6.249.It Just Isn’t Like That

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 249
“It Just Isn’t Like That”

Mali-Ana fidgeted as she stood at the front door. She took several deep breaths and went over many things in her mind. She stared down the door as if it were an enemy or an obstacle. In a short while, her fidgeting turned into shivering.
“…Mali-Ana?”
“Dad?”
“Why are you waffling in front of the door?”
Mali-Ana sighed. “I told you, today is Lishe-Ashyo’s birthday.”
“Oh, that nice boy? How old is he turning?”
“Eighteen.”
“I see….aren’t you going to see him, then? Is that present for him?”
“Yes it is, but…”
“But…?”
“I’m worried that if I go over to his house and give him this present, he’ll get the wrong idea!”
“About what?”
“He thinks I have a crush on him because our friends spread some rumors,” she sighed. Already, she could feel herself blushing. “So I don’t want him to think I do because I brought him a present…”
“Do you have a crush on him?”
“Wha–what the–!? I just said I–!”
“Well, you feel pretty strongly about it….I’m sorry if I was wrong, but I can keep a secret for you.”
“I–Dad!”
“Sorry…” Her father’s ears folded to his head and a downcast expression adorned his face. Mali-Ana suddenly felt guilty. She bowed her head and felt her whole face burn, but she forced the words out anyway.
“M-m-maybe I do have a crush on him, but even if I did, I wouldn’t want him to know that!”
“I understand.” Her father’s ears perked back up. “I’m sure he won’t get the wrong idea. And if he teases you, well, that just happens sometimes. Don’t worry about it and go and see him, okay? You obviously want to.”
“I know, but…”
“Go and see him, Mali-Ana. If you’re really worried, I can come with you.”
“Really? ….thanks for the offer, Dad. Actually, I wouldn’t mind having someone to walk there and back with….”
“Sounds good to me,” he said. “Do you feel better now?”
“Mostly.”
“Ready to go, then?”
“Almost. Just let me get one more thing. Thanks again, Dad!”
“No problem.”

***

“Gen-Reiya, what’s this supposed to be?”
“A puzzle.”
“A puzzle of…what, exactly?”
“You’ll see when it’s done,” he said, grinning.
“Ooo-kay….”
“I’m sorry I wasn’t able to get you a present, Lishe-Ashyo,” Cou-Riette sighed.
“It’s okay. I told you, if there’s anyone who’s sympathetic about your situation, I’m one of them….or something. Anyway, it’s gift enough to see An-Tois.” As if he had heard his name, An-Tois cooed. He reached out for Lishe-Ashyo. “Geez, he’s gettin’ big.”
“It’s so weird imagining him as that tiny baby that came out of the egg…”
“For me it’s the opposite–I can’t stop seeing him as that tiny baby that came out of the egg!”
A knock sounded at the door. Lishe-Ashyo glanced around the house. “Is someone else coming?”
“I suppose,” Cou-Riette said.
“Bet I know who it is,” Gen-Reiya said.
Lishe-Ashyo stood up and went to answer the door. Standing there, her face bright red and a box covered in ribbons held to her chest, was Mali-Ana. Lishe-Ashyo started to smile, but it dropped when he noticed a familiar Catori man standing behind her.
“H-h-hello,” Mali-Ana stammered.
“Good evening, Mr. Coulmeta,” Mali-Ana’s father said.
“Good-evening,” Lishe-Ashyo said. He shook his head and focused on Mali-Ana. “Hello, Mali-Ana. Didn’t expect to see you. I thought you wouldn’t come, either that or you’d come early….”
“Well, I’m here now,” she said. “Are you doing anything interesting, or are you just, you know, doing nothing?”
“Not much is happening. Maybe you can change that,” he said with a wink. Mali-Ana’s blush became a deeper shade of red, which surprised Lishe-Ashyo.
“What do you mean by that!?”
“Nothing, really,” he said.
“I think I know what he means. You hate for things to be boring. So of course if you thought things were boring, you’d spice things up, right?”
“I–I guess….”
“Good explanation,” Lishe-Ashyo said. Mali-Ana’s father smiled. “Thank you.”
“Come in, Mali-Ana.” He stared at her father. “…you too, I guess.”
“Nah, I won’t bother you two. I have to get something for dinner tonight anyway.”
“She can eat here, if you like.”
Mali-Ana gaped.
“Well, if she’d like to…Mali-Ana, would you like to eat at the Coulmeta house?”
Mali-Ana did not respond.
“Um….well, I guess you should ask her yourself. Anyway, I’ll be back to pick her up….when?”
“I don’t know, ten-something?”
Her father nodded. “Alright.” He pat Mali-Ana on the back. “I’ll see you later, Mali-Ana. Make sure to call me earlier if you decide not to have dinner here.”
Mali-Ana still did not respond. She stood in place with her mouth wide open as her father waved to Lishe-Ashyo and closed the door behind him.
“Nobody will kiss you if you leave your mouth open like that,” Lishe-Ashyo sighed.
“Wha–!”
“There we go, back to normal!” Lishe-Ashyo walked up to Mali-Ana and stared at her. Mali-Ana felt as though her blush was extending across her body. “So, would you like to eat with us? In case you’re worried, it isn’t just me and my family here, and it certainly isn’t just me. Gen-Reiya, Xhen-Wu and Cou-Riette are also here, and Cou-Riette brought An-Tois. So unfortunately, our alone time is gonna have to wait.”
“What do you mean!?” She yelled.
“I don’t know, what do I mean?” He said, giving her a sly grin. Mali-Ana glared, but she didn’t have the heart to do anything to him. Already, just being in his house made her feel flustered. She looked forward to being in a room with others so that she no longer had to be alone with Lishe-Ashyo.
She could barely stand to look him in the eyes, so instead she looked down at his present.
“Is that for me?” Lishe-Ashyo asked.
“No!” She yelled. Lishe-Ashyo flinched. The hurt expression on his face immediately tugged at her. “Er! I mean, um, uh….yes. Who else would it be for?”
“My parents?” Lishe-Ashyo chuckled. “You have a point. Thank you. ….can I have it now?”
Mali-Ana handed him the present. Lishe-Ashyo took it. Mali-Ana hated herself for getting flustered at something as little as his fingers brushing her’s. She turned away from him.
“Mali-Ana, it’s frustrating when you don’t look at me. You didn’t used to have eye contact problems.” He sighed. “I know, I know, it can be hard to look at someone so hand….it was a joke.”
Mali-Ana’s hand had balled into a fist. She relaxed it. “Can we, um, you know, just go and see Xhen-Wu and Cou-Riette and Gen-Reiya and stuff?”
“Sure, sure!” He put his hand on her shoulder. “Come on.”
“Now I know you’re teasing me!”
Lishe-Ashyo started to whistle, then grinned at her. “You didn’t slap my hand away.”
“I–I shouldn’t have to, geez!”
“Sorry,” he said as he let go of her shoulder. Mali-Ana felt briefly melancholy. “Come on. They’re in my room.”
With conflicting feelings in her heart, Mali-Ana followed after Lishe-Ashyo.

“And so the other day, I said to Gen-Reiya, ‘Well, if she does keep holding the same opinions into adulthood, then are you going to take care of her’?” Cou-Riette said.
Lishe-Ashyo started to laugh. Gen-Reiya hugged his knees to his chest. “I’m sure Mi-Yagi will change…”
“I have more hope for her than I do some of the other Class A students, I’ll admit.”
“Thanks…”
“Even if she doesn’t change her opinions, she’ll have to support herself anyway. I’m not gonna live with her!” Xhen-Wu declared.
Gen-Reiya blushed. Lishe-Ashyo, Cou-Riette, and Mali-Ana looked at each other. Without saying anything, each could tell what the other was thinking.
“…er, never mind about Mi-Yagi. Lishe-Ashyo, you never opened your present from Mali-Ana. You opened all ours right away. You’re probably making her sad.”
“Am I? Sorry, Mali-Ana,” Lishe-Ashyo said. To her, he sounded genuine, but she still couldn’t keep herself from responding negatively.
“I don’t care. Why would I be sad because of you?”
“Because you like–er! Because we’re friends? Sometimes you act like we aren’t friends. It makes me so sad, Mali-Ana!”
“G-geez, we’re still friends. Of course we are. I just need to make sure to keep you in your place ’cause you think it’s okay to tease me…”
“Does that mean I should try to keep you in your place because you think it’s okay to hit me?” Lishe-Ashyo asked. Mali-Ana glared. “Also, if we’re friends, can I call you Malimali?”
“What!?”
“You’re so ridiculous, Lishe-Ashyo,” Cou-Riette sighed.
“No way!”
“Why not?”
“Because it’s stuuuupid! Just like you!”
“How dare you say that to the birthday boy,” Lishe-Ashyo sniffled. “You don’t love me.”
“You idiot! Of course I–”
Mali-Ana blushed and looked away. Lishe-Ashyo grinned. “Oh, the truth is so obvious to me! Alright then, if you wanna prove our friendship, you’ve gotta sit next to me at the dinner table!”
“What!?”
“Ooh, bold!” Gen-Reiya said.
“Go, Lishe-Ashyo!” Xhen-Wu said.
“Oh, dinner? ….am I going to be a problem?”
“You aren’t, but An-Tois might be. Mind leaving him somewhere while we eat?”
“As long as there’s somewhere safe…”
“There’s plenty of safe places in the house! Go ahead and ask my Mom. She’ll show you one.”
Cou-Riette smiled. “Thank you, Lishe-Ashyo.” Holding An-Tois tight, she walked out of the room. An-Tois cooed as they walked out the bedroom.
“Agh. All this banter with you and I almost forgot about your present. Let’s see what it is.”
Mali-Ana watched intently as Lishe-Ashyo opened her present. Gen-Reiya and Xhen-Wu stared on eagerly a short distance away.
“And…there! Ooh, fancy!”
“D-do you like it?” Mali-Ana asked.
“Yeah, it’s nice! I’ve never had anything like this before, so it’s all brand-new for me! Thank you!”
“Uh, Lishe…” Gen-Reiya asked. “What is it?”
“Consider it a set of necessary accessories for when I’m campus casanova!” Lishe-Ashyo said. He showed off the box to Gen-Reiya and Xhen-Wu. Inside was a bow tie and various pieces of jewelry.
“That is nice,” Gen-Reiya said. “Looks expensive too…”
“I’m not telling you how much it cost!” Mali-Ana snapped.
“You’re still following that ‘campus casanova’ pipe dream?” Xhen-Wu sighed.
“Yeah. Unless, of course, Mali-Ana wants to fill the role of several girls…”
“Shut up, you idiot!” She yelled. Lishe-Ashyo flinched. He blinked in surprise when no fist made impact with his cheek.
‘What the hell? No violence?’ He started to grin wide. ‘Sweet.’
“What are you grinning like an idiot for!?”
“Well, you never did turn him down…”
“For what!?”
“Lishe-Ashyo?”
A new voice broke the conversation. Lishe-Ashyo turned around. “What is it, Mom?”
“It’s dinner time.”
“Oh. Okay. We’ll be right there.”
“Miss Fasoucie is already at the dinner table, so hurry,” she said, then closed the door.
“She asks me to come to the dinner table, then closes the door…whatever. You heard her, gang! Let’s get to the table!”
“Wish I could fly there,” Xhen-Wu said. “Haven’t been able to stretch my wings in a while…”
“Please don’t,” Lishe-Ashyo said.
Mali-Ana walked behind Lishe-Ashyo as the four walked to the dinner table. She kept her eyes on his hair.
“…has your hair grown since I last saw you?”
“Hm? Maybe. I’m not gonna cut it anymore unless it needs to get cut.”
“Don’t you think it’s a little weird for a guy to have long hair?”
“Hey, it’s about the same length as Dslellullar’s. Never heard you complain about his hair.”
“…it’s nice,” she mumbled.
“Did I hear that right? Mali-Ana complimenting me? Or are you complimenting Dslellullar?”
“Ah, er….do I really have to sit next to you at the dinner table?”
“If you wanna prove you still care about me, yes.” Lishe-Ashyo gave her a friendly grin. Mali-Ana sighed.
The dinner table was set up more formally than Mali-Ana had expected. Cou-Riette waved to the group as they walked in. Gen-Reiya and Xhen-Wu took seats next to each other, and Mali-Ana sat next to Lishe-Ashyo once he had sat down.
She ate in silence as the others began to talk.
“Happy birthday, Lishe-Ashyo. Now we’re the same age.” Cou-Riette said.
“You’re both the same age as me, too!” Xhen-Wu said.
“Yeah, but I’m the youngest of us eighteen-year-olds. I’ve got a lot ahead of me.”
“You’ve been studying hard for college, yes?”
“Yeah. Spending time with little An-Tois isn’t going to interrupt that. Me and Cou-Riette study together sometimes when he’s asleep. She could get into a good college with that knowledge…”
“Thank you for the compliment,” Cou-Riette said, “but I still have to wait for An-Tois to get older.”
Mali-Ana noticed Lishe-Ashyo’s father give Cou-Riette an uncertain glance before turning back to his food. Mali-Ana bowed her head as she continued to eat.
“Happy birthday, Lishe-Ashyo. Here’s to another year of friendship.” Gen-Reiya said.
“Same here. Happy birthday, Lishe-Ashyo!”
Lishe-Ashyo started to beam. His parents smiled at him, and he smiled back. “Hard to think, come 2016 I’ll be twenty….it’s closer than I thought.”
“2016 can’t begin before 2015 does,” Gen-Reiya said.
“And then you need to wait for September.”
“Yeah….”
“Miss Reusung, you’ve been awfully quiet this whole time. Are you alright?” Lishe-Ashyo’s mother asked.
“Huh?” Mali-Ana glanced up from her plate. “Uh…yeah, I’m fine.”
Everyone at the table stared at her.
“What….?”
“Your face…”
“What’s wrong with it?”
“It’s bright red…” Xhen-Wu said.
“Sorry, are you upset about sitting next to me?” Lishe-Ashyo asked.
“GRYAH!”
Everyone at the table flinched. Mali-Ana took a deep breath, and sighed.
“Look, I’m fine, okay?”
“You don’t look fine…”
“Well trust me when I say I’m fine!” She yelled. “I just…you know something, Lishe-Ashyo, I’ve been very frustrated by you today. If it wasn’t your birthday, I’d have socked you a few times by now!”
“You’re holding back because it’s my birthday?” Lishe-Ashyo said. “Thank you!” He hugged her tight. Mali-Ana became too flustered to move.
“Sorry,” he said, sitting her back up. “Thanks though, Mali-Ana. You’re a good friend.”
“Yeah, yeah….happy birthday and stuff, Lishe-Ashyo.”
He smiled. “Thank you. That means a lot, coming from you. Sorry I tease you so much. I’m just really touched that there’s someone who loves me like you do and I can’t help it.”
Mali-Ana felt worse than she had in her entire life. ‘I hate having crushes. Especially on this guy…’ “Y…you’re welcome.”
Lishe-Ashyo’s smile became mischievous. “You admitted it~”
“Admitted what!?”
“That you like me~”
Mali-Ana slammed a fist into the palm of her hand. “You’re getting off easy today, Lishe-Ashyo, but mark my words, once your birthday is over….”
“Eep! L-let’s just get back to eating, alright?”
Lishe-Ashyo crammed half his food down his throat. His face turned a pale blue. Once he swallowed, Xhen-Wu whispered to Gen-Reiya,
“That moment between them was hard to watch.”
Gen-Reiya nodded in agreement.

—–
After cake, the visitors to the Coulmeta house had started to leave. At eleven o’clock, Gen-Reiya was the only one still at his house.
“Hey, Lishe-Ashyo…”
“What? Ready to go home?”
“Yeah, just about. But I wanted to ask a question.”
“What’s that?”
“What you said to Mali-Ana about being touched, was that true, or were you just picking on her?”
Lishe-Ashyo smiled. “A little bit of both.”
“Do you liiiike her?”
Lishe-Ashyo sighed. “No. I wish she’d like someone else. I don’t think I can return her feelings. She’s my friend and nothing else.”
“Someday you’ll have to tell her that…”
“Yeah, someday…”

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