You Don't Have to Work So Hard (Part 2)
Updated: Aug 15, 2022
Originally Posted on: May 24, 2022
Part 2 (2/3)
Cover Image Title: "Cherry Cloud"
Cover Artwork by: Andrew Ro
Of course, it wouldn’t.
Begrudgingly, I slung my bag over my shoulders and hurried down the stairs. I could already hear the loud chattering of morning regulars having a coffee or meal before heading off to work. This home of ours doubled as a small bistro that my brother opened and still operates alone. My feet numbly carried me over to the kitchen, even though it was really the last place I wanted to be right now; where Fuchsia was.
What was usually the fresh, savoury, and sweet scent of a typical western breakfast now smells like heavy grease and thick molasses for my brain to wade through, blocking every other emotion, thought and only leaving me with a sense of suffocation. On a kitchen countertop, besides the breakfast my brother would carefully make each day for me, was a slice of chocolate cake.
In the past, he would always make a chocolate cake the morning after we had a fight as an apology. With the way Fuchsia is, though, when I say fight, it was always me throwing a tantrum or getting upset myself. I can’t say that last night was much different. But now, I’m self-aware enough to know that my brother really shouldn’t be the one to apologise.
The note he wrote to accompany it was a repeat of last night’s apologies which really made me want to light the paper on fire and throw it in the pan to smoulder. But I held back for the reason that lighting fires isn’t environmentally friendly and I wouldn’t want to taint one of Fuchsia’s pans with its ash.
Also, you shouldn’t burn garbage; you should try to reuse what you can. Thus I used the back of the note to write my own. `Eat it yourself. I don’t want your apology. I wish Fuchsia would just let me take the blame when it rightfully belongs on my shoulders.
I could tell Fuchsia was looking over at my back while he was chopping some sort of vegetable or something. He’s gauging my reaction to the slice of cake; I don’t even need to look to guess that. Of course, I still will. Picking up the plate of buns, the provided breakfast, and turning my head to stare directly back at my brother, I straight up walked out the side door of the kitchen to escape the awkwardness. I didn’t want to see the look on his face from my refusing his apology(by not eating the cake), but my guilt was not strong enough to make me regret my stance. He’ll see the note when he catches a break; it’ll be fine. I slowly ate the buns on my way to school, tucking the plate into my lunch box so I could clean it when I returned.
School passed neither fast nor slow, simply uneventfully. I went to classes, chatted with friends and did my work like every other day in the past. The school day passed like a dream, plainly put. The fog from this morning didn’t exactly clear up, and all my mind could attach itself to was what I would be doing afterward. That being I was going to apply for a job.
I was completely ignoring Fuchsia's words yesterday. Yep.
And I did. I found this nice café nearby but not too nearby that said they would be willing to hire me. The stepping-in and asking process felt like how people describe confessing to a crush. The ramping up of the heartbeat as I walked up to an employee and the blank disbelief when they said yes. I hope my jaw was not as slack as my brain went in that moment because that would scar me emotionally for the rest of eternity. I think some of the weight on my head lessened with that, as I walked out feeling relatively light. It only hit me now that winter has almost ended and spring is fast approaching.
In the end, I chose to work part-time. I’m unsure if it’s because I was scared to step out into the working world despite having already made up my mind, but my mouth spouted the words ‘part-time’ before I could think. Maybe, though, this will work out better. I’ll still go to school, like Fuchsia wants, and earn income simultaneously. Then I can use this to prove that I can also share the financial burden. After all, it’s not that I hate studying, I want to optimise every waking hour I have, but if continuing with school will make this more acceptable to him, then I guess that’s what I should do.
Obviously, I won’t tell this to Fuchsia immediately after coming back; I haven’t even started working yet. I’ll tell him when I get my pay, which should be hard enough evidence. Thinking this to myself, my shoulders relaxed and the corners of my mouth tugged upwards. I began to hum a tune on the way back, pulling down my sleeves to cover my cold hands as the weather was very kindly reminding me that it was indeed not yet spring and the temperature was still -5℃.
Gee, thanks, I couldn’t tell.
I shut the side door behind me and cautiously took off my shoes, which were bravely enduring a boot-worthy swamp of muddy, slushy regret. As I did so, I saw Fuchsia at the entrance of the kitchen, bent over with hands on his legs to support him. Perhaps I’m wrong, but it looks like he just ran over here? His eyes lit up as he saw me and he gave a beaming smile.
“Welcome home,” he said.
Horribly caught off guard, I barely was able to utter a “Yeah,” before rushing straight past him to the front of our eatery to help him clear up tables, as I always do when I come back from school. The time I usually come back from school is when the lunch rush slows down, and usually, there were many tables Fuchsia had yet to find time to clean up.
And that is how I began to understand why Fuchsia was so weirdly relieved to see me today. No, it wasn’t entirely because of the fight last night nor the cake this morning. Seeing the clear tables beside a few lingering customers, I finally remembered the fact that today I came home later than usual. I completely forgot that I come directly home on normal days, and on the rare occasions I decide to stay out a bit longer, I at least text him to let him know beforehand.
A small, teensy little seed of some indescribable negative feeling began to sprout in the pit of my stomach. Was the feeling horror? Was it guilt or shame, in causing him even more distress? The realisation that my brother might have seriously worried half to death whether I was kidnapped or decided to run away because of a petty argument, simply because I forgot to contact him? I felt a sinking anxiety that this might repeat in the future, that all my efforts to lift the pressure off his shoulders will only press them down harder.
I stood at the entranceway between the front and the hall, merely staring into blank space. From behind, I suddenly heard Fuchsia speak up. “Uhm, Oleander? Are you going to- I mean, are you not going to, well, help me wash the dishes today?” he stiffly asked.
Hearing him hurriedly trying to explain that I don’t have to, that it isn’t necessary for me to if I don’t want to, blah blah- snapped me out of my wallowing. This guy clearly would never be able to ask for help himself, so I need to be the one to offer first or nothing will ever change.
“I will,” I responded, not even realising the tension melting away from me, “Don’t worry, I don’t have anything urgent.”
“Oh, alright.” The chaos and panic have faded and peace once again settled into his features. I managed to push the role of dishwasher onto Fuchsia, while I rinsed them off and dried them before putting the dishes to the side. Usually, I would do this entire process myself. As there are no incoming customers, we, but more importantly Fuchsia could relax a bit.
And it seemed he was sufficiently relaxed enough to start worrying about new stuff. “Are you still mad at me?” he quietly fretted. The plate in my hands almost shattered against the ground before I managed to recover it and give a beautiful, well thought out response: “. . . Huh?”
“Are you still angry because of last night?” Fuchsia’s hands still kept moving, but he turned his head to look at me. “I’m really sorry for yelling at you yesterday. I am grateful that you want to help me, but you’re already helping me out so much each day. Don’t worry about earning money for my sake, and please don’t drop out of school yet, okay?”
I glanced at his guilty smile seeking forgiveness before trying to turn my head away in the least suspicious way possible. Was I still angry at him? Definitely. But not because he raised his voice, that would be very petty of me. Now did I want to accept his apology? No, because he- it’s like he’s brushing off my concerns and treating me like an easy-to-convince child. Fuchsia’s eyes patiently stayed on me even as the silence dragged on. In the end, I squeezed out an “Okay,” through my reluctance, if only to appease Fuchsia and dispel the cold stillness between us. “Just please go easier on yourself then.” I softly added.
“I will.” Fuchsia’s gentle beaming returned to his face. Seeing him so relieved, I gave a faint smile myself.
I knew that he was lying. I didn’t say anything.
(To be continued)