The La-Iin Series
“Mali-Ana and Lishe-Ashyo”
“HAPPY BIRTHDAY MALI-ANA!”
Mali-Ana flinched at the noise. “Um, thank you!”
“I can’t believe my little girl is eighteen,” Mr. Reusung sobbed.
“I can’t believe it either. I mean, now we’re the same age again.” Lishe-Ashyo said.
“You’re still older.”
“Watching you grow up has been a joy, but it’s also been very painful seeing you go from a cute little girl to a full-grown woman,” Mr. Reusung said. “But enough about all that. Happy birthday, Mali-Ana.”
“Yeah, happy birthday!” Gen-Reiya said.
“Happs of the birthdays, Mali-Ana!” Xhen-Wu said.
“Happy birthday, Mali-Ana,” Cou-Riette said.
“Th-thanks, but guys, seriously, don’t make so much of a big deal out of it. Last year everything was going on at once because you three graduated and then I had my birthday on the same day. I’m already exhausted from graduation yesterday.”
“When she woke up this morning, she started to get ready for school. Then she started crying when she remembered she didn’t have to go anymore,” Mr. Reusung said. Mali-Ana’s face burned.
“Crying tears of joy or tears of sadness?” Gen-Reiya asked. Mr. Reusung shrugged.
“That’s adorable,” Lishe-Ashyo gushed. Mali-Ana’s face burned stronger and her right hand balled into a fist.
“It’s alright, Mali-Ana. I did similar when I graduated. It may happen for a few days to come.” Cou-Riette said.
“I did it once too,” Lishe-Ashyo said.
“You guys are crazy,” Xhen-Wu said.
“I haven’t done it yet either, but I bet I will! Actually, I’m less surprised by my graduation and more surprised by the fact that Sanyaow’s gonna be graduating next year. That just seems so wrong.”
“Sanyaow?” Mr. Reusung questioned.
“She’s a Catori girl at Malicerie,” Lishe-Ashyo explained. “She’s pretty popular and well-known. Probably the most popular student from our class. Apparently she’s in Grade 12 now.”
“It’s really weird,” Gen-Reiya sighed. “Sanhuun’s in the fourth grade, Elyshen made it to ten. Cahongyun’s in the second grade, so strange.”
“Hey, don’t take the focus away from the birthday girl,” Xhen-Wu chided. Gen-Reiya rubbed the back of his head.
“Yeah, Gen-Reiya.” Lishe-Ashyo said.
“Stop being mean to me!”
“I’m not trying to be. I’m just saying, I know Mali-Ana said she wants to kick back, but why should we? You deserve to feel special. I know I like spoiling people on their birthdays.”
“It’s why I always look forward to mine,” Gen-Reiya said.
“Indeed, you’re a little crazy in that regard, Lishe-Ashyo,” Cou-Riette said. “I worry sometimes you’ll go bankrupt in the future.”
“Don’t worry, I….oh, never mind,” Cou-Riette said. “Pretend I said nothing.”
Xhen-Wu and Gen-Reiya gave downcast glances in Cou-Riette’s direction as An-Tois started to pull on her hair. Mali-Ana stared down at her knees and listened to the conversation around her.
“You know, Mr. Coulmeta, I see your friends tend to pick on you,” Mr. Reusung said.
“They pick on me more,” Gen-Reiya said.
“I don’t get why, though. You’re an outstanding man in my opinion.”
“Please, no,” Lishe-Ashyo said, holding up his hands. Mr. Reusung smiled.
“Don’t be shy about compliments, Lishe-Ashyo.” He sighed. “Ah, that’s something I’ve told Mali-Ana time and time again but it never works, so I guess it’s pointless to say. But the point I’m trying to make is, thank you again for being friends with my daughter.”
“You’re-welcome-Mr.-Reusung-but-you-have-told-me-that-already,” Lishe-Ashyo said robotically.
“Well, it’s one of those things that can be repeated several times over.”
Lishe-Ashyo blinked hard.
“Speaking of, Mr. Coulmeta, is there anyone you’re interested in?”
“What!?” He shrieked. Gen-Reiya started to snicker. “What the–!”
“Your reactions remind me of Mali-Ana’s. I guess you two have more in common than I thought,” Mr. Reusung said. “I was just asking. Curiosity killed the Catori, they say, but I say it makes him smarter.”
“How does this make you…” Lishe-Ashyo sighed. “No, not really. Or, maybe sort of. I don’t really know.”
Everyone in the room began to look surprised after Lishe-Ashyo’s statement.
“What, a guy can’t be interested in someone?”
“I…just wasn’t expecting it, is all,” Cou-Riette said. “You who talked of being a campus casanova saying he’s interested in someone…”
“She just reminds me of someone I think is cute,” he said, his embarrassment evident. “So, I don’t know, maybe…”
“You should say something to her. Maybe she feels the same.” Mr. Reusung said.
“I don’t even know if I even actually like her or if I just think she’s cute.”
Gen-Reiya rolled his eyes.
Mali-Ana clutched her pants. Hearing Lishe-Ashyo talk about being interested in someone upset her. She tried to channel the feeling into something else, but the more she tried, the more upset she ended up.
“Lishe-Ashyo, can I talk to you for a little bit?”
“Huh? Yeah, sure. What is it?”
Lishe-Ashyo tipped his head to one side. “Um, sure. Your bedroom or someplace else?”
“Wherever. Just anywhere but here.”
Curious glances were shot in their direction as they left the room. They didn’t stop until Mali-Ana felt they were someplace they wouldn’t be heard.
“Something wrong, Mali-Ana? Are you upset because of what I said? Don’t worry, I don’t really get romantic feelings. I mean, I get them, but I don’t get them. Make sense?”
“I know what you’re talking about, you stinking casanova,” she snapped.
“No need to jump to insults,” he huffed. “So what did you want?”
“…is it true you maybe have a crush on some girl?”
“I dunno, she just reminds me of someone I think is cute. But maybe I’m kidding myself. I don’t know.”
“Lishe-Ashyo, do you think you’ll ever…you know, like…date someone?”
“I’d like to.”
“Like sometime soon?”
“I dunno. Where’s this going, Mali-Ana? I can’t tell what it is you want.”
“That’s the thing. Can you even tell? You said you don’t get romantic feelings anyway. So I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t understand at all.”
“Well, you could try explaining.”
“Isn’t it obvious already? Hasn’t Gen-Reiya pointed it out millions of times in the past to you? Hasn’t he told you over and over again? Heck, maybe Xhen-Wu and Cou-Riette have too. Haven’t you pointed it out before!?”
Mali-Ana grit her teeth. “No. I don’t want to say it. If you don’t get it, then you don’t deserve to know.”
“C’mon, Mali-Ana, I don’t want to see you upset on your birthday. Smile. Go ahead and tell me what it is. I won’t tell anyone else, I promise. This conversation is a secret between you and me. So look up, go ahead, say it, then cheer up and let’s celebrate.”
Mali-Ana mumbled something he couldn’t make out.
“Sorry, could you repeat that again?”
“I lo…I…I like you, okay!?”
“I don’t care if you don’t get romantic feelings, you should be able to see that much!” Her face was bright red, and she looked furious. Lishe-Ashyo mildly feared she might lash out. “I get it, it was obvious. So what. And maybe you like some other girl, who cares. But Gen-Reiya, he had a good point. I need to get it off my chest or I’ll never get over stupid you.”
Her expression calmed. “And while I’m still being honest, I’ll say this too, but I’ll only say it once. I know I insult you all the time. Yeah, that’s put-upon. I’m not good at expressing my feelings, so sue me. Seems like we both have feeling issues we need to sort out. But I’m admitting it now. I find a lot more endearing about you than it might seem! And sometimes I insult you and then I beat myself up to high hell and back because I keep asking myself why did I say that!? But I can’t stop myself because it’s f@%king embarrassing that I have this stupid crush on my best friend who’s a big idiot!”
Mali-Ana seemed on the verge of tears, but only for a moment. “I really do like you, Lishe-Ashyo, more than I might say. It just embarrasses me to say how much. So yeah, maybe you like that girl. Maybe you like a ton of girls and you’re just too stupid to realize it, who knows. But now you know how I feel, and now maybe I can get over you. Because I know it. You’re just going to say no.”
Lishe-Ashyo felt as though his heart would drop into his stomach. Hearing Mali-Ana’s confession, hearing her pour her heart out, he felt all that much worse for what he knew he had to say.
“But no, right?”
“Yeah, it’s a no, I don’t feel the same way, but not for the reason you’d think,” he said. “Mali-Ana, I see you as kind of a little sister. I know I’m an only child, but that’s how I feel. Because of that, it just grosses me out, the idea of being in a relationship with you. But that’s not because I think you’re disgusting, really! Maybe this will sound gross, but if I didn’t see you that way I think I’d be thrilled at what you just said. You’re pretty adorable and aside from all that violence your personality is nice. And you’re that passionate about me, it touches my heart. But I just can’t. I see you as a sister. Maybe that’ll change someday, but that’s how things stand right now, so…I can’t.”
Mali-Aa glanced down. “I knew it. …not the sister thing, but that you’d say no. I guess that’s better than you just saying no because I’m a violent bitch…”
“H-hey, don’t look so upset,” he said. “How about I make a deal with you?”
“How do you make a deal out of something like this?” Mali-Ana asked, her tone snarky.
“Look, I don’t want you to be sad, alright? So how about for today, we can be, y’know, boyfriend and girlfriend? Just for today. Who knows, maybe it’ll change my perspective of you into something that benefits you.”
“Or you’ll just be making a stinkface constantly because you see me as your sister!” She yelled.
“I’m willing to do it if you’re willing, though,” he said. “Sure, the idea grosses me out. But you know what? I’d rather be grossed out and see you happy than not be grossed out and see you upset.”
“And that’s disgusting. If I was actually your sister, would you still do this?”
“Well, you’re not, so does it matter?”
Mali-Ana pouted. “It’s gonna make me feel horrible tomorrow. I’m just going to be mega upset.”
“And I’ll be there to cheer you up.”
“You really don’t get how romantic feelings work, do you? I thought you were just saying that as some sort of put-upon, but you’re really stupid when it comes to this.”
Lishe-Ashyo shrugged. “Sue me. It’s the way I’m set up.”
Mali-Ana let her shoulders relax. “Fine. I accept. I know this is just gonna be a big mistake, but…it’s a nice birthday present.”
“I’ll try and make you happy, don’t worry,” he said, pulling her close. Mali-Ana felt her face burn, but for once, her hands did not ball into fists.
After their conversation, Mali-Ana had told her father and friends what the arrangement between her and Lishe-Ashyo was. While it made them wonder about the conversation the two had had, they continued on normally, and to their joy Mali-Ana had begun to smile as the day went on.
“Who’s ready for cake?” Mr. Reusung said.
“I am! I am!” Gen-Reiya called.
“So immature,” Mali-Ana huffed. “I’m ready.”
Mr. Reusung nodded.
“Are we gonna sing?” Lishe-Ashyo asked.
“Maybe we should sing Denden Saree as a joke,” Xhen-Wu chuckled.
“No, let’s not sing,” Mali-Ana said.
An-Tois began to babble loudly. Cou-Riette gave him a curious glance and sniffed him.
“I think An-Tois didn’t listen to what you said,” Xhen-Wu chuckled.
“Well, at least he’s not dirty,” Cou-Riette said.
“Here you go!” Mr. Reusung said. “Make a wish before blowing out the candles.”
Mali-Ana closed her eyes, then blew out the candles within a short span of time.
“I don’t need to wait for this one to come true,” she said. “I can make it come true myself.”
Mali-Ana turned to her side, and to the surprise of everyone in the room, leaned forward and kissed Lishe-Ashyo.
“There, now I got my wish,” she said, her tone confident. She began to cut the cake, oblivious to the shocked expressions on everyone’s face except for Lishe-Ashyo’s.
In Lishe-Ashyo’s case, his expression was one of disgust.
As the day came to a close, and Mali-Ana had fallen asleep in her bed, Gen-Reiya took the chance to talk to Lishe-Ashyo.
“Why’d you do that, Lishe-Ashyo?” He asked. “Do you really like her now, or were you just placating?”
He sighed. “I know I trust you with everything, Gen-Reiya, but it’d be like betraying Mali-Ana if I told you why I did that.”
“So you were placating?”
“I’m not going to say myself. Like I said, it’d be like betraying Mali-Ana.”
He blinked at Mali-Ana. “Still, I really did not expect her to just kiss me out of the blue like that. …aw, my sister’s breaking out of her shell, in an incestuous way.”
“Ew, don’t say it like that,” Gen-Reiya said.
“It’s the best way I know how to put it,” he sighed. “But, you know, Gen-Reiya, I hope Mali-Ana continues on like this. I really like the Mali-Ana who’s not shy and violent all the time. Confident and kind is much better.”
“I like her better that way too!”
“Don’t go cheating on Xhen-Wu now, okay?”
“Do you really think I would?”
Mali-Ana opened one eye to a slit to glance at the two, then closed it again and gave a contented sigh.