an excerpt from Regrettable Things That Happened Yesterday
WE waited for Char to turn 13, even though her birthday was in September and movies we wanted to watch kept coming out all year. We made no effort to conceal our bitterness towards poor Char, who took the brunt of our ill-conceived pact to wait to watch a PG-13 movie until all six of us were officially teenagers. The pact forbade us to watch these movies with our parents, but I secretly succumbed when Frequency came out in July, and subsequently heaped a little less abuse on Char.
When we returned to school after the September holidays, we scoured the movie listings in the newspapers every day, but none of the films had the rating we needed. “There’s nothing out in September,” Lena would announce every day in the classroom as we put our bags down before morning assembly. She would stare pointedly in Char’s direction, and we would all traipse down the stairs in glum silence while Char suggested in a falsely bright voice that the next day might bring new offerings. It didn’t for a while, and then suddenly one Thursday, there it was: not a blockbuster, but a Hollywood movie all the same, one with an actress we recognised, and it bore the all-important designation: PG 13.
We were breathless that morning with excitement— and relief, for one of us— and made plans to watch the movie next Friday, the day after a Lit test. We chattered about it non-stop that day, our unfair resentment towards Char finally dissipated. So I was completely blindsided when Lena cornered me the next day in the toilet and told me we had to kick Char out of the group.
“What, because her birthday is so late?” I asked.
“No, because she lies,” Lena said calmly, as if that was that.
She was leaning against the door, possibly to prevent anyone else from coming in during this conversation and I prolonged my hand-washing and drying to avoid responding. When the silence became too protracted I forced myself to speak, since Lena appeared to be unconcerned and checking her nails.
“What does she lie about?” I asked
“Everything,” Lena said, without looking up at me. “About me to Rachel. About Tina to Shu-en. About you to me.”
I felt a weight in my stomach. “What does she say about me?”
“Just lies. I know they’re not true,” Lena said, finally looking me in the eye. “And I know you don’t believe the things she says about us to you.”
She held my gaze as I evaluated the statement. Char did complain about the other members of the group to me, but I thought she had considered me her confidante. Her comments weren’t all that vicious, anyway. Just little grievances—Tina never contributes to group projects, Shu-en likes to show off, I’m not sure if Lena likes me. They hadn’t struck me as particularly slanderous, and certainly not outright lies— the last one, in fact, seemed like a legitimate concern— and I hadn’t really blamed her. But I hadn’t counted on her talking about me behind my back, and I felt a sharp surge of anger.
With Lena though, I had to pick my words carefully.
© Epigram Books
by Jennani Durai
from Regrettable Things That Happened Yesterday (2017)
published by Epigram Books