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Wednesday, 30 October 2013

When the Summer Ends Chapter 4

Chapter 4


August 1958

‘Hey…’ I was surprised to see someone who was not Aika Rowland answer the door. Then it hit me. This was her maid! Her pigmentation was dark, with a long-healed pink scar stretching down her profile. I had to almost crouch to talk to her properly, desperately hoping she wouldn’t think I was looking down my nose at her.
She smiled somewhat awkwardly, and spoke very softly. Just like her mistress. ‘Ah, hello there. Who have you come to see? I recognise you from somewhere…’
‘Cherry Knox, ma’am. I’ve come to see Aika.’ I said politely, and thought for a moment, adding, ‘Please.’
‘Nice to finally meet you face to face.’ She lowered her gaze to the floor. Muttered something. I couldn’t quite hear what she’d said, she had said it so quietly; however, it sounded something along the lines of ‘Thank you for earlier’.
I offered my most charming smirk in return and leaned in close. ‘No problemo.’
The maid blinked rapidly twice and seemingly relaxed. ‘I’ll get Aika for you now.’
The old woman scurried back into the hall, leaving me to stand dawdling on the balcony’s doorstep and listen to her calling up the grand staircase: ‘Aika? You gotta friend down here!’
I strained my ears to hear what was said in reply but soon realised it was impossible. The house was immense! The maid was gone for quite a while (I guessed Aika was getting herself dressed), so I invited myself inside and sat in the parlour. Aika’s parlour was a fresh, clean white, with expensive-looking mahogany furnishings. The upholstery was a pale pink silk, and looked slightly odd against the dark wood. Some gardenias in a vase were accompanied by daffodils and daisies. I leaned in to smell them, but before I could get a good whiff, some dark haired boy waltzed in and gave a double take when he spotted me. I, myself, was startled to see him, and flinched slightly. To be polite, I gave him a slight smile which he returned shortly afterwards. The smile never quite met his eyes.
‘Who are you?’ he enquired, not quite impolite, but not at all friendly. His voice was heavily accented. French.
‘Cherry Knox,’ I replied for the second time today, offering my hand in greeting. He looked at it a while and shook my hand gingerly although afraid of sullying himself.
‘I’m Buddy. Buddy Rowland. I don’t mean to sound rude, but what are you doing in my house?’ Buddy looked confused if not slightly irritated.
‘I’m here to see your sister, Aika. I hope you don’t mind me coming inside. She’s taking an awfully long time, whatever she’s doing.’
‘Aika is getting dressed. You just wait here. Don’t touch anything.’ The boy disappeared. His voice had seemed extraordinarily flat. What was his deal?
Just as he had vanished, his sister arrived in his place. Today, she was wearing an incredibly frilly, lacy, girly, froufrou concoction only a porcelain doll could pull off. But she did. She pulled it off amazingly, perhaps even better than an old, smelly pot doll. The dress was a baby blue with a bustle at the back and three tiny bows at the bodice. Beautiful, high-quality lace graced the hem and the edges of the bustle, and the back of the dress was tied up with pretend corset lacing. Underneath, Aika wore a alabaster, chiffon-y blouse with short, capped sleeves. A delicate, smaller lace trimmed the sleeves, and a minuscule pearl button in the shape of a heart kept the puff in place.
‘Are you really going to wear those frilly-ass clothes to go exploring in?’ I demanded, my voice rising and falling impatiently as I watched her squirm under my scrutiny.
I could tell Aika was thinking about apologising - no matter how cute it is when she does - I’d actually feel real bad if she did. These clothes are a part of her identity. They make her happy, I can understand that. Surprisingly, she said something quite different to what I had in mind: ‘I can wear what I wish, Cherry. They’re beautiful. I don’t care what you think.’ Her voice was haughty, and when she spoke, I could imagine a mother scolding her toddler daughter.
‘Besides,’ she added, ‘At least I wear girl clothes.’
‘What? You don’t like my duds?’
I was wearing a orange, brown, pale blue and red striped T-shirt with baggy dungarees over the top. The denim was comfy, and the dungarees ended at my mid-thigh, showing off my bronzed, muscular calves; much different to my usual greaser garb, I admit. On my feet I wore white Converse (well, technically, not white. I live on a farm. What do you expect?). My bleached hair was usually wild and bushy, but today I made it my mission to shape up in front of Aika. She made me feel ashamed of my untamed appearance, herself being so prim and proper.
Aika giggled slightly and I could see her about to break into a fluster.
I jumped a little as I noticed we weren’t alone in the room. Aika’s maid had joined us, chuckling slightly by the looks of it.
‘Arguing already, hm?’ she teased, raking a hand through her wig.
I turned towards the woman and grinned winningly, ‘Oh no, ma’am. We weren’t arguing, just having a debate.’
‘Isn’t that the same thing?’ Aika snorted.
I glared in her direction. She appeared crest-fallen at my gesture. Feeling bad as I was the one who started this whole “debate”, I lowered my gaze to the plush carpet; ‘Alright, you can wear what you like. I have to admit, you do look very pretty, just not very practical to go to the countryside in. Besides… it’s not that different to what the girls in homeroom wear anyway. What with their poodle skirts and petticoats…’
Aika gushed in thanks, directed me back into the hallway and back out to the garden. She waved goodbye to her maid then watched me expectantly. I grabbed her wrist and cheerfully directed her into the forest.
Typically this forest would give me the chills, so it was annoying that Aika had to live right slap bang in the middle of it. Rumours have it that every midnight since the early 18th century, witches would gather to this forest for their witches sabbath. Now, I may sound superstitious, but I’m not taking any chances. This one time Scottie was strolling in the forest (probably up to no good mind you), and he heard the cackles of witches echo throughout the trees, ringing in his ears, causing him to run for his life. It was Halloween. I shuddered, remembering the tales my gang had shared about these woods, wondering why the heck I’m still here.
A bird cawed overhead. I flinched, thinking how much it reassembled a witch’s cackle. I considered telling Aika she lived right in the middle of a haunted forest but decided right against it. She was already such a wimp.
Seconds felt like minutes, minutes felt like hours, and hours felt like a whole lifetime. I was positive I had aged at least 50 years before we found the exit to this damn green-strewn labyrinth. We came out at a point I had never seen before. Aika studied my face before declaring we were lost.
‘Yeah? So what! It’s not my fault you live in the middle of fucking nowhere!’
Her face went white with dread. I felt immediately guilty and apologised. She continued to stay as white as a sheet, nervously fingering the lace on the hem of her dress, eyes bugging almost comically.
‘Look, I’m sorry for yelling - I’m just a little shaken.’
Her lower lip gave a tremor. If I hadn’t distracted her by reminding her of the time I spilt coke all over everybody, she probably would have burst into tears. She’s such a kid…
‘Wait, what’s over there?’ she perked up almost instantly, waving her index finger about at the slight clearing.
I stepped cautiously closer, wary of how small the gap between the trees were - by the looks of it, foxes or badgers had made this path. Light filtered between the branches of the trees. I squinted, wondering where on earth this path would take us. Aika followed closely behind, her poofy skirts ruffling up against my knees. Leaning in closer, my eyes followed the direction of the path. I could see that it lead off into a thinner part of the forest and directly into the countryside. The thing is, I couldn’t be sure how long we would have to travel before we hit downtown. I promised Aika downtown, and downtown she shall get.
‘Why don’t we see where this takes us?’
Aika looked apprehensive.
‘It’ll be an adventure! Don’t look so fucking bummed.’
‘What if we get lost and die here?’ she asked, repeating the skirt fiddling gesture from before. Obviously she’d never been exploring before.
‘Don’t be stupid. You’re with me!’
She gave an indignant snort. I chose to ignore that for her own safety.
For about another half hour, we trailed down the old country path, simply enjoying nature and the pleasant summer’s day. Butterflies of all types fluttered around us - one of them landing on my head! I had shrieked at the time and yelled at Aika to get it off. I don’t like things flying around my face, you see. Insects are creepy. Good thing I was wearing my insect repellent.
The trees surprisingly began to thicken overhead. I had stupidly expected to end up in the countryside from here as the path had very few trees and endless green fields to the left. No. This isn’t right… Aika clung to my right side, obviously frightened with how lost we were getting ourselves.
‘We should go back,’ she warned. Her tone was taut.
‘No. We can’t.’
‘… Why is that?’
‘I promised you we’d find the countryside.’
‘But… wasn’t that the countryside back there?’ She tilted her head like a curious puppy.
‘No, mush-for-brains. Not the countryside I’m used to. We’re looking for cornfields, not fucking grass.’
Looking disheartened, she simply carried on her way, marching past me with the snobbiest air she could muster, and not even glancing back to see if I would follow. But of course I did. Slowly, slowly, the air began to grow dense, the atmosphere serene and peaceful. If there was one thing I would remember about this place, it’s the musky, forest-y smell of decay and fresh rainfall. The light was an odd sallow green, and the air thick and greenhouse-like in nature. All my senses were overstimulated; smell, sight, touch, hear, even taste. Everything. My mouth had an peculiar bitter aftertaste, almost although I could taste the way the woods smelt.
The forest thinned out, thickened, then went back to being dense and labyrinth-like in nature. The smell was growing even more pronounced. Something wasn’t right… Sickly sweet. Unbearable. This was no longer the scent of the forest. Just what had we stumbled across?
My unlikely companion clasped a handkerchief to her nose and mouth, leaving only a little room to see her eyes peeking out over the top.
The area was desolate. The last time humans had inhabited this place must have been before the civil war at least. Weeds and wildflowers overgrew the completely deserted burial ground, twisting, twining and manipulating itself around the tombs, taking advantage of the lack of living human counterparts. Many wooden gravestones marked the last time these residents had walked this planet. The latest date was around 1842, the earliest about 1779. Made of both rotting, maggot-ridden wood and brown marble, there had to be around fifteen to twenty gravestones here. Aika slipped her hand into my the crook of my arm at the abandoned, almost melancholy air.
Some graves were bleached white wood made loosely to be a cross. The wood was so old that it started decaying a long, long while ago, perhaps even before the turn of the 20th century. Dead flowers, old and wrinkled, lost of all colour and vital information to identify them by, lay deceased amongst their newborn wildflower friends.
Other graves that were made of more hard-wearing materials stood stonily amongst the dying graves in both brownish pink and grey. Their surfaces were worn and washed, but you could easily see some were carved to be shaped like a heart or an angel with spread wings. I even found a seraph on one.
Leaning even closer to read what one of them said, I read it aloud to my friend. ‘In loving memory of Daisy Adams. Hush my dear, be still and slumber: Jolly angels guard your bed. Born 1796 - Died 1801.’ Little daisies carved into the marble encircled the name “Daisy”. Old porcelain dolls were left to decompose along with the flowers. Rodents had eaten their way inside the stuffing and a magpie had stolen the glass eyes, giving it an empty, hollow appearance.
Aika shuddered and read the next, ‘Tom Adams. Born 1790 - Died 1798. Oh, for boyhood's time of June crowding years into one brief moon. Little Boy Blue has gone away.’
‘Anabelle Adams. Born 1772 - Died during childbirth, 1796. Sleep on, sweet mother and wife, And take thy rest, God called thee home. He thought it best.’
For a moment, everything was still. I was overcome by grief for the family that had passed away hundreds of years before I was even born. Aika wrapped her arm around my waist to be comforting. I slung my arm around her shoulders. We just stood that way for a while, soaking up the atmosphere.
‘Do you think they all died, just like that?’ Aika whispered, sotto voce. She clicked her fingers for empathise.
‘What do you mean?’ I enquired, intrigued as to what she was feeling inside to ask such an odd question.
‘They were very young children… and a mother. How could they just die?’ she sounded close to tears now, probably imagining her own family.
‘Well, for one… during those times it was very easy to die,’ I stated, matter of fact. ‘Many people died of sicknesses we could just cure today with over-the-counter drugs. I’m guessing that’s why the kids passed on. As for the mother, it says it there, Aika. She died in childbirth. Childbirth was a very difficult procedure back then. Many women died. Sadly this Anabelle was no exception.’
She gandered up at me a second, and all the sadness was gone from her eyes. That, I was grateful for. I always hate it when people start blubbering.
‘Why don’t we fetch these graves some fresh flowers. Y’know, to pay our respects…’ I offered.
Aika seemingly perked up at this suggestion, quick to gather around the wildflowers and pick out the most attractive ones; baby’s breath, white aster, blue fag irises, meadow roses and Jacob’s ladder. She occasionally asked my opinion, and I nodded in agreement, hardly even glancing her way. My mind was elsewhere. I could feel someone was there, watching us amusedly, hiding, waiting…
As the younger girl was laying flowers on Daisy’s grave, I grabbed her by the shoulder and leaned in close. So close, in fact, that she wrinkled her nose at the smell of cigarette smoke, nail polish and bubble gum on my dungarees.
‘What?’ she hissed, sensing my discomfort and the urge to be quiet.
‘I can feel someone watching us,’ I breathed softly. My words were so soft that anybody else would have thought I was mouthing them. The silence circling us was unnerving. ‘I heard a laugh… see, over there?’
She huddled closer to myself and the gravestone, peering anxiously to where I had ducked my head. Her eyes widened as she heard what I was telling her of.
‘We’ve got to hide!’ Aika whispered, her tone urgent.
I could hear the blood pounding in my ears as we ducked behind Daisy’s tomb - so loud in fact - I could be almost certain Aika beside me could hear it along with the rest of New England. Crouching uncomfortably behind Aika (who was cowering on her hands and knees, hiding behind the marble), I waited for a sign of what next. Aika began to tremble—when I remembered she didn’t actually know what we were hiding from— probably making matters much, much worse! In Aika’s pretty little head, I could just picture her imagining the worst: we were trapped in a family graveyard, hiding from a gang of angry ghosts who wanted to possess our bodies in vengeance. I almost giggled but then remembered we were in a deadly serious situation.
‘They’re coming, look,’ I murmured, pointing their way, careful not to attract any attention in our direction.
The air grew tense as mumbling carried through the wind especially for us. Three teenage boys tromped their way through the undergrowth, having very little care for the plants and wilderness around them. Birds flew off into the sky at the din they were creating. I wish I could take off with them…
My friend trembled behind me — I couldn’t see her, but I could just picture how big her eyes were getting at the sight of her tormentors.
‘That Cherry bitch is really gonna get it,’ one said as I strained my ears to hear. I resisted the urge to click my tongue in annoyance. I was probably the hot topic for days after the event even happened!
‘Tch! We shoulda beaten the shit outta her the first chance we got. I can’t believe she stood up for that little cunt earlier!’
‘Heh, I know, man! I don’t know what she sees in her; she’s nothing but a fucking nigger-loving, frilly bitch!’
The top row of teeth were quick to find my molars at that statement. I found their false claims hilarious.
‘Remind me why we started letting girls into our gang again, Scottie?’
‘Oh I don’t know, dude! She seemed cool at first, but turned into this backstabbing cunt, okay? Don’t go blaming me.’
When they had finally passed, I could breathe. Count, Cherry. Count to ten.
One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine… Ten.
Okay, I can relax now.


‘Thank you very much for taking me out for a walk today, Cherry.’ Aika said solemnly. Her face was a tense mask, paling as soon as she set foot on the front porch. She always seemed her happiest out of the house.
To tell the truth, I was sad to see her go. I had enjoyed our time in the woods despite having the living daylights scared out of me at times!
I knew what I must do. As much as I feared the outcome, I had to face up to them, otherwise, deal with a lifetime of pain and misery.
Like with my mood, the weather grew dark and tense. With the wind whistling a lament into my ears, I trudged my way to our usual meeting place; my stomach knotting, just knowing how awful the outcome of this confrontation will be. Furious grey clouds clustered overhead, promising me another school of thought on the matter of my gang. The subject had always been a sore spot with me.
On one hand, I could remember all the fun times we’d had in the early spring and summer. Oh, we’d had wild times in our reign, we had… We were unstoppable. Popular, even. I don’t know what went wrong - but I shall always hold those memories close to my heart. At school we were cooler than cool. Both the girls and the boys loved us; and we loved them. Sometimes… I would hate to be called a bully (hey, I stayed out of the warfare, thank you. It was mostly the boys that did the fighting), but we weren’t exactly the kindest on a whole.
On the other, they were disgusting. Boys. Here is the point where I roll my eyes. Boys, boys, boys. What do they still exist?! My gang were sexist, racist, homophobic, and for some reason, anti-semitic despite knowing I’m Jewish.
‘There she is!’
My heart danced a polka at this sudden surprise. I wasn’t even fully prepared! This whole journey I had been steeling myself for the final showdown, but to no avail! I whipped around, a rabbit caught in the headlights, hair turning wild and bushy again with the wind and rain.
‘What do you fuckers want?’ I hissed, my voice coming out thickly.
‘We want you.’ Scottie jeered. And with that, I was pinned against the brick wall.
‘Get off me you fuckin’ jerk!!’ I yelled, craning my neck as far away from Scottie as possible. His breath smelt awful. Scottie’s teeth were filthy brown and his eyes glinted like black jewels in his malice. ‘Let me go NOW!’
‘Answer us this, Carrie.’
‘Don’t call me Carrie,’ I said between gritted teeth. Don’t ever call me Carrie if you want to live.
‘Aww, sorry, baby,’ Scottie pretended to express remorse, but everyone knew he was mocking me, ‘But listen here, you… do as we say. Got it?’
I tried to say no but he had already grabbed a hold of the hair on top of my head and forced me to nod. His cronies shrieked with what they thought was oh so funny. As Scottie held onto me firmly, I shrank back and hawked back a huge wad of spit.
‘Shit! You BITCH!’ as the boy wiped my saliva off his disgusted face, I took advantage of the situation and pushed past his gang. Just as I was about to make a get away, Ben caught hold of my left leg with lightning reflexes and pulled me back to my doom.
I couldn’t resist the urge to scream in dread. It was just too much. I knew they would make a mess of me— and boy, was I right.
‘What did I do to you?’ I caterwauled, trying my hardest not to sob. ‘We were best friends! Why did you turn on me?’ The blood was matting in the back of my hair as my head was slammed repetitively into the gravel. I was lucky. Some kids got pencils shoved up their noses, and their head slammed down onto the desks at school.
‘Why did you turn on us?’ Todd repeated my question. His face was expressionless, and I wasn’t quite sure if it was that, or the parroting of my question that had infuriated me.
‘Turn on you?! Turn on you!’ I scoffed. We clearly weren’t getting down to the bottom of this problem, so I decided to change tactic. ‘Look, I’m allowed a few girlfriends, aren’t I? I am a girl, so I want to do girly things sometimes, okay. Unless ya want to have a slumber party with me on my farm? No. Okay.’
‘Do you think we’re dumb?’
I bit back my honest reply. ‘No.’
‘Then why did you leave us for that bitch?’
‘First off, she isn’t called “that bitch”— she has a name. She’s called Aika.’ Oh no. Here I go… ‘And secondly, what’s it to you if I have other friends? She’s no threat to you! Could she beat you in a fight? Really? Huh? I don’t think so! She’s innocent. And so am I. So just let us be.’
‘You betrayed us by standing up for her. She’s about everything we’re against, remember?’ Todd said gruffly.
‘Well, no actually. I don’t belong to you fuck-heads, and my opinions are different to yours. I’m my own person and can do what I fucking want.’ Their arguments were starting to irk me.
Before I could say more, Ben’s fist was in my face. My eyes were bruising almost immediately. I wonder what Aika would think when I see her next? If there is even a next time… These boys were head cases. I wouldn’t put cold-blooded murder past them. Scottie especially. He has no sense of hurting— just a solid lump of steel compared with the rest of us. At school, he boasts of his bulging biceps to all the onlooking admirers or enemies.
‘You’re outta the gang, you hear.’
‘See if I care!’ I yelled despite the tears threatening to pool in my eyes. ‘You’re just a bunch of deadbeat losers!’
The wind tore through my hair as I ran back into the day and out of the nightmare. Three silhouettes watched me with eyes like lasers; anger, guilt and betrayal portrayed on all three faces.
Did I care? Well, what a question! These boys had been a part of my life for four long years. We were like family— perhaps even closer. It all started off with my older brother Danny. He had introduced us, knowing I had very little friends, in the hope of getting me outta his hair. We clicked at once. Wasn’t it great to have boys as friends? Hmm. Yes and no. Many girls say you can’t have boys as friends, and in a way, it’s true. For a while it’s all peachy, but something starts to change; they begin to claim ownership over you— all based on the fact that you’re a girl and they’re boys! Apparently we’re inferior, but that’s what I have wanted to change for a long, long time. Being friends with these boys had its ups, but mainly because I made them realise females aren’t as weak and feeble as they first thought. They had believed me… even just a little. Now it’s all ruined. Shit… What have I done?


‘Hello again!’ Cissy beamed, completely jubilant and cheery despite being so early in the morning. For a moment, her maternal smile faded, soon to be replaced with a look of concern. Her eyes narrowed slightly but I gave her the benefit of the doubt. The rising sun was in her eyes— and she was kinda, um, old…
‘G’morning, ma’am. I’m here for Aika.’
‘Ah, yes. I’ll fetch her now.’
Today I didn’t snoop. I promised myself I’d be good.
Cissy left and Aika took her place. ‘Hi, Cherry,’ she piped, just as cheerful as her maid.
I yawned loudly and stretched. ‘I came to see you,’ I just managed to say before yawning again, the yawning curse soon catching onto my friend.
When her eyes met mine, she gasped in horror and almost dropped the glass of orange juice she was holding.
‘You should come in.’ She said, mortified.
I thanked her and stepped inside— this time, with formal invitation. ‘Nice place you got.’ Of course, I’d already seen it all before. Secretly I hoped her less than friendly brother wouldn’t find me here. He gave me the creeps…
‘Why, thank you,’ she said without any expression. She’d probably heard it a million times before.
She paused, ‘Um, come upstairs… if you will.’ Her constant rubbing of her palms on her skirt was worrying. I took note of the way her eyes refused to meet mine more than once. Aika was an oddball.
I followed her up the grand staircase, marvelling the whole while at how expensive everything seemed. Just how loaded were these folks! Portraits and family photographs hung on every wall leading up the stairs. Not one child in any photo looked entirely happy.
‘Is this you?’ I asked, jabbing an index finger at a small black and white print of a girl barely out of diapers. The girl in the photo was dressed all in white, reassembling a little dolly. A little angry dolly. I chewed on the insides of my cheeks to stop myself from spluttering out laughing.
Aika frowned a little. ‘Yes, that is me.’ She blushed. ‘Don’t look at it!’
Apparently she was embarrassed of her baby pictures... I stored that little fact in the back of my mind, saving for a rainy day.
‘Aw, don’t be shy. I thought you looked cute!’ I teased, grinning from ear to ear.
‘You’re such a kidder,’ she said, flushing the darkest shade of scarlet on the spectrum.
She turned at the top most step to what looked like the longest corridor I’d ever seen. I bet even Mr President doesn’t have a house as big as this!
‘This is my bedroom,’ she said, making the unnecessary introduction, pointing shyly at her slightly ajar door. On the door hung a little sign with the words “Aika’s bedroom”, then something in French I couldn’t comprehend. The whole room reeked of “girl stuff”; perfume, hair spray, roses, glitter, the colour pink… It was all there. Inside, the wallpaper was a pale teal with pink roses, then, on the far side, the wall was completely pastel pink with a small metal crucifix hanging above the bedside. Everything was made of high quality materials; the bed sheets made of Egyptian cotton, the furnishings imported, and the dressing table made of pure wood. The wall held pretty porcelain plates as well as shelves carrying rows upon rows of delicate, ornately-decorated china. I noticed two little white toy bunnies lazing about under her embroidered covers. They had silky pink ribbons tied around their throats, tight enough, that if they were real rabbits, they’d be strangled to death for sure.
I sit down on the edge of the bed—uninvited of course—creasing the linen and disturbing a bunny in the process. I noticed Aika wince a little, but she let it go quickly, taking a seat opposite me on the white chaise longue.
‘What happened?’ she asked, placing her fingers to her mouth, although to bite her nails and suddenly thinking better of it.
‘What do you mean?’ I said, pretending nothing was wrong. I knew what was wrong. It was written all over my face. I was an open book, easy to read, on a good day.
Aika raised a speculative eyebrow, ‘You know what I mean, Cherry.’ Her tone suggested I was very dumb.
I picked a bunny up, peered at it closely, then set it back down in my lap, stroking its fuzzy little head. For a while I kept the silence going before realising we could be here all day with Aika.
‘Fine,’ I muttered, ‘I got in a fight. Okay?’
She gasped although I had just admitted to murder. ‘That’s awful!’
‘Don’t be such I pussy,’ I said angrily, causing Aika to wrinkle her nose in disgust.
‘Good girls don’t fight.’ She retorted with a sniff of her nose.
‘Yeah? Well I’m not good.’ I laughed. Truth be told, I was a little bit miffed with her lack of sympathy. ‘And besides, this fight was your fault.’
‘Yeah. The guys were mad at me for helping you out the other day. I’m outta the gang,’ I said, willing myself not to cry. Strong people cry in private, otherwise others will break down and cry too.
Her attitude changed. ‘I’m so sorry, Cherry…’ She looked although she wanted to cry too, but wasn’t quite ready to. ‘It’s all my fault—I should never had—’
‘Shut up, silly. I’m not upset with you,’ I grinned, suddenly jumping up onto the bed and bouncing up and down, sending poor bunny flying in the process. ‘And besides! It’s much more fun being with you!’
I continued to bounce, much to Aika’s amusement or horror (I wasn’t sure which), and performed star jumps and tuck jumps. Her bed was extraordinarily springy, almost like a trampoline. If I did this at home, I’d be murdered on the spot by mom— and that’s not something I’m planning on doing. It’s much more fun to see Aika’s face whenever I do something out of the ordinary.
She looked although she wanted to join me if it weren’t for her expensive clothes. Even if she did, she wouldn’t have got the chance. Before I knew it, I was face-planting the ground like a Kamikaze, my foot tangling in the wires of the bedside lamp and bringing it down with me in the process. I stirred groggily on the floor. This wouldn’t be the first time this has happened (another reason mom would kill me. She’s had enough of taking me to ER). My friend hovered anxiously over me, although pondering whether to let me be, help me up, or call 911.
‘Um, are you okay?’ she questioned, finally allowing herself to bite her fingernails.
I grunted in reply.
‘D-do you need any help?’
I grunted again.
The lamps wire was still wrapped around my leg, but the actual shade which was made of glass, had shattered on the floor. I sat up and speculated the damage done.
‘Oh my god, I’m so sorry, Ai!’ I yelled.
‘It’s fine,’ she said quietly, but I could tell she was lying to save from hurting my feelings. ‘I’m just glad it didn’t cut you.’
‘Yeah, so I won’t bleed all over your beautiful white carpet,’ I joked, still stunned from the fall.
In a way I supposed I deserved it. The beating I’d received yesterday made my face hurt even more when I hit the ground. But still, it was pretty funny.
‘No!’ she said, eyes widening. ‘I don’t want you hurt.’
‘I was just kidding,’ I said, ‘Here, let me help you clear this up. Gosh, I’m such a klutz.’
Aika started laughing. I stared at her although she had gone stark raving mad, but it did nothing to stop her giggling. Giggles soon turned to hysteria, and her face was beetroot red with tears in her eyes. Half wondering if she was laughing because she was so mad that I had smashed her lamp, I joined in, trying my hardest to pick up the pieces of glass without cutting myself; her laughter was genuine, mine nervous and forced.
‘So… You’re, um, you’re not mad that you’re out the gang?’ she asked, finally stopping her laughter I feared would never end.
‘No, I don’t mind. I’d much rather spend time with you.’

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