XLVI | Beyond

She props up the reference book up,
hides her face behind it.

I pluck it
from her hands
to see

the expression on her face.

There isn’t one.

Her hair is in the way.

She picks another book
to put between us.

With this shield, she says,
‘You’re wrong.
‘I didn’t turn my back on it.

‘Your expectations of me are too much.’

The book in my hand
(that was a Bible just now)
is now clearly an ordinary

reference book.

The language used in it
is so pretentious.

We should stop

to research.

None of this
is relevant
to our project anyway.

I put the book back
on the pile.

‘I know that,’ I say.

She looks up,
coal-black eyes

out of black hair.

‘Then why do you always expect
‘so much from me?’

I don’t?

You’re the one expecting me
to meet your ideals.

I’m the one telling you
not to have such expectations of me.

‘You’re pretending,’
is what I say instead.

She crumples
the paper
she’s been writing notes on.

‘I’m just doing my best.’

Her eyes meet mine—
dead serious.

‘I’m walking through a world
‘I can’t navigate on my own
‘because it’s too big.’

She stands up,
stuffs her notes

back into her National Day tote bag.

‘I’m finding my way alone now.
‘You get that at least


I put the library books
into the sorting cart.

We walk out
of the breathless pin-drop silence
that doesn’t fit us.

‘Yeah,’ I reply,

reaching for her hand
even though I



I don’t want her to feel

She’s startled
by my touch
but she doesn’t

wriggle out

of my hold.

I start leading her to the exit
but Rowan drags me

towards yet another shelf

and says,

‘One more book.’




We buy ice-cream sandwiches
from the ice-cream man

and sit
on the bench outside the library.

It’s too early for lunch.

‘Are you serious about this?’
I have to ask.

Rowan gives me a look.

I grin.

‘Are you actually worried?’
Her voice drips with sarcasm.

I pretend to look worried.

‘Don’t judge.
‘Just because I’ve had lots of girlfriends before

‘doesn’t mean I can’t be serious.’

Her coal-black eyes
are counting
the number of girls.

She’s jealous.

It’s not annoying.

‘What about Ria?
‘You kissed me to break up with her.’

Ah, Ria.

‘That’s because she didn’t understand
‘with just words.

‘I was loyal ah!’ I say vaguely.

‘I know,’
she replies.

A smile

blooms like a flower

on a rainy day.

Relief in her eyes.

It won’t happen again,
I promise myself.

‘Okay,’ she says.

I lean over like I’m about kiss her

The tips of her ears
turn red.

She tenses up.

Her breathing quickens.

‘No?’ I ask
when our faces
almost touch.
‘I can’t?’

She doesn’t reply.

I lean over
some more,

licking her ice-cream.

Her cheeks
are flushed now.

‘Stop disturbing me!’

She uses her free hand
to push my head away.

‘The answer is no!
‘The answer is always no!’

I pull her ice-cream
closer to me.

Her wrist is so small.

She’s a fragile doll.

Her eyes are fixed on me.

In return,
I’m watching her expressions.

I hope your cheeks stay flushed

Me: No kissing?’
Me: No sex?
She: Absolutely not!

This is so much fun.

Me: Then what’s allowed?
She: Hugs are fine.

‘You said you’re serious about this,
‘but you don’t mean it,’ I protest.

‘I do!’

Her eyebrows furrow.
‘You’re the one
‘getting ahead of yourself.

‘Do you date just for sex?’

I smirk.

‘If I wanted sex,
‘there’s no need to date.’

‘Then why?’

Heat is rising from the ground.

It’s almost noon.

‘Let’s eat lunch.’

I drop a piece of tissue
into the bin.

When I turn around,
Rowan’s standing in the way.

So annoying.

‘Tell me why.’

I smile,


‘Because I’m lonely, okay?’




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