VENTURES OF THE SECRET SPIES
“Hurry, block the door before someone suspects anything...Learn MoreVENTURES OF THE SECRET SPIES “Hurry, block the door before someone suspects anything!” Alarice whispered urgently to her friend. Without speaking, Juniper got to work, placing the wooden chair against the door. Alarice helped her with it, both managing to be as silent as a mouse. They peeped through the small opening in the heavy wooden door as the last of their classmates strolled out of the class as the recess bell rang. Chattering and laughter filled the corridors as a mass of students flooded out from their classrooms and headed towards the canteen. “Coast is clear,” Juniper murmured. They smiled slyly at each other. Turning their backs to the door, they stepped forth to the cupboard opposite the door. Alarice and Juniper were in year 5. Their classroom was at the end of the third floor; the first class. In their school, it was customary for the classes at the ends of the building to have built in store rooms right at the back of both corners of the class. Their classmates often used them as changing rooms before Physical Education classes; the one on the left by the corridor for the girls and the other on the right for the boys. The girls’ storeroom A.K.A changing room was usually adorned with their art projects on the wooden paneled walls, and held a variety of things like art supplies, extra curtains, brooms, dust pans, dusters and etc. For a store room, it was fairly proper and neat with just enough light seeping through the embossed glass window, illuminating the room. Alarice would like to think of it as a sauna or a chalet with poor ventilation. As for the boys’ room, its size and interior structure was similar to the girls but somewhat mundane. It really did project the image of a storeroom. Well, guys couldn’t be bothered to decorate it now, could they? The only plus point of that room was the ventilation thanks to the missing glass panes on the window. It was quite dangerous, honestly. But thankfully, the guys of that class weren’t that uncivilized to try climbing out of the topmost floor through a window. Not that anyone has seen it… perhaps they did. Who knows? So, the boys’ storeroom had this huge metal cupboard. It was often used by the class teacher to store fairly important items. Items belonging to the class that she would like to have at her disposal. A few days ago, the girls noticed that their teacher stored a large amount of thick white files into the cabinet. They were the students’ personal detail files. Each student of that school had one. They contained personal information, family background, collection of report cards, dental and vaccination records and a whole bunch of other data. To anyone else, it would be just a bunch of useless information. On the contrary, to these 11 year olds, it was a treasure trove of knowledge yearning to be discovered and to be relished. ‘What business do they have with an access to a bunch of personal data?’ you may wonder. Well, they have had these ‘specimens of interest’ that they would like to study. By specimens, I meant some of their classmates. Two guys in particular along with their minions. No, no… they didn’t have a crush on them; let’s not get any wild ideas here! In fact they often see them as a nuisance. Those boys often annoyed them with their loud personalities and pranks. Alarice often falls victim to their little shenanigans. They were mischievous. Nevertheless, smart. That was what had made them intrigued. They were eager to learn more about them but rather it be an undercover effort instead of taking a blunt and direct approach. Why? Simply because playing spies was more fun. Their brains were hardwired as such. They were a secret pair of ‘self-trained spies’ as they would call themselves. Silly as it was to an adult, this was serious business to them. It gave them a purpose. It was their confidential surreptitious venture. It was what had made them best friends. Holding steadfast to the belief “Knowledge is Power,” they would like to delve into as much information as they could regarding their subjects. Knowing it all, made them less susceptible to the ‘tortures’ of their subjects, also their foes in this case. They could belt out any information that know of them based on their observations and it would do enough to baffle them. It certainly did work before. It was their ‘weapon’’. Secret weapon. The girls stood staring in awe of the large structure. It was almost 2 heads taller than them. Without wasting precious time, Alarice & Juniper opened the doors as softly as they could. They had to get their business over with in under 30 minutes; before recess ends. The metal door made a creaking sound. They winced. Hoping that nobody heard it, they went on to skim through the student files. It was placed on the second shelf parallel to them. That certainly did save them the trouble of climbing. Alarice checked through the pile on the right while Juniper managed the left. “Got one!” Alarice exclaimed. Juniper stopped in her tracks. She leaned in by her friend as Alarice held the precious data in the palm of her hands. They both silently read the information on the cover. It belonged to Veer. Subject number 2. The front cover held his passport sized photograph, stuck right in the middle. Both girls suppressed their giggles. He looked funny. Well, everyone does in their passport sized photo, don’t they? His eyes looked sleepy. His lids probably were about to flick down. He had a forced smile; no teeth in sight. The photographer probably took that shot while his facial muscles got tired of smiling, causing him to look awkward. He wore a colourful striped shirt that popped against the bright blue background. This one is the close friend of their primary specimen; subject number 1 and the right-hand man of their little ‘gang’. They then read the inside of the front cover. It contained his family background. Ahhh… yes. This was EXACTLY what they had been looking for. The girls exchanged glances with a glint in their eyes; familiar only to one another. Their mouths curved in a satisfied smile. They’ve hit their jackpot! “Oh, no wonder his mum doesn’t have the typical Indian face. She is a Christian.” “How can you tell?” Alarice asked. “Look at his grandfather’s name,” she gestured. “BINGO!” Alarice replied. They read on. “There’s his address,” said Alarice. Juniper quickly jotted it down in her mini notepad with a pencil. Also taking down the telephone number just in case. “Could be useful in the future,” Alarice smirked. “Hmm… so, he does live nearby,” Juniper said. She also stays in the neighborhood by the school. Alarice could count on her to track down where this subject lives. “Hey, this is by the main road. I bet we’ve passed by that road one too many times,” Juniper claimed as she envisaged. “Perfect to keep an eye on, don’t you think?” Alarice asked her friend who only nodded. “What we need to know is where he came from” Juniper said. “Yeah. I’ve never seen him before. He seems to have appeared out of nowhere,” Alarice agreed. They scanned the column with the information about his past schools. “I’ve never heard of such a school before,” Alarice confessed. “It’s not from around this town, I can tell you that,” Juniper answered. “It appears to be located in Subang Jaya. Hmmm… a pretty high-end area,” Alarice said. “I wonder how he ended up here,” Juniper posed her question. “That might have to do with the fact that his father is a business man,” Alarice suggested, recalling what they have just read. “Yeah, they probably just moved here,” Juniper agreed. They guzzled down as much information as they could and then moved on to their next target. It did not take too long to find the file of subject number 1, Aryan. “Oh... this one lives nearby too!” Juniper exclaimed with a mixture of delight and surprise. “All the better,” Alarice winked. “We need to track down where they live,” Juniper said as Alarice nodded. “As far as we know, he walks back home from school down the road next to the field. What can we conclude from there…?” Alarice tested. “He doesn’t live too far from the school…” Juniper finished. “Precisely,” Alarice agreed. “I pass by that road on my way home. I can track him down one of these days. Shouldn’t be that difficult,” Alarice said confidently. They then learnt of his siblings. They knew he had an older sister but little did they know he had another. “Hmm… the youngest, eh?” Juniper mumbled. “They say that the youngest is the most mischievous…” “Who are this THEY that you always speak of?” Alarice questioned with an eyebrow raised. “Huh..." she paused. "I... don't know..." Juniper admitted, baffled almost. "I often hear the adults say it but nobody has ever told me who exactly are ‘they’” Juniper replied chuckling. Alarice couldn't help but to let out a cackle at her friend's response. They then skimmed through the files of their subjects' minions. As they were deeply engrossed with them, it suddenly struck Juniper. “What time is it?” she asked, tensed. Before she Alarice could even start, the second recess bell rang. “Oh, no! We’ve run out of time!” Juniper panicked. They were actually done. They’ve got all the data that they came scavenging for. All that was left to do was to exit that room without rousing any suspicions. Alarice and Juniper tucked back the files into the pile, arranging it neatly as it was before. They then closed the creaky door as quietly as they could manage. They tiptoed over to the door and peeked through the little jagged hole again. “Yikes! The prefect is still here,” Juniper informed her friend in a hushed tone. “Let me see,” said Alarice as she took her turn at the peep hole. “We have to make sure we’re not caught or else we’re in for a BIG TROUBLE. We’re not supposed to be in class during recess,” Juniper urged. “I have a plan,” Alarice assured. She looked at her friend and briefed her on their escape strategy. “The prefect will only be here until the students arrive. She’ll probably get down on the staircase right next to her instead of the staircase down the middle of the building.” “How certain are you?” Juniper asked. “Well, I’m just assuming," she heaved nervously. "After all, she looks like a year 6 student. Their classes are on the other block. She has to get down somehow. That staircase is the shortest way there,” Alarice reasoned. “Makes sense. Then what?” “Then, it all comes down to perfect timing. We shall lie in wait until some of our classmates enter. If we are inside before the others arrive, they’ll notice that we weren’t at the assembly hall,” Alarice continued. “That’s true. So, when exactly do we get out of here? And that too unnoticed?” Juniper pushed on. “When a few of them get in, we’ll wait for them to turn their backs to this door. And then, we'll sneak out. Wait for my cue,” Alarice instructed. “Alright!” Juniper nodded, hoping against all hope that the plan would not fail. “Remember, when you get out, act casual. As if we are just back from recess as everyone else,” Alarice reminded while Juniper shook her head in agreement. They took one last look around the room to check if they’ve left anything behind. Any telling clues at all that they've been there. Nope. All accounted for. Their focus then shifted to their escape plan. The wooden chair that blocked the exit had been moved out of the way. “Yes, the prefect is moving towards the stairs. That means the students are going to come in any second now,” Alarice said, her eyes fixed onto the hole. “Okay, get ready Juniper!” an urgency resounded in her voice. One… three… and then six… Their other classmates began to walk in. The second the last of their backs were turned to where the spies were hiding, Alarice grabbed Juniper’s wrist, opened the door and crept out of the room in one swift move. She quickly shifted to stand facing the windows on their left just outside the door that overlooked a patch of land. Juniper did the same. As they pretended to look outside, they recomposed themselves. They steadied their breathing and put on a calm face as though nothing had happened. The spies grinned at each other gladly. And as if on cue, they turned away and nonchalantly made their way to their seats. Mission accomplished. ... Read more
I want to write a book.
The greatest story the world has ever read. It's going to be a runaway world's best seller. My book will be #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list. All the TV talk show hosts will want to interview me and give their ratings a boost. Too bad there's no more Oprah. Publisher's wil...Learn MoreI want to write a book. The greatest story the world has ever read. It's going to be a runaway world's best seller. My book will be #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list. All the TV talk show hosts will want to interview me and give their ratings a boost. Too bad there's no more Oprah. Publisher's will be lining up to get me to sign on the dotted line for my next dozen books. I'll appear on the cover of Time Magazine. There will be red carpets and fancy dinners to attend, autographs to sign, photo shoots to pose for and overwhelming meet-the-fans sessions. There may even be a movie deal in the offing, I'm betting. I will, of course, play the leading role. The producers will try and get me committed to star in the numerous sequels and prequels that will undoubtedly follow. Of course, I will be a shoo-in for Author of The Year in every poll. A slew of awards will follow: The Pulitzer Prize, Man Booker Prize, The John Newbery Medal, Edgar Award, National Book Critics Award...I need to clear up enough space on the mantle. That's going to be a bit of a hassle. Now all I got to do is to start writing. Easy peasy. Dust out the old typewriter and churn out page after page of literary genius and perfection. Why didn't I do this sooner? Now let's see...where do I start? I want to craft a story so gripping, so moving, you won't even want to put the book down, first page to last. There will be brilliant characters that readers will fall in love with, a fast-moving story line that will build up to the super climax and just when you thought it was over, there would be an unexpected mind-bending twist at the end that will blow everyone away! Wow! I can't wait to read the book myself! Now I just need to get the creative juices flowing and then there will be no stopping me. I can just see the words in my mind now, forming, coming together naturally, beautifully. I just need that one spark, that single brilliant idea, that would explode on to the page in a kaleidoscope of awesomeness. Just one moment of genius to get going. Anytime now... It's just that everything I think of, someone has already written about. Like my my incredible original idea about the adventures of a boy wizard, Larry Totter. But some lady with a couple of initials in her name wrote half a dozen books about another boy wizard. Potter, or something, was his name. LOL. How silly. Or what about the other super cool idea I had? I had dreamed up a whole universe of characters and fantasy lands. There were dwarves and wizards and elves and I wanted to tie them all together in a life and death quest for a magical ring. Would you believe it? Someone went and wrote "Lord Of The Rings." What are the odds? I missed it by this much. I did not give up. I thought would just edit my story, change it up a little. Instead of fantasy creatures, I thought I would stick with human beings this time. I will have kings and soldiers, princesses and priests. Multiple warring kingdoms, all fighting for the Throne of this land called Westeros, a name I made up. I even thought I'd throw in three dragons and a zombie army for fun. Then I was watching TV one day, and guess what? Unbelievable! It's frustrating to have my ideas hijacked one by one but what can I do? I can't give up. I have to keep going. Sooner or later, I'll hit on that million dollar story. I know I'm getting closer. I can almost smell it. I thought I almost had it one time with my brilliant story of a powerful mafia family. But it was not to be. They came up with The Godfather and milked it all the way to Godfather II and Godfather III. Dinosaurs rampaging on a remote island. Sorry. Jurassic Park. A ferocious shark attacking innocent bathers frolicking in the sea. Nope. Jaws. An alien being lands on earth and becomes best friends with a little boy. ET. All these stories originated in my mind in the privacy of my home. I'm beginning to wonder if my house is bugged. I had scribbled the story outlines, the plot's twists and turns and the myriad of different characters on hundreds of pieces of paper. All ready to be born on to the pages of my best-seller books. Instead, all of a sudden, I'm seeing Don Vito Corleone making an offer no one can refuse, velociraptors and tyrannosauruses running wild, great white sharks chomping on a woman and ET telling Elliot he wants to phone home. Can you believe it? How are they doing this? Is someone watching me? Are they going through my garbage every day? Is someone peering over my shoulders? I would not say the ideas are drying up but it is getting harder and harder by the day. I have to say it is a little discouraging. At this rate, how am I going to come up with great idea for my book if they keep getting stolen? I have attempted many genres. Thrillers, mysteries, horror, drama...you name it and I can tell you hundreds of ideas I had come up with and all lost to one or another of those big-time "authors". Now what can I write? What can I write.... Wait a minute! I think I have got it! Science fiction! This is my ticket to the big time! How about an epic space adventure! I can just see it now. Space ships. Futuristic weapons. There are the good guys, the bad guys, the ugly guys. It is the eternal good versus bad scenario. But in space! How cool would that be! No time to lose. The paper is in the typewriter. I wriggle my fingers. I'm ready to go. My head is swimming with all the characters and their dialogues. I can even see what the ending is going to be. It is going to be explosive! Mind-blowing! Like nothing anyone has ever read or seen before! I type the first words of what is going to be my epic best seller... A LONG TIME AGO IN A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY...... ... Read more
My world was turned upside down. I lost control, I had to let loose. I wasn’t prepared for this. I never thought that I would find myself in this position. Every move I made was calculated and recalculated. There was no room for error, but here I am. Sitting alone in a hot box with no one else. Cramped. I never thought it would come to this.
It all b...Learn MoreMy world was turned upside down. I lost control, I had to let loose. I wasn’t prepared for this. I never thought that I would find myself in this position. Every move I made was calculated and recalculated. There was no room for error, but here I am. Sitting alone in a hot box with no one else. Cramped. I never thought it would come to this. It all begins a day ago. I was a nobody, just a face in the crowd. If my life had colour, it would be grey. Until I met someone. Someone very special. And yes, it’s was a woman. Of course. I met Lily through a friend. All great relationships begin with “that friend”. The one that introduced you guys together. I thought to myself, “Why did I meet Lily? Oh, right! Karen.” Karen, “that friend,” talked me up to her friend Lily. A lil’ doll that just got out of a nasty relationship and was ready to meet someone who she hoped was capable of changing her mind on men forever. So, Karen was out one-night having dinner with Lily and it just so happened that, I was there as well. We bumped into each other and the small and awkward introduction was made. After exchanging pleasantries, I left. Never thought about that moment at all, ever again as a matter of fact. But my heart still flutters until today when I think back to that exact time. The day after that in the office, Karen walked into the office enthusiastically with a big smile on her face. She looked straight at me and smiled. It was the kind of smile that you knew was bad news. She pulled up a seat next to mine and said, “So, my friend Lily thinks you’re cute,” oh, boy! Here we go. I smiled at her and said, “Oh, really! She was kind of cute too.” Her smile then reached from ear-to-ear. That smile. It’s vicious I’m telling you. “You guys should go out sometime!” exclaimed Karen in excitement. Her voice was so loud that the sound of fingers typing away on keyboards floating in the air just stopped and I could feel the gaze from the rest of my colleagues’ eagle eyes. I just nodded my head in agreement and Karen gave me her number and told me to drop her a message whenever I was free. At that moment, Karen snapped at me and said, “When you’re free actually means, as soon as you’re free” Yes, boss! Most definitely. There’s no point in arguing about all these things with Karen. It’ll just be a losing battle. So, I dropped Lily a message immediately. I was free after all. My desk was filled to the brim with dull stacks of white paper eager to just drown me, but I dropped her a message anyway. It was just one of those days that I felt like running away from my responsibilities. Don’t judge me! At some point in your life, you’ve done the same thing as well. I don’t want you to get the impression that I didn’t have the mood to text Lily or anything. A lot of thought went into writing the well-crafted and exquisite text that I sent her. I typed, “Hey there. How are you?’ Before you judge me, we are all adults here and we don’t have time to write poems just to impress you ladies, like how when your guitar-playing-rocker boy ex used to. Not all of us are emotionally damaged until we resort to picking up the guitar to learn 4 chords and write a badly written song that deserves to be the soundtrack of an awfully produced B-grade porno. “Did you text her?” asked Karen from her desk with half of her head peeking over the dividers. “Yes. I did” was the only reply I could muster. “Oh, what did you say? What was her reply?” Karen asked. At this point, I felt like I had fulfilled my quota for speaking for the day, so I just passed my phone to Karen. What a mistake that was. I don’t know what happened, but after 15 minutes all I knew was that I had a dinner date the next day with Lily. At this point, my jaw dropped to the floor. What would usually take me at least 3 months to achieve, Karen did in just 15 minutes. How amazing was that? I thought to myself thinking back about it. So, it was the big day. I would lie to myself if I said that I wasn’t nervous at all. I woke up, took an hour long shower and I spent at least 30 minutes on my hair. It just wasn’t right. Everything had to be perfect. My shirt almost got burnt when I was trying to get rid of a crease, for only the second time in my life I put on aftershave and just in case, I packed my deodorant into my bad as well. Who knows when it might come in handy right? And, as an extra safety precaution, I bought some mints as well. As I walked through the office, I glanced at Karen and she gave me that “I’m impressed” look. Well, she better be. If I can’t even impress Karen, what more a stranger I’m going to meet for the first time? Needless to say, I was feeling very confident. I couldn’t remember the last time I felt this way. But, all I knew was that I was happy. Very happy! The day went on like every other mundane day. Meetings after meetings were attended, my huge stack of papers was slowly disappearing, adding on to my happiness. As I handed in my last task for the day to my boss, he said, “I’ve never seen you so happy sending in your work.” And trust me, you never will again. Finally, it was time. I drove as fast as I could to the restaurant that we agreed on. When I say “we” I meant Karen and Lily. It was this place that served cuisine that was a fusion between Italian and Korean. Not something I would normally eat, but why not give it a try right? I do need some excitement in my life. I arrived 10 minutes early and had a beer while I waited. All the while I waited, I kept glancing at the doors. I was nervous, yet excited. I had butterflies in my stomach, my palms were sweaty and you guys know the rest. To occupy my mind, I looked through the menu. I might as well have picked up a booked written in Japanese. I couldn’t understand a thing! Until I saw something familiar, a dish called fish and chips. I was surprised that the restaurant served it. But, I wasn’t going to complain. Nothing can go wrong with good ol’ fish and chips, right? When in doubt, always go for fish and chips. I looked up from the menu to take another sip of my beer and there she was. I’ve never met anyone who looked so beautiful. I rarely go out of the house, but still. She was gorgeous! She wore a black dress that complimented her curves and her lips must have been as red as my face. A girl in a black dress with red lips. Can never go wrong with that combination. Flustered, I got up and tipped my beer as I put down the menu and the beer almost spilled onto her dress. “I’m not exactly off to a good start here am I?” I said to her as I chuckled nervously while trying to wipe the sweat off my palms on my pants. She just smiled at me. That smile. I’ll never forget that smile. It was the sort of smile that reassured me that it was ok for me to be nervous. I pulled her seat for her and so it began. She ordered a glass of red wine and we started hitting it off. It was great! She’s the type of girl who worked hard to get to where she is now and yet, humble. She gave me the impression that we could have just went for dinner at a mamak stall and it would have been fine by her. All was well in my world. Then, our dinner came. She recommended to try a pasta dish, but I’ve already set my heart on fish and chips. She went had her pasta and I had my fish and chips. The conversation continued. We talked about our jobs and took a trip down memory lane to the times when we were in college and realised that we actually went to the same college! What are the odds? Then it happened. I had a gut feeling that this would happen after she encouraged me to try her pasta. After all that planning of laying out my clothes the night before, after almost burning my shirt, after spending what felt like an eternity on my hair and bringing my deodorant along just in case, I found myself here. Cramped in this hot box. Suffering, hoping that the pain will go away. It’s been almost 45 minutes now that I was trapped in here. I wonder if Lily is ok. I wonder what happened to her. All that wondering and thinking could not distract me from the pain I was feeling. 15 minutes passed. That makes it an hour now and all that came out was a fart. I knew I shouldn’t have tried her pasta. ... Read more
“Hey Sue Ann, Alex, how’s it going,” Jim, my ang moh boyfriend of 8 years casually greeted my mum and dad at the door of our semi-detached house, as he leaned in to shake my dad’s hand, who looked hugely unimpressed, and hugged and pecked my mum on the cheek.
Rule number one...Learn More “Hey Sue Ann, Alex, how’s it going,” Jim, my ang moh boyfriend of 8 years casually greeted my mum and dad at the door of our semi-detached house, as he leaned in to shake my dad’s hand, who looked hugely unimpressed, and hugged and pecked my mum on the cheek. Rule number one; never address the Chinese elders by their first name. It is either aunty, uncle, Mr or Mrs. Actually he could have scored extra points if he had gone for Dr with my dad, who just received his PhD. I cringed and threw him a death glare. That was a ‘oh no you didn’t just do that, you’re in trouble’ glare, something that I had been doing quite a lot in the short 2 hours since he landed in Penang. Maybe convincing him to fly 17 hours from London to meet the whole family was a bad idea after all. I could already feel my parents and sisters’ hot stares piercing through the back of my neck and the overflowing love I felt for him up till a few hours before he arrived when I waited excitedly at the airport’s arrivals, quickly dissipated, replaced with dread. I am gonna kill you Jim. What’s so hard about calling them uncle and aunty. Or Mrs Lim and Sir. Simple! But no… typical I-can-get-away-with-anything-coz-I’m-ang moh-Jim thought he knew better. I looked hard at his forehead with a painful plastered smile, mentally willing my inner Buddhist powers to inflict pain on him. And if possible, to give him Buddha’s wisdom to last for two weeks in the Lim household. Oh… just look at the cute creases on his forehead when he smiles and those beautiful deep blue eyes. And that broad, hunky shoulders I wish I could melt into… Oh crap snap out of it Ling! I chastised myself for getting so easily distracted. But let’s face it, I’ve done well. Jim is hot! Jim is ang moh, what we Malaysians normally call foreigners or white people. In direct translation, it means red haired, which does not make much sense as not all white people are red-headed. Sometimes we refer to them as ang moh kau, red haired monkeys; which is quite endearing rather than rude. The mere connotation could be likened to how sunburned or red white people turn into when exposed to the sun. I met ang moh Jim when I left Penang to study in England. Unlike other fairytale stories, it was not love at first sight. There was no instant connection nor hours of long conversations. We had nothing in common. Nada. Zilch. When I first spotted ang moh Jim's headful of blonde hair, you know, the type you read about in Mills & Boon and would die to run your hand through, was at a dingy local club. What drew me to him was his easy-going, fun personality. Blinded by all 180cm of striking good looks, I took him for my favourite character Mr Darcy, and we went out on numerous dates although we were quiet most of the time. I only found out later that he did not understand my Malaysian-English accent. He said I murdered English. Nice. Nobody thought we could last, but here we were, ready for him to meet the parents. Before I could try salvage the situation, Jim walked through the doors, into the house, in all of his Puma trainers glory. Rule number 2; you never, never, ever, not in this lifetime, wear outside shoes into a Chinese home. It is utterly disrespectful. Uggh…I’m seriously going to kill him. I want to wrap my hands round that sweaty sexy neck, ok sorry got carried away there, neck, the neck, and strangle him. How many times, even back in England have I told him to take off his freaking shoes at the door? I shuffled next to him, trying to subtly get his attention and order him to take off his incriminating Pumas, but it was too late. My mum had spotted him in his shoes, on her spotless marble floor in the living room. She looked like she was about to run to the balcony, grab the mop and pour all 10 bottles of disinfectant right from the front door, all the way to the kitchen and up the flight of stairs, as Jim traipsed around with my dad who was giving a house tour. I cannot say I blame her. I felt the exact same way when he wore his shoes into my rented studio flat in London when we first dated. All I could think of during that first kiss, was ‘oh my god, his shoes are staining my cream carpet!’ You see, it is uncommon to have to remove shoes in the Western world like us Asians. I mentally deducted points for Jim’s behaviour and his memory power in spite of the long hours I had prepped him on the Lim’s Chinese values. 20 points for showing up empty handed for the family, 20 points for the lack of correct salutation, 10 points for non-removal of shoes, 10 for not shaving, another 10 for wearing the horrendous chavvy jeans which the father despises… “You must be starving. It was such a long flight. All those hours must have left you hungry,” mum said much too enthusiastically, probably in a bid to distract her mind from the offending Pumas. “No, no I’m alright. They serve meals on planes you know…” Jim said and laughed. Careful Jim. Easy on the sarcasm. Be agreeable, smile, repeat. Like a good Chinese boy… in this case, an ang moh with 4 months of Chinese training, which is proving to be a massive flop. I stared, warning him. Maybe he could not see me glaring. I do have small slanty eyes to be fair. The youngest of 5 girls, we had a strict upbringing and our family was conservative. We were not allowed to attend house parties, have friends of the opposite sex and did what we were told. All these simply because my father grew up as a poor boy and was often mistreated by his stepmother. He turned to education to build himself a future, and it was his sheer discipline that resulted in his successes, a quality that he expected all of his daughters to follow suit. The outcome; we were nice, obedient, Chinese girls. Suddenly aware that my dear mother was trying to wrestle-feed Jim some durians, I looked at Jim with my puppy eyes, imploring him to have a taste, although I knew that he would probably hate it. Or worse, throw up at the expensive D24 and ang heh! “No, no, it smells disgusting! It smells like a garbage truck,” Jim put his hands protectively over his mouth, all the while resisting my petite mother’s attempts at trying to get him to eat a mouthful. Geez, it’s not that bad. Suck it up big guy! Don't you dare wretch. Don't you dare even make a gagging sound! It was quite a sight watching my mother's petite frame trying to force-feed someone three times her size! “You don’t know how to eat? You’ll like it once you’ve tried it,” she said in typical Chinese fashion when we assume that a no means a resounding yes. Rule number 3; eat when you are told. It might make you sick but it would not kill you. The conversation quickly transformed from a request to endless pleading and finally full-on passive-aggressive mode on both sides. To deflate the situation, Jim playfully pulled me into a bear hug and smacked a huge kiss on my lips. There was total silence. Followed by an unnecessary bottom squeeze. Oooo... Ling, quikcly, put on a I-was-totally-caught-by-surprise-have-no-idea-what-he's-doing-coz-we-don't-do-things-like-these look. I'm going to inflict so much pain on him later he'd wish he was back in London! At that moment, I swore I heard my dad's dragon breath.We are in trouble. Period. Rule number 4; keep your hands off Chinese daughters. Any form of intimacy is frowned upon. In the Lim household, you do not, will not, in under any circumstance touch the females. Chinese daughters are prized possessions in a Chinese home. All fathers like to think that their little girls only have one man in their lives, their fathers. And my father was no different. Stern and unbending, dad liked to think that all his girls were innocent, pure and untainted; meaning practically a kiss virgin. It was only 30 minutes of stepping into the family home, and the ang moh had broken 4 important rules. Silently, I prayed. May all of the universe’s forces combine and help you gain my parents’ favour… especially if you were to survive long enough and ask for their permission for my hand in marriage. ... Read more
If I could cast a spell that would turn my best friend, ...Learn MoreMARIA If I could cast a spell that would turn my best friend, Zachary, into any other species on earth, I would make him into a piranha. He ate like one. He could gobble up food meant for three – in three minutes – and then demanded for more. He had told me with his usual self-deprecating manner, “It’s okay if I get fat… it’s not like they will notice my figure when they are noticing my skin color, ” “Yes, imagine being fat, all those extra flesh encased in shiny black exterior…one could never miss such fine specimen of human elegance, I am sure.” was my charming repartee. Zachary visibly gritted his teeth. “What is it with you and being racist?” “What is it with you and being manipulative?” Zachary fell silent. See? Being a smart person, he got the point. Zachary loved bringing up about how racist the whole school was towards him. Once, he had even accused the whole Australia of being guilty of the crime of racism. I objected at his excessive overgeneralization, of course, because I was not racist and I was very Australian! To this, he had said, "Well, that is because you had benefited from my constant enlightening influence." Yes, for someone with supposed self-esteem issues secondary to constant racial discrimination, he sure can be conceited. When we were in Year 1, I was always extra-careful – oh, it was a painful year – not to bring up anything that would make him feel self-conscious about his being black. After all, I made him my best friend, and it wouldn’t do to hurt one’s best friend’s feelings, right? But then, I started noticing that Zachary only seemed to be sensitive about ‘racism and discrimination’ when he was trying to induce me into feeling guilt-ridden, so that he could manipulate me into agreeing with whatever harebrained notion he happened to possess at that time. The truth was, when it came to being manipulative, I could give people lessons! So Zachary did not fool me for a very long time…- ehem, only a few months. Well, 12 months to be exact. The whole of year one, to be precise. Gradually, I ignored all his guilt-inducing comments that he articulated with such dramatic flare. Whenever he said “It’s not because it’s raining, right? You just don’t want to play football with me because I am black and dirty. ” “That’s right, black, dirty and then sweaty.” I said with my face straight. WHAT was it that made him think I would enjoy football with or without the rain? The other day, he tried to manipulate me into joining a stupid fishing trip by saying, “What is it about fishing that you hate so much? You really don’t have to come up with excuses not to be seen with a black kid, all right. Just say it.” “Say what?” “Say that you are too racist to want to go fishing with me.” His eyes sparkled. He was too sure that he could win me over. But I was more ruthless than him. “Yes, I am too racist to want to go fishing with you. It’s exactly because I am racist that I am sitting next to you for lunch every day – just to enhance the contrast between your skin color and mine.” He was speechless at the face of my delibeate cruelty. But as he had always been quick and smart, he got the point. That was all that mattered. Of course he got the point, right? Never in a million years had I thought that he might actually believe what I said as a complete truth rather than my attempt at rebellious retaliation to his obvious manipulation. So imagine my shock when one day he refused to go to lunch with me. “Hurry up, Zach. It’s lunch and I am hungry.” I whined. “Never mind, you go on first.” “What? You’re not eating?” I gave him a look that spoke volume of my absolute amazement. He was a piranha, remember? “Nope. I don’t want to go to lunch today. Wouldn’t like to give you the opportunity to enhance the contrast between my skin colour and yours.” He pointedly remarked. His eyes sparkled, mischievously. Oh, God! He was my best friend, but I could not believe how close I could actually get to strangling his scrawny, shiny black neck! I was THAT exasperated with his consistent, resolute endeavour to manipulate me with his drama. With a huff and a roll of my eyes, I harrumphed my displeasure and spat him my ultimatum, “Don’t come begging to join me for lunch for the whole of this week.” I thought it was generous of me to have punished him for a mere 7 days. I was disgruntled when he smiled brilliantly and said, “Don’t worry about a week. I could stay away from lunching with you for a whole month.” “Okay, Piranha. We’ll see about that.” Zachary simply laughed – the sound grated my nerve endings. ZACHARY: What Maria didn’t know was : it’s Ramadhan. It’s the fasting month for Muslims all over the world. The fasting month gave me the opportunity to pay her back for her cruel remarks about ‘enhancing the contrast between our skin colors’ crap. Let her think I was sulking. It would be deuced funny just seeing her tripping all over herself to apologize to me for, ehem, hurting my sensitive feelings. Let her think I was launching a private hunger strike as a silent protest towards her cruel remark. (okay, so she was right; I WAS manipulative. My only excuse was: it worked last year.) If I could get Maria to feel just a tiny twinge of guilt (something I haven’t been able to do since last year), I would consider Ramadhan a blessing indeed. MARIA: He would die if he kept this up any longer. I could not believe how utterly obstinate he could be when it came to proving a point. How could he do this to me?! When he was friendless for being the only black in the school, I befriended him. How could he do this to me?! For one whole year, I had followed every single asinine, idiotic, moronic little scheme he had conjured up just because he always played the ‘racist’ card! And stupid that I was, I thought I was sparing his feelings. How could he do this to me?! Why couldn’t he let me win – for once! “Your one week is up. You can join me for lunch today.” It was I who had to go to HIM about going for lunch. He could not even beg properly after his one week punishment was up. “No thank you. I told you, I won’t be joining you for lunch for one month.” I gritted my teeth. “It’s not fair. You started this fight. I punished you for one week. If you let it, we will call this fight over. How dare you counter-punish me with one month! Your idea of punishment is not even original! It was MY idea to boycott you with lunch! If you are so clever, try coming up with something else.” He laughed. He laughed?? “Go ahead and die of hunger. See if I care!” But I cared. He did not eat for lunch. He did not even drink any water. How could one survive one day of school without drinking water? How could he NOT devour the whole bottle of Evian after basketball yesterday? Was it my fertile imagination or did he now look just a little bit like he was about to die? All those dry lips and sunken eyes… I had to do something. There was nothing to do but to force-feed him. By hook or by crook, I would make him eat. ZACHARY: When it came to dealing with Maria, plans had a way of backfiring. Just when you thought you could get her to do your bidding by playing the racist card, she decided to develop immunity to feeling guilty. Fine. Just when you thought you could grieve her into apologizing for her lack of guilt, she decided she would stop grieving and start putting some action. She called up two of the biggest kids in school to haul me up into a storage room on 3rd floor, who then proceeded with tying both my hands behind my back most painfully. When I made my protest known by kicking them around, they frustrated my attempt at righteous indignation by tying my legs together at the ankle. Whenever I opened my mouth to scream in fury, they put morsels of food into my mouth! When I tried to spit out what they have most forcefully fed me, Maria clamped my mouth shut with both her hands. The worst thing of all, Jack – the gigantic kid – pushed against my lower jaw so that I could not vomit out the contents of my mouth. I wanted to tell them that I wasn’t dying. I wanted to tell them that I was fasting! I wanted to tell them that I had enough nutrition during iftaar (when we break our fast during sunset)and sahoor (our early morning meal prior to sunrise). But whenever I opened my mouth to attempt an explanation, they grabbed that golden opportunity to feed mouthful of food into my mouth. I was so angry; especially when Maria thought she was consoling me by saying “Don’t worry, all this food I am feeding you is halal. I made sure of it.” It was enough to make me cry if it wasn’t so hilarious! She thought I was worried about halal food? When I was anxious about preserving my fasting? I wanted to scream with frustration, but then they would only put more food into my mouth. But the urge to scream and spit some fire was so overwhelming. I was just so angry being subjected to this….TORTURE. “Finish the food, that’s the only way we will let you go.” Steve – another giant – gave me his ultimatum. After 15 minutes of eating in between bouts of screaming, the food supply was finally consumed. They had the audacity…the temerity…th-the GALL to actually clap their hands and give each other multiple high-fives, as though they have completed a successful mission at the stake of their lives… Maria actually had tears in her eyes, “Now, you are not dying. You look so MUCH better now.” MARIA: It wasn’t fair for him to be sulking with me just because I was trying to keep him alive. If he had just explained to me – nicely and reasonably – what Ramadhan was all about from the very beginning, I would have understood and left him alone. If anyone had ruined his Ramadhan, it was himself and no one else. I refused to take any responsibility of his God being angry with him for not fasting. “Why would God be angry with me? I WAS fasting. If God would be angry with anyone, it would be with you. You forced me to eat.” Zachary fumed. “I was trying to keep you alive. God knows I am kind. He wouldn’t be angry with me. “ “Okay. Maybe God is not angry with you or with me. But I do hope God is angry with Steve and Jack. My jaw hurts; my arms hurt and my whole legs hurt.” “That’s better. Let’s put the blame on Steve and Jack. It was MY idea, but I didn’t ask them to hurt you in the process.” “Oh yeah? So what did you imagine would happen when you dragged those giants to haul me up into the storage room?” “Well…they wouldn’t have hurt you so bad if you had cooperated.” “Now you are blaming me for trying to hold on to my fasting?” “No. I am blaming you for AGAIN trying to manipulate me by not explaining the whole Ramadhan thing to me. I have changed my mind; maybe God IS angry with you after all.” We did not speak to each other again for the rest of Ramadhan. And then came the day of Eid – the day that marked the end of the fasting month. I noticed that Zachary came to school a bit later than usual – Miss Pike had granted him the first and second period off for his Eid prayer. He came to me just before lunch and sheepishly offered me a tentative smile. “I brought some yummy Eid food for you for lunch. I got chicken Biryani and my mother's famous Beef Kebab that we can share, ” “Now, we are talking again?” Okay, I couldn’t help it. One month of silent treatment and he thought he could just pretend like nothing ever happened? Like I would let him do that so easily? “It’s Eid day. Everybody forgives one another during Eid, don’t you know that? It’s like common sense.” When he put it that way, I did not have any other choice, did I? I would die first before I let him think that I didn’t have any common sense. ... Read more