FEATURE: Melissa Abigail

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Melissa Abigail was born in the southern U.S.A. to South American parents, lived in the borough of Brooklyn, N.Y., and was raised in the humble suburbs of southern Ontario. A citizen of the world, she’s managed to fit in nowhere in particular but everywhere at the same time. A lifelong writer, creator and artist, she embraces thought-provoking ideas and diversity in film, fiction & life.

Excerpt from Judge by the Cover: High School, Drama & Deadly Vices (Hafu Sans Halo, Book 1)

Haruna felt a small amount of relief bubble to the surface. They were going to finish it after all. But best of all, Ryu had good ideas. Great ideas. She rested her chin in her hands and watched him thoughtfully as he looked into his copy of the Merchant of Venice. She laughed to herself, and he glanced at her with raised eyebrows.

“I was just thinking—you’re really good at this, Ryu. You’re like a natural philosopher.”

“Is that a compliment?” Ryu asked in a flat tone that matched his look of scepticism.

“I just didn’t know you had it in you is all. Why do you act like someone who doesn’t care about school when you’re this smart?”

Ryu sighed, then bobbed his shoulders.

“Because I don’t care about school. What’s the point? Why do we do anything? What motivates us? What motivates you? Besides grades, of course.”

“Well what motivates you? Are you going to say ‘nothing?’”

“I never said nothing motivates me. Just school isn’t the most important thing, that’s all.”

“Then tell me. What’s most important?”

Ryu paused. His mouth lolled open. His eyes glazed over.

“Freedom. Whether you can ever be around long enough to truly feel it or know what it means.” He paused again, the faraway look in his eyes fading as he refocused, “Anyway. Enough about that.”

Haruna was awestruck. If it were Mani, he would have spoken of his drive for success. Was it really so bad living in an orphanage? She recalled the size and how it looked, old, mysterious and charming like an enchanted fantasy castle. She also remembered the way it was secured behind a tall iron fence. Feeling trapped might have been more than a metaphor.

“It’s funny. I always thought you were some spoiled rich kid. To think you’re not like that at all,” she said.

Ryu’s brows shot up, obscured behind his thick tufts of hair. “I’m the spoiled rich kid?”

Haruna folded her arms.

“Well, your attitude—always acting like you don’t care about anything. But it’s really because deep inside, you’re hurting, right? Since you haven’t any parents—”

“Okay, let me stop you right there. Why do you always keep trying to psychoanalyse me? Like I’m one of your class projects?”

‘Psychoanalyse?’ Interesting choice of words,” Haruna jested, gesturing with air quotes. Mani always threw that word around whenever he was trying to sound smart. Ryu must have been taking a psych class, too. She wondered if he even knew what the word meant. However, Ryu didn’t look amused in the slightest.

“What’s so interesting about it?” Ryu sneered. “I guess ’cause I cut class and don’t suck up to teachers I must be a total dumbass, right?”

His tone. His brutal honesty. That’s right. She wasn’t talking to Mani; she was talking to Ryu.

“I… was just trying to understand—”

“What you’re trying to do is justify your own assumptions. You’ll never understand someone if you can’t stop assuming you already know everything about them.”

“Explain it to me, then!” Haruna had blurted it out. She shrunk in her seat. She lowered her voice, recalling where they were. “Help me understand.”

Ryu groaned, throwing his hands in exasperation.

“Why, Haruna? Why does it even matter?”

Her lower lip began to quiver. She tore her eyes from him. Why did it matter? She didn’t know the answer herself.

“You’re right,” she said. “It doesn’t. Forget I asked.”

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