“Who should I be?”

He left his brothers tuned in to an early morning show while preparing themselves for school. As usual, he gave them food cash, an essential incentive to keep them interested to attend their classes.

Walking past a group of small children milling around a small puppy they encountered, Allen formed in his mind a connection to the scene, trying to imagine the girl he would be meeting: curious, trusting and eager to be impressed.

But again, his dilemma got in the way: to be or not to be as he truly was.

“My eyes hurt!”

He could always reason that way if she asked. It would be short and somewhat nearer to the truth without actually straying to the realm of lies.

“Are you talking to yourself?” Ed asked, with Danny, trailing him for the past minute. “I heard everything.”

“You’re always nosing around,” Danny said, pushing Ed to the side. “Let him be.”

“I need to go away for a while,” Allen informed them. “Mr. Yang instructed me to stay in the capital.”

“Are we going along?” Ed hastily asked, ecstatic for the easy job with higher pay.

“He needs you in the granary,” Allen managed to tell the lie with a straight face. “I am sure he wants his trusted men around.”

“When will you be back?” Danny studied him, observing the uneasiness in his voice. “You can tell us. We’re you’re friends, remember?”

“I have something to do for myself. People around here know me, who I am. I think I need the new surrounding. I accepted Mr. Yang’s temporary offer.”

“Wow! You got promoted?” Ed could not hide his enthusiasm. If Allen reached a higher position, it would not be long before he and Danny could follow his footsteps.

“Let’s just say he wants me for an important task. I hope you two will join me later.”

“Is there something bothering you?” Danny could not help it but wondered. He heard the good news yet he could sense that Allen was not telling them the real reason for his sudden departure.

“You’re too suspicious,” Allen laughed, successfully hiding his intentions. “I thought Ed is.”

Ed showed Danny his patented look and grinned. “Like this?”

“I don’t see a bag,” Danny let Ed’s wackiness fizzled out, concentrating his attention at Allen. “You sure you don’t want us tagging along. We can help you.”

“You have done so much for me since we first met. I could not have lasted long in the granary, with all the taunting and teasing, without your support. I will never forget it as long as I live.”

Ed wiped his eyes with his arm, pretending not to cry. Allen’s words struck an emotional chord deep inside him. Before Allen’s arrival, he was the most favorite target of bullying.

“We stuck together!” he yelled, raising his fist to the sky. “They will not defeat us.”

Danny took Ed’s cue and followed suit. “As one!”

“For that I’ll treat you for an early morning snack,” Allen announced, grateful for their friendship.

“You always know when I am hungry,” Ed jested, patting Danny on the stomach.

“You are always hungry.”

(to be continued)



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