Chapter 10:

Tears in the Curry

Purple Prose

After struggling to unlock his door, Issei pushed it with his foot and the door swung open, revealing to Murasaki his life.

Color returned to her eyes. “Interesting! I was imagining what kinda room you would have–I was sure there’d be a lot more Metal-y stuff.”

Issei chuckled. “Devils, pentagrams, dark spooky lights?" He took his shoes off. “Come in, come in!”

Murasaki, still at the door, took a short bow and said “excuse me!”

He brought the groceries straight to the kitchen and placed the fresh ingredients in the fridge. “Well, uhm…”

He had Kanka and Takao over several times, but had no idea what to do if a woman came over. “Yeah…make yourself at home.”

Murasaki’s eyes lit up. “Your guitar’s sitting on the chair! Were you practicing or making music?”

“Ah–” He felt his face get hot. “I was, uhh…making a love song.”

“Ooh, a love song!” She nudged him in the ribs. “Who’s it for, huh? Who were you thinking about?”

If heads could emit steam, this would be the perfect time. “Hey, the ‘Secret’ in Secret Prose means no spoilers!”

“Aww you’re no fun.” Murasaki puffed her cheeks and, after scanning the couch, sat down on the far left end.

“So were you also gonna make curry at your place?” Issei asked. “We both grabbed a jar after all.”

“Yeah, I was really craving curry today.”

Issei clapped his hands, unintentionally making her jump in her seat. “Fantastic–curry it is.”

Murasaki sprang up, and she made a curious noise not unlike a gorilla’s grunt. “Curry! Can I help?”

“Y-yeah of course.”

Issei made for the kitchen and shoved his head into the fridge, not to gather vegetables, but to hide his face because he couldn’t stop laughing.

“Is everything okay?”

Just keep looking at the cow on the milk carton. “I’m just–just looking for the onions.”

“Oh, there’s an apron.”

Murasaki found it hanging on the cupboard and tied it around her waist. Issei couldn’t help but watch. For some reason, the very idea of Murasaki wearing one to help cook was surreal but he didn’t know why.

Issei blinked: the care she took with the chopping knife as she cubed the onions, the way her hands caressed the potatoes as she peeled them, it was tantalizing. The events of the 12/16 store resurfaced, that key moment when those same hands touched his own. What would it take for that moment to happen again?

He coughed. “Hey, not bad, you’re pretty good at preparing.”

Murasaki glanced up at him and smiled before continuing. “Thanks–I pretty much did all the cooking at home.”

“Then I have just one question for you. How much heat do you like?”

“Spicy!” She balled her hands into fists with an excited pose, not realizing she was gripping the knife like a horror movie villain. “Eating spicy food is so much fun!”

“Excellent–we’re going all in then.”

Issei turned up the heat and roasted the spices in a frying pan alongside the onions, then began chopping the cuts of chicken. Soon the whole apartment was filled with the sweet, strong aromas of vegetables and sizzling spices. She stuck her nose in the air. “Smells great! I never thought of roasting spices with everything else.”

“That’s a trick I learned from my brother,” Issei said, sliding the cubed chicken in. “It makes the spices much more powerful.”

“More powerful…”

Twenty minutes later, the rice cooker beeped just as the chicken browned inside the bubbling curry sauce. Issei dipped the sauce with a teaspoon.

“Alright, you wanted spice, here’s your spice. What do you think?”

He held the spoon to Murasaki’s face, and before he realized what he was doing, she opened her mouth and brought her lips around the spoon.

“MMM, this is pretty–”

Murasaki coughed, then she stuck out her tongue while fanning it, and Issei, imagining she was breathing fire like a dragon with smoke billowing out her ears, roared with laughter.

“Itsh good but sho shpishy!” She dived in the fridge for a drink.

“We can water it down if you want.”

She began chugging a bottle of water but, surprisingly, she shook her head. “No way, let’s keep it!”

He smiled. That’s more like it. “Alright, but it’s your tongue’s funeral.”

Bowls of red curry rice in hand, they sat down on the couch and dug in. Murasaki stopped between bites to chug water, but insisted she could power through the intense heat.

“So your brother taught you how to cook?” She asked between sniffing.

He nodded. “And how to play guitar.”

“Amazing! He’s so talented.”

A cluster of memories flooded his head, including the time he was awkwardly holding an acoustic when he was thirteen. He chuckled softly. “Yeah, Tsukasa was really something.”

She tilted her head. “Was?”

Issei frowned, his hand struggling to lift the next spoonful. “He died just after highschool.”

“Oh…I’m sorry.” Murasaki sniffed, but it was probably from the spicy food.

“Ah, don’t worry about it. If anything, he’d hate me bringing him up like this. If his ghost was here, he’d probably say something like–”

He waved his spoon around and mimicked his brother’s voice.

“–hey! You talking about me? Did my brother really bring a girl over just to talk about my death? Turn around Lady, I’ll whip his ass for you!”

Murasaki doubled over laughing–the first time he’s ever heard her laugh so hard–then made choking noises and thumped her chest. Taking a huge gulp of air, she said “you can’t do that! You gotta warn me if you’re gonna crack jokes when I’m eating!”

“That’s what he would do! Did you not fight like that with your siblings?”

She shook her head. “I’m an only child.”

“Ah.” Issei stirred his bowl. “Well you didn’t really miss much. Having an older brother when you’re a kid is Hell; he hoards all the toys and games, he starts playing pranks like dumping hot sauce in your cereal, then you have to get back at him, and it’s like this arms race of one-upping the other. It only gets better when you’re older.”

“Sounds like you had a great family.”


If Issei wasn’t sitting next to her, he wouldn’t have caught what she said. It was barely more than a whisper. Murasaki wore a smile, but when she stared into her bowl with that faraway look in her eyes, Issei caught a hint of sadness behind it. He sat his curry bowl aside.

“I’m guessing you weren’t on good terms with your folks?”

She sighed, and her shoulders stiffened.

Issei began to put two-and-two together. Maybe he really did hit the nail on the head–for whatever reason, Murasaki left home and hadn’t spoken to her parents since.

He folded his arms and nodded. “I see what’s going on. Could it be your parents made that missing person’s report?”

Murasaki slumped forward, and her eyes began to shimmer which made Issei panic. He had the feeling he was about to walk on eggshells, and one wrong move would make her leave on the spot. Yet if there was any way he could help, Issei had to make that clear to her.

His voice was as calm as he could make it. “Hey…what’s all this about? Is there anything I can do?”

She tensed up. “I…”

Murasaki sniffed. “I’m not supposed to play music…or be in a band…my parents say I have to enroll into grad school and be a scientist, but just before I finished my degree, I dropped out.”

Issei thought for a moment. Takao’s in college right now, yet he still has time for the weekly ritual with Secret Prose. If Murasaki was almost done...

“Alright then.” He smiled. “If you don’t want to do it, why not at least finish up, get that shiny degree, and go back to being a musician?”

“It’s not that simple,” she said in an instant. “I went to a private school. My dad paid for the whole thing. He said I’m an investment, so he expects me to go through with it. But I don’t want to be a scientist…I love music…I love playing it, and seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces when I perform.”

There’s something he’s not getting yet. Okay, so she went to a private school so tuition isn’t cheap, but why on Earth does her dad want her to be a scientist of all things? Not only that, not once did he hear her feelings on being one, almost like–from the very start–she had no choice in the matter.

“Listen. You don’t have to be someone you’re not. Even if your dad paid for it, that’s his business. You’re an adult. If you want to be a rockstar, be a rockstar.”

It was as though Murasaki wanted nothing more than to believe him, but something sinister had its grip on her. She shuddered. Her knees tipped over her bowl of curry rice, toppling it to the floor as she buried her face in her hands.

Murasaki sucked in air and wailed. “Dad said…Dad said he’d disown me if I d-didn’t g-go back! He forced m-me to study so hard…I don’t want to go back…but he spent s-so much m-money on me…I feel so guilty! I don’t kn-know what to do! What should I do…what should I do?”

He was prepared for something ugly, but nothing like this. Besides going to grade school, a place all children go to anyway, his dad never forced him to do anything. The very idea was alien to him. How could a parent be so controlling like this? Did this father even know what he’s done?

Issei took his right hand and gently rubbed Murasaki’s back. It was the first thing that came to mind–what Issei believed he had to do–and it must have been what Murasaki needed. She leaned to her left, and her head fell on his shoulder. Issei felt every shake, every breath she took. She didn’t stop crying, but at least it was reduced to sniffling and sudden, sharp heaves.

“Parents buy things for us all the time without expecting anything in return: it’s what they’re supposed to do. I remember one Christmas Dad bought me a drone. It was pretty expensive, and that very day, I flew it through my neighbor’s window and dunked it right in their sink! I cried and cried, I was so upset. I was sure my dad would ground me on the spot. But Dad said ‘it’s okay: accidents happen.’”

He continued rubbing her back. “Point is, parents shouldn’t need to break out the damn abacus for everything expecting you to pay it back. They’ve paid for us since we were born. I don’t know a thing about your dad, but I do know he’s going too far. You’re twenty-two. You can make your own decisions.”

Murasaki lifted her head, her puffy, red eyes looking into his own. Voice cracking, she asked “how did you know I’m twenty-two?”

Issei knew he was supposed to comfort her, but her face was inches from his and that made his heart race.

“It was, uhm, on the news thingy.”

“Oh, that’s right.”

Murasaki sat up and wiped her eyes. “You’re right.”

Then she gasped. “Oh no!”

Murasaki spotted the curry she had dumped over the floor and picked up the bowl, making sure not to spill any more. “I’m so sorry! I made such a mess. Why did I do that?”

“Hey, no worries. Accidents right? I’ll clean this up.” He made his way to the kitchen. “There’s a lot more curry left if you’re still hungry.”


As Issei grabbed a broom and dustpan from the kitchen closet, he heard something vibrating in the living room.

“Oh no,” Murasaki said glumly, “it’s my band’s group chat. Ichiriki called a meeting and he wants us down at the usual spot. We have a gig tomorrow, don’t we?”

“That we do! Ah, I know what I can do.”

Murasaki stared as Issei opened the top cabinet, brought out an empty bento box, and filled it with curry and rice before handing it to her. Issei grinned. “Here. that way you can go to your meeting and still eat your seconds.”

It took a while, but finally, Murasaki smiled. “Thanks for hearing me out, Issei. I really needed it.”

He waved a hand. “Bah, it was nothing,” he said, his chest feeling light. “That’s what friends are for, right?

Issei pointed at her. “I’ll see you tomorrow, you got it? You’re gonna be a rockstar tomorrow.”

“To be a rockstar!”

Murasaki bowed. Before she slipped on her shoes and left, she waved him goodbye.

Her footsteps faded, and Issei’s apartment was quiet again. After cleaning up as best he could, he sat down on the couch and leaned back. Just a few short minutes ago, Murasaki was here, leaning on his shoulder with his arm caressing her back. What would it take for that moment to happen again?

Pope Evaristus