“Yul, I’ve got something I need to say,” said Rog. “I’m not sure why I didn’t say this sooner, but, well—“

Yul sat up, opened her teary eyes and smeared her little fists across her face. “Rog, before you say anything, there’s something you need to know.”

“Baby—“

“Let me finish.” Rog sat up and Yul summoned her courage in what was only a second but seemed to both like a minute or more. “My name is not Yul.”

If Rog was a clock, he just stopped ticking; as he would later say, for one of the few times in my life, I had no response. He knew all was not right with her past and that she was not the one that was suppose to be on Bravo and had concluded that perhaps some sort of foul play was involved, something that Yul felt the need to hide, or at least not disclose. He had made peace with that picture. This name thing, however, caught him off-guard and his heart sank as if those five words had moved his peg back to the starting line.

“Rog?” Yul snapped her fingers. “I’m right here baby. Talk to me.”

“Sorry, Yu–.” Rog hesitated, hoping something intelligent would pop in his head, like real fast. “Okay, let me say two things.” Then he hesitated and rubbed his jaws as if they were rusty and needing oil, as if the rubbing would loosen his sticky hinges of articulation.

“Okay, whenever you are ready,” said Yul, filling the uncomfortable silence with a tone tinged with fear not unfamiliar. She rarely opened herself up because the few times she had, instead of love and understanding, she was judged and convicted. The pain of self-righteous condemnation was not a feeling she wanted to ever experience again. As Rog hesitated, she braced herself like one on the ground expecting to see the foot and not the hand.

“First, I don’t care what your name is, the person I see in front of me and the person I have come to know and love does not change with a label. Good milk is good milk, my dad used to always say, and don’t ever let no salesman convince you otherwise.”

Yul tried to laugh. “What the hellocks does that mean?”

Rog smiled that smile that only he could. “It means I love you, not your name, not your past, not my idea of who I think you are. I love you Yu–, or, well, crap, I forgot my second question. Not that it matters, but, what is your name?”

“I was called Alyssa, or Aly for short. Yul is my identical twin sister’s name.”

“You have an identical twin sister?”

“Stop it. I know that look. I’m serious Rog.”

“I know you are baby, but an identical twin. Give me a minute.”

“Imagine all you want, she was nothing like me. In fact, quite the opposite.”

“Sooooo . . . ?” (said slowly and softly as if he was tip-toeing through a minefield)

“So, you want to know why I’m onboard and she isn’t?”

“Yes. No. I mean . . . “

“Spit it out.”

“I mean yes, I want to know the story, but no, it don’t matter. As I said, what is done is done and that doesn’t change good milk to bad.”

“Her name was on the manifest. So, I assumed it.”

“I figured as much. You don’t have to share with me why if you don’t want to.”

“Ranch boy, it’s not a matter of want as much as need. You deserve to know and I need to walk to the edge and face an old fear. So I reckon, as you might say, we have a mutual interest.” Yul reached out and took Rog’s hands as she leaned forward. “But I need to ask you one thing first?”

“Sure.”

“When I fall, will you catch me?”

Rog smiled with eyes like full moons sitting on the horizon of his rising cheeks. “I think I can answer that question in one word: abso-frailing-lutely!”

And so Yul began to talk, and a lightness she had never felt came upon her as if each piece of her story was a rock taken from her shoulders, presented to Rog, and laid upon the floor.

Categories: Story, Rog, Yul, Paintings

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