Lucas (aka Mr. Munch-Rasoya–ha!) “dropped by” today. Wouldn’t you know it, while I, in all my navel-less splendour, was playing on the slip-n-slide.
“Oh, yoo-hoo! Septemus!” He really did say that. Fortunately, I was checking my texts, so I could take a minute to breathe, i.e. stew.
Does he really think he can pop on over like this? Does he not know how I feel about his married self?
I counted to tui.
“Oh, hey. Lucas, hi,” I poured on the charm.
He looked a little off, actually. And, in spite of myself, I felt worried.
“You doing OK, buddy?” I asked. “You seem sort of drained. Coming down with something?”
“I feel so weird,” he said. “I’ve been like this all day. Since last night. It’s the strangest thing, Sept.”
He told me an odd story. He and Raj took a day-trip to Forgotten Hollow.
“I’ve always wanted to go, ever since you told me about when you went there to meet your little sister, and Rajarooni likes old architecture, so we decided, why not? Fun little afternoon outing.”
They strolled the square, stopped by the library, and then–he can’t remember what happened next. Neither can Raj.
“It was like we just woke up, and we were still in the library, but somehow almost an hour had passed, and–it was one of those weird things.”
He said his arm really hurt. You could barely see it now, but he said that yesterday, it had these weird scratches on it. The strangest thing was how quickly they healed.
“I still feel sort of… off. Like goofy, kind of!”
“Yeah, you look a little off,” I said. I lied. He looked adorable.
“Oh, congratulations, by the way,” I said. And then, I couldn’t stand out there with him anymore. It hurt. He’s married. He’s cute and he’s married. He’s really cute. And really married.
I thought over what he said about his trip to Forgotten Hollow. Panda’s mum felt so concerned when I came to visit–vampire attacks. But that’s not real. That’s just the stuff of late-night movies.
For some reason, Lucas invited himself inside. He followed me into the kitchen.
I wanted to say to him, “You don’t get to look at me with those eyes anymore. And maybe you should wear a hat when you’re around me. And what the yobasko are you doing in my kitchen, anyway, when you know how I feel about the idea of you in a kitchen alone with me!”
But I didn’t say any of that. I asked him if he wanted a glass of water.
“Nah! I’m good!” he said.
Just for a moment, I let myself fall into the sound of his voice. I didn’t fall all the way, just into the vowels, and then I pulled myself out.
I started dancing.
He started talking.
“Yeah, I’m sorry I didn’t have a chance to tell you about me and Raj,” he said. “We’ve been sort of seeing each other for a while. You’d like him. He’s a good cook. I like to wash dishes…”
I tuned him out. He kept talking. All I heard was the music.
Pops came in and joined us. I shut my eyes and started to singing to my pagotogo. I just didn’t want to listen to him yammering away anymore. I wanted to remember who keeps me grounded: My pops. My little brothers. My sisters. Panda. Panda?
I had a strange image just then, when I thought of Panda, of red, gray, black, and something very warm and very wet. Panda? Are you OK, paPandagoto?
I got an image of her cleaning the bathroom, a little sad, a little quiet, but OK.
Chin up, little sister!
You’re all right!
“My arm kinda hurts,” Lucas said.
He stepped behind me and grabbed a pile of dishes off the kitchen counter. Lucas, why do you have to look so happy, like nothing happened, like you and I can keep on going as if you weren’t married, as if my dreams weren’t shattered, as if everything were OK?
“You’re kinda cute, do you know that?” he said to me. “For a kid. You’re gonna make somebody a fine husband someday.”
OH! Yobasko! Stupid nose! Just go wash your own dishes. I’m not sure I can have you in my kitchen anymore, Mr. Munch-Rasoyo.
Author’s note: If you’re wondering about what happened at Forgotten Hollow during the interval that Lucas and Raj cannot remember, check out this chapter of Pandora’s Box!