LXXVI | Solution

throws his jacket
over the desk
and buries his head in it.

‘Are we going with Clyde’s proposal after all?’

Julie’s reading through
the papers Mrs. Lim returned
with feedback.

I didn’t put much

into mine honestly.

It was the only topic
I could come up with

that matched the criteria.

‘I’d like to explore it,’
Rowan says.

Julie thinks about it
for a long time.

‘We can’t actually do anything
‘to help people with no motivation to live.’

‘We can,’ Rowan insists.

Julie gives her a skeptical glare.

‘What can we do?’

Rizwan raises his head.

‘We don’t need to think
‘so seriously
‘about this.’

He takes my paper
from Julie
and roughly scans through it.

‘Anything will do.
‘We just need the marks.’

Rowan stares at him.

‘True what,’ he insists.
‘Actual solutions are out of our depth.’

‘Then choose something else,’
I say.


Rizwan’s voice
surprises me.

‘This one’s most relatable.
‘And relevant.’

Julie crosses her arms.

‘Since it’s not easy
‘we might be the only ones

‘with this topic.’

Rowan stuffs her paper
into her bag.
‘It’s settled then.’


The languid discussions
of other groups

wash over us.

‘But the action plan how?’




We discuss for the
rest of the period
but nothing we come up with

can solve this
and very tricky


is a very individual problem,
isn’t it?

‘We’re not giving up,’
Rowan says.

Julie rolls her eyes,
under her breath,

‘As if we got no other subjects
‘to study lorh.’

I think it’s amusing.

And I want to know

Rowan is so interested
in mental health.

Why does she
care about it so much?

I ask her
during recess

crouched under
the rowan tree

just before she opens
the cover of her Bible.

She runs her hand
over the leather cover,

opens it

to the very first page.

A handwritten note:


I can’t see her face
—her black hair
obscures her expression like a dark curtain.

‘My mother had depression.
‘She killed herself.’

White petals

from above us.

It looks like

They carpet the grass
like sorrow left behind
after the storm.

She looks up at me
with intense coal-black eyes.

‘People think I’m trying to be holy,
‘but I’m probably more selfish than you.’

Holding out a hand,
she catches a flower
that tumbles

into the centre
of her palm.

‘I don’t help others
‘because I’m good or kind or nice.

‘I do it because

‘I want to save my mother.’

That’s good what.

She drops the flower
onto the grass.

It disappears
into the carpet of white petals.

After some time,
the white petals fade

just like
every other trace
of the rowan tree.

‘I don’t like helping people.’

I take the Bible from her
and run my hands

over the blue ink
that dried out

long ago.

I’ve never received anything
from my mother

that I treasure this much.


‘That’s not true,’ I say.

She watches me
flip the paper-thin pages

‘If you didn’t like it,
‘you would just half-ass it.’

A faint smile.

‘You chased me with all your heart.’

I hand the book back to her.

The title of this page:

‘Thank you,’
she says to the book.

I don’t know
what meaning
is attached
to the page

from hearing my words.

Doesn’t matter.

‘Finding a reason,’
she says.


‘The action plan—’
She smiles.

‘—for our project.’

I tell her I don’t understand.

‘If they don’t want to live,
‘they should just half-ass it.’




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