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Cause what you see isn't always the truth
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June 3, 2015, late morning

Ella sat at Noah's computer table, staring at his laptop. She was logged in (even at nine years of age, Ella knew his computer password should have been more complicated than "PinaBucket") and looking at his YouTube channel. She was replaying old videos from his channel. She had gone through videos like "10 Uses for Eyeliner In The Kitchen" and "Okay, Maybe It Did Come Off That Way: A Pina Bucket Apology," and was now rewatching his video called "Noah and Pina Have Opinions: Disney Princesses." This was one of the few videos where Ella understood pretty much every joke and reference, or at least 80% of them.

Ella stared at the screen. Noah didn't have a green screen yet, so he and Pina were alternating shots in different parts of Noah's room.

"All I'm saying," Pina said, "is that if Ursula was really smart, she'd have traded legs for something that had actual weight and value. When has a red head's voice ever been considered valuable?"

"Well, it got ladies to think of Ed Sheeran as hot guitar playing sex maching instead of some pasty ginger troll," Noah said.

"True," Pina said. "Although if anything, if I was Ariel, I'd at least made sure those legs came with a nice vajayjay. I mean..."

Pina lifted one of her leg's up into the frame, putting her ankle close to her chin. She quickly looked down before looking back up into the camera.

"...I would certainly be up for wishing for a new one."

Ella laughed. She forgot how flexible Noah was from his dance classes. He had basically shown off at one of her birthday parties by doing a jump split in front of her classmates. She could touch her toes, so she was at least getting close to matching his level. It had gotten her a certificate in her P.E. class for Most Improved. Ella knew it was a silly award, but her mom and dad were quite proud of her.

Ella suddenly felt slightly down. She bit her lip and turned her head slightly away from the laptop screen. As a discussion about Belle from Beauty and the Beast came into her ears, the image of her dad kissing Noah's mom also entered her mind. She shook her head. She had tried to get that image out of her head all day, but it was as permanent as one of those cold sores on Pina's lip (that was another joke she didn't get, and for some reason, her mom wasn't willing to explain that one to her). She didn't know what to think about it. It didn't look like they were acting any differently. Noah's mom was back in her room watching the feed, while her dad was going to spend the day helping Noah's grandmother in the yard. Her mom was doing some work in the living room, giving Ella free domain to play in Noah's room.

Ella heard the door to the room start to open. She knew the rest of the family wasn't going near Noah's room, so she was still afraid of what would happen if she was seen inside the room. She quickly moved out of his chair, planning to hide under his bed. However, as she moved out of the chair, the earbuds she was wearing got caught under the corner of the laptop. This caused her to pull the laptop slightly, throwing her off balance. The earbuds were yanked out of the headphone jack as Ella fell to the floor with a loud thud.

"Ow..." she muttered.

"Ella? Are you okay?"

Ella looked up. It was Noah's grandfather. Ella looked up at Arnold, her face starting to turn red. Arnold merely closed the door behind him and stared at her.



"Oh man, I just thought of something!" Pina shouted

Ella quickly turned back to the laptop. The video was still playing, and with the earbuds removed, both she and Arnold could hear exactly what was playing

"Beauty and the Beast would be a good name for our show," Pina said.

"True," Noah replied. "People do often call me a Beauty."

"Right. So who would that make me?" Pina asked with a dumb grin on her face.

Noah appeared on screen, raising a finger, about to respond to Pina's query. But he stopped and shook his head.

"Never mind. Now, let's move on to Merida," he said.

Ella got up and paused the video. She turned to look at Arnold, a nervous smile on her face.

"I was bored..." she said, turning away from Arnold.

Arnold closed his eyes and shook his head. "I understand."

Arnold looked around the room, then walked over to Noah's closet. He opened it up, and stared at the clothes hanging.

"Have you been in here long?" he asked without looking at Ella.

"Just for part of today," Ella said. "And some time her the day before."

Ella watched as Arnold began to rifle through the closet. He stopped, then pulled out a red-sequined dress. He rubbed his fingers over the sequins, looking at how low cut the dress was.

"Did Noah really wear something like this?" Arnold asked Ella.

"He did in one of his videos," Ella said. "It was about something like Pina Bucket's weird family history or something."

"Was it weird?"

"Yeah. A lot of cousins marrying cousins and war being declared against random animal species," Ella said. "Didn't you watch it?"

Arnold shook his head. He put the dress back in the closet.

"I never did."

"Oh..." Ella said.

Arnold continued to push clothes on the Pina side down the bar. He then paused and pulled something else out. It was a gorilla costume.

"This was my old costume," Arnold said. "I wore this for Halloween when Noah was six."

"He wore that on top of a Poison Ivy costume," Ella said. "My mom took him to perform at a club."

"Oh. So that's why he took it..."

Arnold looked over the costume. He let out a sigh.

"He was a banana that year."


"For Halloween. I was a gorilla, his mom was Jane from Tarzan, and he was a banana. We wanted to have a theme when we went trick-or-treating. So we found a costume where he was dressed like a little banana with arms and legs sticking out of it. He was really excited to be a banana."


"Yeah. I remember saying it was because he was 'ap-peal-ing.' He then went to every house and told everyone he was 'ap-peal-ing' the whole night. He wasn't just a banana, he was the most appealing banana in Kingman."

Ella laughed a bit. Arnold smiled a bit, but his smile then disappeared. He put the gorilla costume back in the closet.

"I never got why he loved being a banana so much," Arnold said. "Then again, I guess he does love 'bananas' because he's such a fruit..."

"What?" Ella asked.

Arnold looked at the girl. She looked completely confused by that last statement.

"Ah, never mind. You're too young to get it," Arnold said.

"I know what 'fruit' means," Ella said. "He explains it in one of his videos."

"Oh. He does?"

"Don't you watch his videos?" Ella asked.

Arnold paused. "Of course. All the time."

"Then why didn't you know that?"

Arnold was silent. Ella looked at the older gentleman as he slowly turned away from her.

"Okay, fine. I haven't watched any of his videos," Arnold said. "I've seen bits from when Kelly or Edie is watching them, but I don't go out of my way to watch them."

"Why not?" Ella asked.

Arnold sighed. "I just haven't wanted to. I mean, it's kind of weird. He puts on women's clothing, a weird voice, and makes videos about makeup and celebrities, filled with dirty jokes and stuff. I don't get it."

"But a lot of shows do that," Ella said. "Like, on TV. Noah's not the first to do those sort of things."

"I know. I just can't watch it if it's Noah."

"Why not?"

Arnold struggled to respond.

"I just can't. That's all."

Arnold turned away from Ella. Ella put her hand to her chin and thought about it. Arnold had been away from everyone the last few days. Her dad said Arnold was always a bit of an emotionless jerk, but Ella wasn't so sure if that was true.

"Sir," Ella began, "do you dislike Noah for doing these videos?"

Arnold turned to Ella.

"What? How could I dislike my only grandson?"

"But you don't like the videos."

Arnold paused, then spoke. "Well...look, Kingman's not really the town that would accept this sort of thing. I mean, if it's for Saturday Night Live, they like it. No one's really supposed to be flashy and crazy here. When Noah was younger, it was fine, but now...I just don't want him to get treated poorly. There are some terrible people in town who would love nothing more than to pull him into their truck, beat him up and throw him in a ditch somewhere to die."

"There are people who would kidnap him for no reason to watch him die on an island somewhere," Ella responded.

"Yes, my worst fear is being realized," Arnold said. "I just...I worry about him. I've lived through wars, economic recessions, and all kinds of pandemonium, and I always thought it was best to be calm and carry on without drawing so much attention to myself. And yet Noah puts himself out there for such scrutiny, and in a town that can't do him any good. He may be happy, but I know his happiness could end with him hospitalized or crippled or worse. I don't know why he'd put on the wig and makeup when it could all be snatched from him so easily and..."

Arnold felt his eyes start to water, so he quickly turned away from Ella to rub them. Ella slowly walked over to Arnold, who was now covering his mouth. She put herself by Arnold's side and wrapped her arms around him. Arnold was startled, but looked down at the girl.

"He does it because he loves it," Ella said. "He loves his life, and it's all worth it to him."

Arnold could feel the girl tightening her hug. He couldn't see it, but he was sure she was starting to tear up too. Arnold put his hand on Ella's head, patting it.

"Well, with a sister like you, I'm sure it's all worth it," Arnold said.

Arnold's eyes looked back from Ella to the computer.

"Hey, could you maybe find one of Noah's funniest videos and show it to me?" he asked.

Ella looked up.

"Really?" she asked.

Arnold nodded. "Sure. What's your favorite one?"

Ella let go of Arnold. "Um, I like one of his lip sync videos. He also does a funny one about high school and-"

Before Ella could continue, she was interrupted by a sound. A scream erupted through the Whitley house. Both Arnold and Ella turned towards the door of Noah's room. The scream sounded close, possibly from a room nearby.

"Kelly?" Arnold said in response to the cry.
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