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Mystery Suspense Teens & Young Adult

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

I don’t need to give any of you an explanation.

My father always told me—thrice, before I died; once when I was on my deathbed—that if you want something, there is nothing and no one stopping you from getting it aside from yourself. “You don’t need to give anyone an explanation,” his hand on my shoulder, and fingers hooked under my chin. His voice almost overlapped with mine but not quite enough that I failed to recognize which is which. He liked to do that. He enjoyed taking the smallest parts of me and saying that I got it from him. The dark of my hair and my eyes, to the pale of my skin, and the lankiness of my body. Like father, like daughter.

You see, explanations imply reasons, and reasons mean defending, and defending means getting questioned, and getting questioned equates to suspicion, to Person A being guilty of something or at least being accused of guilt, and I am not one nor the other. I ask for you to not misunderstand though; I am not saying that I am not guilty. Each and every one of us is guilty of something. (An incident when I was seven: a spontaneous lie that caught me within the confines of the Principal’s Office and when asked ‘why’, I blamed it to another, to the rebellious son of our neighbour who was a police officer. I struggled forming a reason why I did what I did, only that I wanted to. And father always told me that if I want to, I can take anything I will ever desire. My father may be many things but he is not a liar. He may not have the brightest smile nor the most easy-going demeanour but never was he a liar. My father hated liars just as much as he hated my mother.)

And I am not guilty for this.

For any of this.

For the family that moved in our house right after we did, taking advantage of the decrease of its price and its good appearance. They are a family of four—a mother, a father, an older son, and a younger daughter. My father would have hated them. He always hated the families that acted like they were happier than everyone, better than everyone, had it easier than everyone. Hypocrites, we used to call them. Arrogant, as if everything was a competition.

I remember first seeing them the month after the promised day. Everyone around me was mourning. Everyone except them, the fresh family from who-knows-where. All I knew then was how happy they were, how they added a swing to the tree where I used to read books under, how the mother always kissed the father goodbye when he was off to work, how the kids would always be bringing homemade food to school, how fights would end with apologetic smiles and an exchange of hugs; they also improved the gates and added more flowers in the garden but not the flowers my father liked, canna lilies. Bright and orange, a touch away from dusk. My father favoured the red ones, saying that it reminded him of something. (His fingers hooked under my chin, a hand on my shoulder, another with the gleam of silver, and a tick-tock-tick-tock of a clock too loud to be heard: it reminds me of you. Hooked fingers, hand placed.) So when this new family took one look at the canna lilies and dug them up from the ground to be given to the neighbours, my annoyance only grew.

Especially to the girl who occupies my bedroom.

Little Daisy is on the shorter side and she likes the sun. She is not lanky like me and instead of dark hair, she has a brownish tone on hers. It is curled under her chin and I am forced to watch her mother coo at her, comb her hair everyday, fingers threading through the strands—I was tempted then. It must have been the first reason. This: a child giggling with her mother behind her, head tilted to lean against another’s shoulder, and with quirked lips and shared secrets that ‘are for girls only’, the temptation only grows. Father used to say that it was Eve who beckoned Adam to sin. Women are vile and they will poison you. I asked him, “Did mother poison you as well?” Ringing noises and a beat later. I found myself on the floor. The anger only grows and grows when I find out that my bed that was once pushed against the far corner of the room is now under the open windows.

Daisy was my temptation. But she was no Eve. She was a child. Perhaps, she was the apple and her mother was Eve. But I am not Adam. My body may no longer be my own but it still feels the same as it used to, and I know I am far from Adam. The brother, Heath, was no Adam too. Not even their father. Maybe the story of Adam and Eve is not a good comparison for this, after all. Maybe, there is nothing to be compared to.

But that was, is all I know how to do.

Daisy was my temptation. She would smile and the envy would suffocate me again. Envying Daisy was all I knew how to do, because while her mother would comb her hair, mine would tug endlessly and my father would hover at the back, eyes as piercing as any drunken man would—Daisy’s brother, when he stands, pulls his head down, meeting her height and smiling at her warmly. He would pat her head and all I could feel were fingers on his chin, hands on my shoulder, and her father. Daisy’s father is a kind man, certainly much kinder than my own, much kinder than my father will ever be. He would dig his shovel into the ground and use his own hands to claw on the soil, but he was the one who pulled out the canna lilies from its sleep.

Daisy was my temptation. Her hands would wrap around the straps of her backpack, pink and violet with glitters that I could not even touch, and she would hop on one foot to another, her little dress dancing as she twirls. I once saw her pack for her ballet class the same way I tried to with my mother.

I wanted to leave this house then. Whenever I would close my eyes, all I could feel was the grass underneath my feet, how the sun would feel, how the prickle of the wind would brush on my cheeks. The grass, I remember really well. The discomfort of it and the tickle, the pierce, and the way I would shift from one foot to another—and the sun would burn. It would. If I stayed outside for too long, I would burn with it, I remember. It is all I can remember. And as I closed my eyes for too long, the dream would feel too real and my awakening would be too painful. I hated this house.

And I hate the people living in it.

But my father used to say: “If you want something, there is nothing stopping you from getting it.“ So I did.

I have nothing to explain to all of you. I did nothing wrong. And besides, it was beginning to get too unfair. Why does Daisy have a family like that when I never got a taste of it? My mother never brushed my hair, I never had a brother who would kneel for me, nor did I have a father who would not stand so intimidatingly. While his father adored tending to the garden and greeting neighbours, mine liked something else. Unfair. It’s so unfair. So it only makes sense if I finally make things right. (I have nothing to explain. My feelings are my own, my choices are my own, I have the right to do whatever I want, and who cares? No one is looking anyway. I was alone. I was so, so painfully alone. I had nothing but myself, trapped in the walls of this house endlessly and even I want to feel the grass too.) It only makes sense if I just—

They were the ones who trespassed in my home in the first place. They were the ones who dug up my father’s canna lilies from the ground. They were the ones who changed the interior and the exterior of everything. They were the ones who started first. They were tempting me and I was never good with temptation, not when I had so little to settle with. So of course, I succumbed to that temptation. I succumbed to it like a child would to their mother and I sunk, sunk, sunk and—“Daisy,” I flinch. “Are you feeling better now, honey?”

My saliva turns dry in my mouth. “Mom,” I struggle to form words. How does Daisy speak again? How does Daisy call her mother again? I spent more than a year watching this family from afar and I had more than enough time preparing for this. “I think I’m staying home again. Uh, skipping—skip school... today.”

I almost jump out of my skin when her mother, my mother, reaches to touch my forehead. She clicks her tongue when she feels the heat of it and ushers me into bed. My guilt bubbles up my throat. If I can vomit it out, I would. I would have done that ages ago, in the first few days, in the first few hours, or the very moment when the canna lilies were replaced with daisies instead, but no matter how much food I burn out of me, the guilt still remains. It scars. And the warmth of Daisy’s mother’s hand worsens it all. “If you need anything, you can call me, okay? Even Heath and your dad,” she says.

My teeth remain gritted until I settle into a smile. It feels brittle on my lips. “Of course, mom,” I try my best to beam at her and as she hums to me, turns off the lights, and lets the glow-in-the-dark decorations illuminate instead, my heart calms.

It’s okay, I tell myself. It’s okay. It’s alright. I did nothing wrong. I was just only taking what I wanted. It was never fair anyway. It wasn’t fair. My home. My family. My flowers. My room. It’s okay. It’s really okay. 

It was never fair. I always had the shorter end of the stick. I wasn’t lucky. So I just have to take it, right? It was the only way. People who have less need to use underhanded tactics. People like me, people like us, people born unlucky. My father always said to take what you wanted, and that was what I did. Because once, he told me (fingers hooked, hands on shoulders) with his own reflection on the silver of his knife, “Canna, you understand, right? I don’t need to explain to you, right?“ The deep, deep red canna.

It wasn’t fair. But everything is okay now. Everything is okay now because I have my room back, a better family, the garden I loved, and it’s okay. Everything is okay.

“Mom,” my voice is hoarse and hushed, “Can we plant some canna lilies in the garden instead?”

“I thought you wanted—”

“Please?”

She relents. “Of course. Anything for you, Daisy.”

November 20, 2021 00:52

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1 comment

Koko Xu
02:47 Nov 23, 2021

Wow! The details in this story is outstanding. Every time I read it I find new tidbits that make the story more alive. The metaphors and symbolism are all on-point and your writing is just amazing. My personal theory is that the main character, Canna, was killed by her father and was buried in the garden, but the new family found the body and—here's where I feel proud of myself for noticing this detail—gave "the canna lilies to the neighbor" and it was mentioned subtly that the neighbor was a police officer too! This is just hands down ama...

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