Chapter 19: The News - Rashidi

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Rashidi grabbed the small charm from his necklace and pulled it to his mouth, pushing the thin piece of metal between his front teeth, the pressure of his teeth being pushed apart feeling nice.

"You're going to have a gap in between your teeth if you keep doing that," Nikeese said gently.

Rashidi smiled at him as he pulled the charm out. "I know that, and you knew that when you bought it."

Nikeese chuckled. "Indeed, darling."

Rashidi ran a finger along the ridges of his horns, feeling it bump along them. He hummed in contentedness.

Nikeese giggled. "Enjoying yourself?"

Rashidi nodded, blinking slowly like a sleepy cat.

"You should head home soon, darling. Your parents will worry."

Rashidi pouted. "I know, but I wanna stay with you."

Nikeese giggled and a thought passed through Rashidi's mind.

"Would you kiss me, if you had to prove your affections to my parents?"

Nikeese's whole body shivered, a single movement of reaction. "O-of course. Why?"

Rashidi looked down at his lap and smiled to himself. "Just wondering."

****

Masva was waiting for him at the front gate. That, that clearly wasn't good.

"Mother?" He asked as he twisted his hands in the fabric of his pockets.

She smiled at the two of them, but it seemed a little off. "Rashidi, I have some news."

Rashidi turned to look at Nikeese for a moment. "Um, alright."

Masva cast a glance at Nikeese. "If your... beloved intends to stay over for a bit, he can wait in the hall while your father and I talk to you."

She then walked inside, leaving Rashidi feeling very apprehensive.

"W-will you stay?" He asked. "At least for a bit?"

"Of course," Nikeese said quietly, sounding concerned.

Rashidi gave Nikeese's hand a quick squeeze and then followed his mother, eventually finding himself outside of his father's study.

His mother smiled at him, the expression still off, and opened the door.

"Dear, is that our lovely son?" Said Jaime from inside.

"It is, honey."

Rashidi shivered, unsure if it was from cold or not, and walked into the room.

"Th-there's news you want to share?" he asked.

Jaime looked up from his desk. "Indeed. People are aware that Retta has... Improved. Lovely work, by the way, son."

Rashidi smiled nervously, rubbing his tongue forcefully along the roof of his mouth for a sensation that couldn't be seen. "Thank you."

Jaime smiled. "So, we're going to have a celebration, in honour of your work and Retta's improved condition."

Rashidi gaped.

Jaime's face blanked, turning almost stony. "It will happen in three weeks time and you will attend. You will not have a freakout, you will dance, you will not remove your shoes, you will act as normal as you can, and you will not bring Nikeese along as your date."

The world warped, twisting and unravelling and extending and shrinking.

"What?" Rashidi asked, feeling lost behind in the translation between words and meaning.

Jaime didn't even blink. "You will not bring Nikeese along as your date. Doing so would attract massive rumour and we can't have that."

Rashidi's mind was empty, blank and thoughtless.

"What?" he said again.

Jaime sighed, rubbing at the bridge of his nose. "If you bring a date, you must bring a woman."

Rashidi could feel his magic trying to escape, his emotions throwing it into turmoil. He was sure the markings on his horns were glowing dimly.

"I-I-I-I-I..."

"Now go along now," Jaime said, interrupting Rashidi's sputtering. "I'm sure you have much to think about."

Rashidi wordlessly left the room. He, he needed to talk to, to both of them, he needed both Nikeese and Retta.

Between one blink and the next Rashidi arrived at his twin's doorway, feeling lost and uncertain and mad beyond belief.

"R-Retta," he said weakly.

She turned to face him and Nikeese leaned into view. "Rashidi... what did father say to you?"

He walked into the room and collapsed upon the bed. "Th-, ther-, a cele-, a party."

Retta blinked. "There's a party? Why?"

Nikeese tapped her on the shoulder as Rashidi took in a shuddering breath. "Retta-dear, I think the party is for you two."

Rashidi's hands were shaking and he started to flap them, trying to feel better. "I-I-I-I-, I'm not al-, not allowed to bring Nikeese as my d-d-d-date."

Retta swore and Nikeese sighed in disappointment.

Rashidi grabbed his horns and rubbed his hands up and down them. "I-I-I have to attend... I d-don't think I can without him. Y-y-you'd be too b-busy, Retta."

Retta's face twisted, distasteful and unimpressed. "Did he say anything else?"

Rashidi clenched his eyes shut and shook his head. "If I bring anyone, it has to be a woman."

A moment of silence passed. "I-, I could take Nikeese as my date."

Nikeese sputtered out a laugh, sounding almost panicked. "S-sorry, but, nothing against you Retta-dear, but no. I just, I would not be able to handle that, and I'm sure your parents would find a way to keep me out of there anyway."

Rashidi opened his eyes and saw a look of hurt and confusion on his twin's face. "What do you mean?" She asked.

Nikeese sighed, breath stuttering. "That's too aggressive, too direct of a move. And... The whole point of me being there is to be there for Rashidi, but I'd only be able to do that as your date. That would be... suspicious, me just leaving you for him. It would start rumours that would hurt all of us."

Nikeese gave a weak smile. "Trust me, I would love to be the kind of person with two lovers, but I won't be cast as a cheat. I also won't cast you two as either too weak-willed to hold onto me, or too oblivious to notice what I'm doing. You're both too smart for that kind of rumour being spread about you."

Retta swore again and Rashidi felt his emotions slip even further from his control as his hands started to glow. He-, he was really mad, but his sadness was too much for him to act on it.

"You're right, I hate it, but you're right," Retta said.

Nikeese smiled kindly at her. "I'm sorry," he said, placing a hand gently on her shoulder.

Retta turned to her brother. "W-would Sika be good enough?"

Rashidi didn't know, he couldn't think. He opened his mouth, but nothing came out.

Retta's body slumped and she released a sigh full of emotion. "Oh, Rash."

She wrapped him in a hug. "It'll be alright," she said to him.

"Listen to your sister, darling," Nikeese said with a gentle smile. "In my experience, she's often correct."

Rashidi just shook his head as he rested it in the crook of his sister's neck.

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