IX | Group

Ming puts his feet up on my desk.

‘Why must we do project work?’

I push his feet off.
‘Don’t ask me. I don’t know.’

Kumar puts his feet on my desk.

‘Why can’t we choose our own groups?’

I push his feet off.
‘Stop it! I don’t know!’

Nora peeks into my classroom.

Her lips are glossy today.
‘Hello, Clyde.’

She sits on my desk.

Too close.

I make a half-hearted noise.

‘Why’s everyone such a mood?’ she jokes.

‘Project work lorh.’

‘Why is it part of A Levels?’

‘So lame.’

Nora: If it’s not, you won’t take it seriously.

Ming and Kumar
stare at her in disbelief.

I speak before they do.

‘Your class assign groups already?’

She takes my hand,
the one scratched by the white parrot.

There’s no more plaster,
no more scratch.

She takes my other hand.

She frowns.

I show her the first hand.
‘It’s this one.’

‘It healed?’


Ming takes my hand.

‘What’s wrong with Clyde’s hand?’

Nora swings her legs.
‘A bird attacked him yesterday.’

Kumar slumps on my desk.
A smirk.






it hurt when I woke up.


I’d forgotten all about the feather
until this morning.

I saw it
still sitting on the table
where the parrot put it

last night.

My parents didn’t touch it.

When I thought about
what the parrot said about the feather,

so I flushed it down the toilet.

When I got ready for school,
I removed the plaster to replace it

but the scratches were gone.


It was
as if

yesterday never





But i know it did.
There were claw marks on my shelf.


Mrs. Lim walks into the classroom.

Nora goes back to her class
next door.

We’re being assigned project groups today.
Mrs. Lim starts calling out names.

I think about the parrot’s message.

Brient saying Rowan’s name is really disturbing.
Is it really from Rowan?


How does it work?

Does she talk to the parrot?

I imagine it.
‘Rowan Lee.’

Mrs. Lim’s voice is annoying.

Maybe like the golden city thing—
just another daydream.

But Nora remembers the parrot clearly.
‘Julie Yang.’

And I remember the feel of its claws
when it scratched me.

‘Rizwan Yusof.’

Did the parrot come from the golden city as well?

Did it have a funny name like “Nya-Nya” too?


I decided
I was going to have

nothing to do

with Rowan
from now on.

But then I think of her wiping her mouth

as if my kiss
was a repulsive thing.

‘Clyde Darling.’


Did she know how many girls
want what I’ve given her?

I walk to my group.


I’ll find her once more.
I’ll kiss her again.

And tell her
to keep her weird Christian crap to herself.


‘You threw it away.’

Rowan’s expressionless eyes
are drilling holes into me.

‘What the #*%&?’

Mrs. Lim stops calling out names
to scold me for cursing.

I ignore her.
‘Why are you here?’


I was just thinking about her
and she appeared.

So annoying.

She’s worse than Ria.

I lean close to her ear.

And she freezes.
Remembering the kiss.

I wanted her to remember.

‘If you came here just to nag at me
‘about the stupid bird,
‘then just leave.

‘You’re annoying.’




Rowan leans back
as far back as she can.

The tips of her ears

are red.


Mrs. Lim continues splitting the class into groups.

It can’t be
that she doesn’t see

Her gaze sweeps across

the classroom.

Has the world gone crazy?


Then I notice
that Rowan

is wearing our school uniform
(not her red skirt).

Mrs. Lim raises her voice.

‘Listen up.
‘We’re going to do a team-bonding activity.’

‘You’ll be in these groups
‘for at least a year

‘So get to know your teammates.
‘Especially Clyde’s group.

‘You have Rowan who just transferred in.’

Her eyes single me out.

‘Don’t cause trouble,’ they say.





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