Consuela liked to hug a lot. Lucy liked to play a sort of mummy. I never understood that untill she told me what she was doing.

They told me later that i’d gone wild. My regime helped me not remember this. They said she died in the bath. That it was very quick. Consuela did not come to me, Alfric never visited again, and i was locked away in a dark place with my mirror, where all i could see was her.

I found daddy in the library. He stood there, shaking but dignified. At his feet was his old diary and in his right hand was his pistol. I watched him suspiciously, wondering what he was up to.

“How did you find it?” he asked. I shrugged but did not answer. Something like distaste crossed his face. “What have you done?”

I looked at myself, then back up at him.

“You can’t just shut me away dad, it just doesn’t work,” i told him. He nodded sadly.

“I know that now.”

“It didn’t work for mummy either. She still killed all those people.”

“Just like you are doing now.”

“She was happy. She wrote it down in her journal. She was happy! How can that be bad!” i screamed. He looked surprised.

“You found her journal as well?”

“I knew what she wanted. I’m doing this for her. So she can rest in peace.”

“You mean…” he could not continue. I watched his shoulders begin to shake as he began to weep. “Alfric, Connie…”

“All with mummy.” I looked at my right hand to find the bloodied machete raised for one final duty. I was smiling when i looked back at him. He seemed to wince.

“You’re just like her,” he whispered.

“Really?”

“You’re my son, but I should have smothered you in your crib.”

“I know mummy stopped you. Because she knew this day would come.” I grinned now. Dad looked in pain. He raised his gun up, straight at me. I thought i heard my own voice giggling. I imagined i looked a mess, covered in the blood of all those i had chased tonight. It was the best fun i’ve ever had. The fresh air cool against my skin, the warm blood coating me like a rite of passage. It was the best night. I imagined mummy had felt exactly this way when she’d chased all those people with that kitchen knife. All that freedom, all that glory.

I fell back, still giggling. Daddy stood over me, weeping while i laughed uncontrollably. He put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger. I laughed some more, wanting some of that warm blood too.

Soon the sound became strangled, and the laughter sounded pained. I was frowning as i tried to laugh but could not get the sound out. All there was now was a wheezing that just did not sound so funny.

My eyes fell on another distant portrait of mummy, smiling down on me with approval.

The Glass House

Rowan Gardiner was taking out the trash when he noticed the moving van next door. He paused, holding the trash lid in one hand and the garbage in the other. Men with work gloves were moving in and out with boxes. They worked fast, but were not clumsy. As if each box was precious.

Rowan dropped the garbage in the bin and returned inside. From his living room window, he had a better view of the house next door. He was curious about who his new neighbour could be. Afterall, the house had been vacant for nearly a year after the Johnsons decided to move closer to the city.

He saw nothing immediately, just a lot of boxes on polished wood floors. This made him straighten. Had someone been inside fixing it up and he hadn’t noticed? He worked from home most of the time. He noticed things that varied from routine. It disturbed him that he hadn’t noticed possible activity so close to him. Lanette hadn’t told him that someone had bought the place either. She was normally good at giving him the heads up about these things.

Thinking of Lanette, he left the window in search of his cordless house phone.

The house was mostly glass and wood, one of those prefab jobs that seemed to be getting more popular these days. It was one of the things that had bothered him so much that he had chosen to abandon one part of the house in preference of the other side so that he would not have to see so much of what was happening at his neighbour’s house.

Yet here he was, trying to use it to spy, and with spectacular failure. All Lanette had said was that the new owner of the house next door was a young widow. A private woman who had moved there to be away from prying eyes.

Yet why had she chosen a glass house? According to Lanette, the raised deck at the back overlooking the lake did the trick. She had fallen in love with the view.

It was late before he walked out on his back porch. Emma, his daughter, was spending the weekend with her mother therefore he had the house to himself. The sun was setting and the sky was beautiful in oranges, pinks and greys. He popped open the bottle of cold beer and sat on his grandfather’s rickety old chair, just about ready to unwind and let go.

Something in the reeds caught his eye. He leaned forward to get a closer look. The neighbour’s house had a walkway that led a few metres over the water so one could moor a boat. There was no boat there now. What there was, was a woman. A woman sitting on a stool in front of an easel, her eyes to the horizon, painting furiously. She sat so straight, yet her hands moved like an overly excited creature, as if afraid to miss a thing, or a moment.

Rowan sat transfixed by the sight. He did not see such oddness often. It was a calm night, but it was cool. Yet all she wore was a slip, barely covering her. Bones moved against her skin as if in agony. Her elegant neck took on a sinister form in his confused mind.

Her head was bald, making her look more creature than woman. Right in the centre of her head was the letter D, tattooed in black ink.

Rowan turned on the faucet and turned it back off one more time. There was no drip this time. He smiled. That was done. On to the bathroom.
“Do my eyes deceive me? Do i not hear a drip for the first time in six months?” Ashley asked. Her father looked surprised.
“Was it that long?”
“Yeah. You were gone a lot,” said the perky fourteen year old. He looked down at her, his eyes puzzled. “What?”
“Are you telling me off?” he asked.
“I don’t know. Am i?”
“Am i supposed to take that?” he asked. She leaned against the sink and seemed to ponder his words. Then she shrugged.
“I think you’re supposed to. You have no choice,” she said.
“When did you get so grown up?”
“When you spent the last six months working on those new buildings that will never sell.”
“Hey! Who says that?”
“Ah, everybody. Dah!” she said. He looked more surprised.
“Really? They say that? Wow. Kinda harsh, don’t you think?”
“Why? We all know it’s a recession.”
“What do you know about the recession, young lady? And when did you get so informed. I sure didn’t clue you in.”
“I listen. People talk, people complain. I just listen. It’s just so interesting, i guess. Lots of folks are so sad though. It’s weird to see it,” she said. Now he looked concerned.
“Hey, Ash. You know you have nothing to worry about, right? I can take care of us.”
“I know.” Her cherubic face smiled and he felt sadder.
“I just don’t want you to start worrying about everybody. It’s good to care, don’t get me wrong, but you’re just a kid, my kid. You stay smart and stay sharp, and you don’t worry about this family. You let me take care of that,” he said.
“Fine, but i’m fourteen. I’m almost not a kid anymore.”
“Who says!” he exclaimed.
The falling lid of a trash can alerted them to their neighbours’s movements. They both walked out on to the porch to see what the noise was about. All they saw was old Mrs Wasikowska putting in the trash and replacing the lid. She walked back into the glass house mumbling to herself. Neither father nor daughter moved immediately.
“When…”
“Two weeks ago, i think. Mrs Wasikowska cleans for her a few days a week.”
“Did you get a glimpse yet? Does she come out?” he asked.
“Not that i’ve seen. I tried to sneak a peek. I went over one afternoon when a car came up the drive.”
“Ash!” He looked at her impatiently but fondly. “That’s intrusive. You should know better.”
“I just wanted to see what all the fuss was about. We are her closest neighbours. It’s kinda creepy that she hides all the time, don’t you think so, daddy?”
“Doesn’t matter what i think, you will not spy on our neighbour,” he said, remembering the few times he’d tried to get a look in. “Look, since you’re up i’ll make breakfast. Go over and invite her to join us.”
“For real?”
“Yeah. Let’s be neighbourly and mature about it. Go, child, before i change my mind,” he said. She did not think twice. She launched herself off the porch, her short blond bob bouncing about her, and she made her way across the grass to the house next door.

She returned a few minutes later, her face down and the excited exuberance clearly missing. Her father plated out scrambled eggs and put out a row of toast as she entered.
“Well?”
“She’s not coming,” she said. He raised a brow in understanding.
“Did she say why?” he asked.
“She didn’t. Mrs Wasikowska did. She unavailable. She says sorry though.”
“You mean Mrs Wasikowska did. You did not actually see our neighbour.”
“No,” she said. He ruffled her hair and pulled out a seat for her.
“It’s her loss, i’d say. Come, sit, and be fed.”
“I’m not so hungry anymore, dad.”
“Yes, you are. We will not let someone we’ve never met or seen ruin our day. I’m back home full time now. I’ve got things to fix up here, and i’ve got you to look after. We will have an excellent summer, and i’ll be damned if i’ll let you frown through it,” he said. She reached for a piece of toast and the butter.
“Yeah, yeah, dad, don’t announce. I got it. You’re here, we’ll hang out. I get it,” she said without looking up.

Rowan left the radio on as he walked out the back of the house with a fishing rod. Ashley was gone for the evening, off to the movies with friends but supervised by a parent. He had decided earlier that the bathroom needed a complete overhaul. It meant that he would spend the summer fixing up his house. It was not falling apart precisely, but it was dated. He’d built it years ago for himself and his wife Michelle, when things had been good and he was an idealistic romantic youth. He’d figured that it was the ultimate gesture of love, building their home with his bare hands.

Five years ago she went off with Ashley’s pediatrician, a dashing doctor with family money, no hair and flashy accessories. Rowan had never understood, not really. He still found it difficult to come to terms with what had gone wrong. The only thing he’d been grateful for about the whole thing was that she’d been willing to share custody of their daughter. Asheley had eventually seen through that though, when Michelle went on more trips with her wealthy husband and did not seem inclined to keep her promises to her daughter.

So he stayed over protective of his only child, and made sure to devote his attention to her so that she would never doubt that she was loved.

He made his way down the steps of the back porch. He had consciously chosen not to overly make up his access to the river, although he’d had a sort of guard up when Ashley had been a child so that she would not fall in and be lost. Now the steps led to a rocky base with a shallow pool where he could wade. He did so now to get to a raised part of the rocks where he could sit and fish quietly. He was barely there five minutes when a sound caught his eye. He looked over to his neighbour’s house. There was someone at the end of the board walk, kneeling with one hand in the water. He registered a slender hand, tanned gold. When the hand came out and shook off the water, he noted a small wrist with a bracelet of white beads. The reeds obscured the rest of her. He did not hesitate. He stood and waded out and back to the house.

He got rid of his rubber pants and walked off the porch and on to the grass that separated them. Her backyard and his backyard lined up but he could only ever see anything when he was on the porch, it being raised and all. He got an impression of a woman heading back inside the house so he hurried. He was at the bottom of her porch just as she was about to enter the house.
“Hey!” he exclaimed. She whirled around in alarm, her mouth parting with surprise.

He straightened immediately. The first thing he noted was that she was not bald anymore. And she was not as thin as had been suggested that first day. That woman had seemed like a dream, a wraith that just did not seem real.

This woman was a vision. The tan he thought he’d seen was not that at all. She was that colour all over, the daughter of parents of different races. Her hair was black, short, full, curling beautifully. Her eyes were wide, but that could be because she was staring at him so petrified. Her brows were thick and sat so comfortably in the clearest face imaginable.

He was speechless, and more than just a little embarrassed that he’d been so eager to be angry at her for being so anti social. There he was, tongue tied and idiotic, while she clearly debated how fast she could out run him to the phone and call for help.
“I’m your neighbour, Rowan. My daughter was over here a few days ago to ask you over for breakfast. You were busy,” he said. She seemed to calm down as he spoke, of which he was glad. He was dearly regretting not using the front door. “I saw you while i was fishing. I thought you might need some help. Did you lose something in the water?” he asked.
“I’m fine,” she said. It was a whisper, barely a sound. She wanted him to go away, he was sure of it. He was just about ready to do that.
“I’m a carpenter. I mean, i do lots of odd jobs and i work the the local construction guys when they need some expertise. Don’t take this the wrong way, but our houses are so close and i can’t help but notice things. It seems you need some work done around the place. I can help. Not me, personanlly, i wouldn’t want you to get the wrong idea. I know people, good workers who’d be glad of the extra cash. And they’d do a solid job,” he said. She did not reply, but her eyes never left him. They were suspicious, although not overly hostile anymore. “I’ll get going. My daughter’s Ashley, you’ve probably seen her out your window. Cute little thing with blond hair. Be nice to her. And if you need anything, please just pop over, or yell, or something. Good day,” he said as he left.

He caught his breath only half way back to his house. He felt as if he’d just been winded by a sucker punch to the belly. Her face seemed ingrained in his mind and he could not let it go. Even then, it did not seem real.

Where is Diana

Where is Diana?

Suzuki Pierce leaned against the red brick wall of the business college and smoked a cigarette. It was an idle gesture, to pass the time while he figured out his next move. It was the middle of the day, and he had a three hour gap between classes, which meant he had to decide whether he wanted to go home or stick around for one more lecture.
People passed him by, some turning their heads to look at him. A double take, he called it, when they were not quite sure what they were looking at. He was used to such reactions. He took it in his stride now.

Afterall, it wasn’t a deformity or a true personal fault that made them stare so. He wore a pale grey suit, immaculate and neatly pressed, with a black shirt and silver tie done up snugly at the neck. He looked like a cross between an aspiring rocker and a well drawn cartoon character. He was handsome. There wasn’t a vanity to it, it was just fact. He had never been anything else. His face was delicate rather than rugged. He was tall and lean, rather than buff. His appearance was boyish, because even his suits were made slim fitting to allow this. It was part of the reasons for the double takes. He was always immaculate, like a model in a menswear campaign poster.

“Hey, you! We need to talk!”

He turned his head to the right sharply, to encounter the piecing blue eyes of Aleesha Bird, scowling at him with the ferociousness of a bored socialite. He raised a brow in question.

“Bird,” he said in greeting.

“I told you not to call me that. What were you playing at last night? Where is Diana?”she demanded, as if she had the right. Her accent was educated Dublin, slightly petulant, as with when one was on unsure footing with another. She wore a black see through lace dress over a black wide gypsy skirt. She cinched it with a wide red belt, and he could see the black vest she wore underneath. To him, she looked like a vampire’s girlfriend.

He straightened and flicked his cigarette away. His hair moved with any of his movements, enhancing the need for the double take of those that passed. His blue black hair was only slightly over long, but so fine it moved with just the slightest provocation. It made him seem mysterious, worldly, sophisticated. All of the things that he did not feel himself to be when in her presence.

“Hello to you too. Can I offer you lunch, I’m just heading down to Govindas,” he said, standing to full height and looking down at her. The noise of Aungier street grew more pronounced by the second. He saw her eyes narrow suspiciously. He remained impassive.

“Where is Diana? What happened to her last night?”

“I have no idea. I was hoping you’d tell me. She was supposed to be with you.”

“I have to tell her.”

“Tell her what?” He walked away, crossing the street at the walk sign, forcing her to follow him. The clunk of her biker boots sounded on the pavement beside him and he deliberately slowed his strides so she did not have to run after him.

“Don’t be dense.”

“Oh, you mean our little indiscretion.” He stopped at the door of Govindas and held it open for her. There was fury on her face as she looked up at him. He waited.

“Why do you talk like that?”

“Like what?”

“Like we are in a period drama. Are you a method actor? Then it’ll all make sense,” she said. He looked at himself, then back at her.

“You’re talking about the clothes.”

“Yes. Why the suit? Why not jeans and t-shirts? Why those big shoes? Why not Vans or Converse?” she asked. He looked hurt.

“We’re letting the heat out,” he said. She entered quickly.

“I have to tell her,” she repeated once they were seated. He nodded and tasted his paneer. Govindas was thinning now that the lunch crowd were back to work. It was still noisy, but at least he could hear Bird talking.

“Why must you?”

“She’s my friend. You can’t just kiss me and expect me not to say something. It was wrong and I have to tell her.”

“It’s Saville Row.”

“What?” Her permanent frown seemed more pronounced as she wondered what he meant.

“The suit. My father is a tailor on Saville Row. I’ve dressed in suits all my life. I was his model, and the company model. It’s all I know. I have nothing else.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“It’s the truth. I have an excellent collection. E. Zelda, Armani, Brioni, it’s endless.”

“Really?”

“I look sharp, don’t I? I mean, it explains the way I dress if you were wondering,” he said. She looked concerned. Not exactly the reaction he’d been hoping for.

“Suzuki…”

“Bird.”

“Why did you do it? Why would you want to destroy my friendship with Diana?” she asked gently. He looked away from her intense eyes that he could never not admire.

“I really didn’t think. I just saw you in that dress and I knew I had to kiss you,” he said. She blushed and looked away. He risked a look at her face. Dark lashes, folded down, swept the bottom of her eyes, touching a freckled face. He looked away when the lashes came back up. “Please eat.”

“I don’t think you’re normal. From the moment I met you, I never thought you were normal. Now I am convinced. I will tell Diana everything.” She stood fast. He followed suit, watching her with resignation. “I’ll make her believe me.”

“I have no doubt you will. Will you not eat first? You barely touched it.” He spoke calmly, as if there was no drama to be had. He could tell it irritated her.

“Bye, Suzuki!” She grabbed her bag and headed out the door.

He avoided looking at the other patrons as he sat, flicking his blazer back slightly to reduce wrinkling. He ate quietly, and when he finished his plate, picked at hers till it was gone as well.

 

He paid scant attention in the class, content to twirl the pink Muji highlighter in his fingers until it seemed to pick up a life of its own. He stared out the window, at the grey skies that settled like opaque cotton wool, and equally as suffocating. He questioned the wisdom of sticking around for the lecture. The Business Communication class was his most easy subject and he could have done well without the need to sit in on a lecture. As it were, he barely heard the drone of the lecturer, the thoughts in his head louder than any words pertaining to good communication in business. But since lunch he’d remained unsettled and uncertain. Not about what he was doing, but how he was doing it.

She entered fifteen minutes in.

“Sorry,” she said, as she hurried to the back. The lecturer frowned hard, clearly debating whether to send her back out. But Aleesha had already found a seat and was seated. Suzuki straightened from his slouch, his body stiff and nervous now. His attention remained on the white board until the end of the class.

He lingered after, taking his time to get his books together. A difficult feat as he had no bag and could not pretend to be packing it. She was asked to stay back so after deciding sufficient time, he left to wait outside.

He was nervous. He was not used to it, but he interpreted correctly that it was necessary that he felt that way. He was making a move, he needed the extra adrenaline to carry it through.

She exited a few minutes later. She started on seeing him. He stood easily, one hand in his trouser pocket and the other holding his books casually. He saw her blink.

“What are you doing here?” she asked.

“Do you need a lift?” he asked. She continued to watch him. He waited her out.

“Where is Diana?”

“I don’t know, Bird.”

“She is not answering my calls or texts. Does she know?” she asked. Suzuki stayed colorless in his expression. How to explain to her?

“Not exactly,” he said. She stiffened. Her face was a wealth of information. There was alarm, upset, anger, disdain. All directed at him because she blamed him for something. But he knew for a fact that she did not know what she blamed him for.

“Did you tell her?” she asked in a small voice.

 

He’d arrived at the party with Diana at his side. They looked good together. People often took pictures of them just for the novelty. He’d worn a slim fitting suit; a red slim fitting blazer, black trousers, black shirt and tie. He looked foreign, handsome, and untouchable. She had chosen a short white dress that enhanced her from pretty to smoking. She had a habit of leaning into his body anytime anyone wanted a picture. He allowed it because he knew how to play a part. A party was where you did this.

She was also Japanese, but unlike him was born and bred in Osaka. He was of Japanese ancestry but was born and raised in England. He’d spent most of his life explaining it to people. Being from London and having to do this allowed him to appreciate his difference and work with it. It was an innate part of him now, and he appreciated it like fine wine. He denied being arrogant. People tended to see him that way. His ego was ever present, but in the guise that he knew himself far better than people thought he should know about himself at his age.

“Aleesha is gonna come later, when everyone is almost gone,” she told him.

“Why?”

“She’s shy. I convinced her to wear pink and she’s not very happy about it.”

“How did you convince her?”

“I won a bet. She had to do as I asked. I chose to ask her to wear a pink dress. You will be pleased.”

“Not if she’s unhappy,” he said. She looked at him as his gaze swept the private party. They were still in a nightclub and it was as loud as it could get. He was nervous. He had only recently decided that it was the night.

“She’s a punk. A rock chic who has never worn heels in all her life. Without all of that dark make up she’ll feel quite exposed. She is not happy, but she has no choice. You can choose how you approach her.” She said this last bit in his ear, sticking her tongue a little in. He flinched.

“It’s time we broke up,” he blurted out. She started.

“Now?”

“Yes, now,” he said. She stood.

“Get lost.” She walked away from him and into the party proper. He saw her begin to dance provocatively. She had no shortage of partners.

 

“She’s avoiding you ‘cos we broke up,” he said, as a stray wind whipped the tip of his tie over his shoulder. He pulled it back and tucked it behind the single button that held the blazer together. They were walking around the side of the building towards the car park where he’d parked his car.

“What?!”

“Now do you understand?”

“No! No, I don’t understand. I do not understand anything!” The wind scattered her curly red hair. He tried not to stare openly. He thought her hair glorious when wild like that.

“Would you like me to explain?”

“Explain what? Is there something else I don’t know?” she asked.

They finally made it to the car park where he paid the balance first before leading the way.

“Diana and I…” he began, but she was not ready to listen.

“But you two love each other.”

“Well…”

“She loves you, Suzuki!”

“She does?” He stopped suddenly, looking down at her with confused eyes. “Did she say this?”

“Of course. You’re her boyfriend. It is only natural that she would. Say it, I mean,” she said, blushing now that she realized that she was delving into personal matters. Suzuki only wished she would get more personal.

“The car’s over here.” He headed to the new Mercedes and opened the door for her. She entered without thanking him. He waited until she was secure before he closed the door after her. Then he went to the driver side. He got in and strapped himself in. He saw her rubbing her hands together and he quickly started the car and turned on the heat.

“Did you break up with her or was it the other way around?” she asked.

“Does it matter?” he asked as he drove out of the garage.

“Did you cheat?”

“Not physically, no.”

“What does that mean? Are you in love with someone else?” she asked. He did not respond.

The silence lengthened. After a few minutes he turned his head to see if she was alright. She was staring out the window, though she could not see much. The rain whipped into the glass like suicidal water pellets.

“I don’t love her. She does not feel the same way either, Bird,” he said gently.

“Why did you kiss me? That stupid dress, I remember. Do you know how humiliated I felt last night?”

“I have a fair idea.”

“Then why did you…”

“Because I knew that if I did not do it then, I would not have the courage later,” he said. She turned to him once more. He watched her face fall.

 

He’d always liked Aleesha. She was the one that he had always admired. Although he thought she had terrifyingly bad taste in clothes, which involved a lot of black strangely put together, she had beauty in her face. He liked the thick red curls, the deep blue eyes, and the freckles that dusted her cheeks like liver spots. Her imperfections were perfections, because in his world there were no blemishes, and she was the ultimate blemish.

He’d tried to make a move straight away but from the way she’d looked at him at first sight, he’d known his chance would be less than successful. She considered him too odd and her mind could not wrap itself around the fact that he was quite normal. He’d felt defeated for a while.

He already knew Diana from around the college, and knew her to be housemates with Aleesha. It had seemed an easy idea to enlist her help. He had never lied to her. He went out with Diana so that Aleesha would see more of him and get to know him. It also helped that they all attended the same classes. It was only a temporary set up. Diana was more than happy to help. He had offered her a way to get new season collections at a very marked down price in London. He knew people from the fashion world and he never had any qualms in calling them and asking for a favor.

The question had always been about when was the right time to make a move. He hadn’t seriously thought about how he was going to approach her, but when he’d seen her walk in, his heart had bloomed. She’d looked awkward in a bubble gum pink above the knee ruffle dress. Diana had obviously went full out malicious. Her dark make up was gone, replaced by something light. She looked exposed and achingly pretty. He’d only meant to say hello to her. But when he’d arrived at her side, he’d dropped his head and touched his lips to hers. She had stiffened. Then she had kissed him back. It was so unexpected that he gave himself to the moment, and to her.

She’d pushed him away when she came to her senses, and she did first. With one look of horror, she’d run from him and out of the club. He hadn’t seen her again until the next day in front of the college, looking angry and confused.

He hadn’t imagined her response to him. He hoped it meant that he was not too late and she had warmed to him. Except now she was worried about Diana and refused to think about her feelings for him.

 

He got out of the car with her. They walked to the front door of the house together. She had barely spoken for the rest of the trip. He’d let her be, hoping it all eventually came out in his favor.

“Look, I’m sure Diana is fine, but I’ll look for her if you are still worried,” he offered. She looked at him.

“Did you two really break up?”

“Yes.”

“Because of me?” she asked. He hesitated in his reply. “Suzuki.”

“Can I tell you the truth? Will you remain open minded?”

“I’ll try.”

“I tried to ask you out but you would not even stand still near me. You looked at me like some kind of freak and you ran. So I asked Diana to help me. I did not betray her or lie to her. She needed a favor and I needed her help. This is what I am, Bird. I am an ordinary guy, and I dress only a little different. I’ve liked you since the moment I looked at you, and the more I get to know you, the more I know we could be great friends. Diana is just upset she won’t get some free clothes anymore.” He stopped, waiting for her to knock him down. She didn’t. So he continued. “I don’t regret last night, but I promise I won’t invade your personal space anymore without good reason, if you don’t want me to. Just tell me that I was not imagining things last night. That you did not push me away.”

She was staring far away, anywhere but at him. He took a step closer, standing in her line of vision but not not too close.

“Bird?”

“I…” She looked up at him, face worried. He did not look away.

“Tell me, it’s okay.”

“Can I talk to Diana first?” she said. He swallowed his disappointment well, hoping she did not see it in his face.

“Sure. I’ll make some calls, ask around where she might be.” He took a step back and walked away from her, back to his car.

He was dialing a number when the taxi cab pulled up in front of the house. Diana stepped out, wearing oversized tracksuit bottoms and hoodie, with yellow flip flops that clearly were not hers. Suzuki put his phone away and went to her.

“Diana, where the hell…”

“Don’t start with me now, it’s been a long day,” she said as she walked past him. Aleesha was also staring at her.

“Diana, we’ve been so worried,” she said. Diana raised a brow.

“Is it ‘we’ already? Damn, boy, you move fast!” she exclaimed. Aleesha’s face flamed. Suzuki walked over to them.

“It’s late. I’m glad you’re alright, Diana, but I will see you both tomorrow,” he said as he left. Diana entered the house, slamming the door after her. Aleesha stood at the front steps, staring down at the car. He started it but did not pull away, wondering what was on her mind. He got out of the car when she began to walk his way.

“I know who you are, Suzuki, I’ve always known. I know about your parents, I know that you live by yourself in a big house by the sea, I know that you’re only here for a year. Yes, you over dress everyday, but that does not change the fact you will not be staying when the year finishes. I also know that you’re not the kind of guy I’ve went out with in the past and I’m afraid you will see what I’m really like and want to get back to London even faster.”

He smiled as she spoke, reaching out gently to take her hand.

“I extended my course time last week,” he shocked her by saying. She continued nonetheless.

“I don’t agree with what you did with Diana, but she seems fine. And I will admit that I like what I’ve learned about you in the last three months, if it is true.”

“It is all true,” he assured her. She nodded. “Let me take you to dinner, Bird. Kind of like a Q&A session where you get to ask me anything you want,” he said. She smiled.

“Okay, but first I’d like to…”

“On it,” he said as he leaned down and kissed her again, this time with a clear mind and conscience.