XXIV | Necklace

I take off my earphones

and find that I’m

standing in front
of the nameless chicken rice shop.


I’m coming here too often
for someone
who wants nothing to do with Rowan.

What excuse do I have tonight?

I lean against the pillar
of the neighbouring shophouse,

I put my earphones back in.

That’s why I don’t hear

behind me,

a hand
claps my shoulder.

I jump.

My shoulder hurts.

Pull out one earbud,
stare at my attacker.

He’s not bad looking,
a cheerful expression
in his eyes.

‘You’re Clyde.’

An awkward pause.

I don’t remember who he is.

‘We’ve never met,’
he explains. ‘Rowan told me about you.’

He opens the glass door for me.

‘Come on.
‘She said you might come tonight.’

What the #*%&?




The dude
calls himself Aspen.

He leads me behind the counter

up the stairs,
into the apartment
above the shop.

Walking so boldly
into a girl’s house,

what kind of friend is he?


What a creep.

Why is the door to her apartment


He twists the door knob,
walks in
like he owns the place.

‘Mei! He’s here,’ he hollers.


I feel stupid immediately.

A muffled voice drifts from one of the rooms.

Aspen smiles at me.

There’s no resemblance.
Unless having black hair counts.


Where Rowan is expressionless,
Aspen speaks his thoughts with his face.

Right now,

he’s wary of me.

He should be.

‘She shouldn’t have gone to the zoo with you.’

Why am I indignant?

He shrugs,

turns his derisive face
away from me.

He’s the kind of person

the girls like to talk about
—dumb and honest.

He’s so easy to read.

I follow him to Rowan’s room.

she’s wearing an oversized top,
her brother’s pants.

There’s a post-it in one hand,
pen in the other,
textbook open on the table.

‘You came,’
she says.

‘He was loitering outside the shop,’
Aspen tells her.

I glare at him.

He grins.
Satisfied with himself.

She’s looking at me now—

His presence with us makes her relax.


I want him to leave,
make fun of her again.


I pull the feather from around my neck,
snapping the thread.

‘This thing is falling apart.’

Aspen sits on her bed,
takes a book from the shelf.

Rowan takes the feather

and strings it through a proper necklace cord.

‘You’ve kept this well.’

I stick my hands in my pockets.
Pretending not to care.

‘I don’t want to wear it at all.’

Aspen’s voice.

The book he’s reading
is titled:


I’ve seen it before.

Some christian dude gave it to me.
Birthday present.
We weren’t friends for very long.

‘Why aren’t you busy?’
I ask him.

He hides his honest face behind his book.
‘I’m looking after my little sister.’

You mean being the third wheel.

‘She’s seventeen.’

Aspen closes the book.
‘Why did you come here?’

A pause.

I say.

‘Just say it.’

He smiles.
‘Rowan also knows anyway.’

It’s not malicious look.
He’s kind.

Which makes it worse.

‘It has nothing to do with you.’


‘You want to see Rowan.’

She hands the feather back to me.

It’s tied securely to a leather cord
and looks like a proper accessory.

Do you know

this feather

doesn’t get wet in water?


‘Thank you for coming,’ she says.

I stare at her.

She doesn’t say anything more.

The tips of her ears
turn red.

Aspen notices.
His face hardens.

‘You made her worried.
‘Disappearing like that.’

It’s like he’s interpreting her thoughts.

He steps up to me.

‘You better watch yourself, Clyde.’




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