Through a mouthful of chicken rice,

Aspen says,
‘Rowan’s got church stuff today.
‘so you’ll have to wait till 3pm.’

My eyes shift to the clock.

It’s 12nn.

Normally I’d in bed.
Why did I come here?

The nameless chicken rice shop is empty as usual.

The fans squeak.

Rowan’s father is arranging chairs.

I don’t think they were ever moved
to begin with.

I ignore Aspen
and take another bite of chicken rice.

‘I’m here for the chicken rice.’

Aspen grins knowingly.
Greyish eyes sparkling.

He turns to his father.

‘Heard that, pa?

‘Clyde came here for the chicken rice. It’s good!’

The old man looks abashed.

He grunts
and tells me to enjoy it.

‘Come by anytime.’



I don’t like chicken rice.

It’s too oily,
the meat has a weird flavour

and i get bloated
from all the grease afterwards.

My lie frustrates me.

Why did I say that?

Aspen saw through me right away.
He’s even taunting me.

And now,

her father hovers within my field of vision

like an annoying

‘More chili?’ Aspen asks.

I try not to chase girls
with overprotective family members.

It requires too much acting.

And there are plenty other girls
who actually appreciate me

and chase me on their own.



‘Why what?’
Aspen leans against the table.

Chicken soup
splashes from his bowl
into a little pool
on the table.

Did I say it out loud?

How annoying.

I think of what Ming said:
‘It doesn’t have to be Rowan.’

She’s weird

and her family is annoyingly suspicious.

‘Why a chicken rice shop?’
is what comes out instead.

So lame.




When I’m done eating,
I’m about to give up waiting.

Call it a day,

go home,

drown the oily carbs with beer,

go back to sleep.

But Aspen invites me up to his room.
Let’s play a video games.

I’m following him
before i know it.

We go to Rowan’s room.

He makes himself comfortable
and it occurs to me.

‘You guys share a room?’


He leans against the bed.

‘There’s only one bed…’

What kind of relationship did they have?!

A clock ticks away.

His confused expression

turns into laughter.

It’s not just a sound,
his whole face is contorted and red.

‘Why did you think that far?
‘Of course not!’

He sits upright after a while.

‘Our house is small, so we share a room.

‘My bed is under here.’
He pulls out another bed

from under the only bed in the room.

I want to box him
for making a fool of me.

I’m about to say something

when he looks over my shoulder.

It’s the white parrot
with red eyes.

It’s perched on the bookshelf.

‘What the#*%&?’
the parrot says.

Aspen grins at the bird.

‘We’ll use this to play a game.’

‘So it’s yours,’
I say through gritted teeth.

The parrot
perches on his shoulder.

He nods,

strokes its head.

‘You’ve seen about Rowan’s donkey, haven’t you?’


He pauses,
tilts his head,

to something I can’t here.

Then, he smiles,

at me.

‘My parrot is very particular about the truth.’

Even though it’s just a bird.

‘Yes,’ Aspen replies.

I swear
I really didn’t say it out loud.

You’re all so freaky,
I think.

He frowns.

I get up to leave.

‘Are you scared?’
he asks suddenly.

I consider lying or swearing
but then I realised

Aspen’s greyish eyes have turned red.

Siscon, I think.
Loner. You don’t have friends
so you stick to your sister all the time.

No wonder
everybody hates her.

You’ve ruined her life.

He smiles.
But I’m not sure he’s Aspen anymore.

‘I exist like a rule that cannot be broken.
‘You should know it too,


What rule?

‘The truth is always revealed.’




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