Tuesday, November 8, 2016

P.M.R (II)

Before you proceed to reading, make sure to read Part (I) first. (:

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A few days had passed and it seemed to P that M were absent in all of them. R occasionally sulked to P about it, but even she gets the hint: M doesn't like her the same way she does him. When she finally told P that she was going to move on and forget the snob, P believed her, until that Friday.

"P, do you think there's a 'one true love' for every one of us? that one day we will all meet our true loves and live happily ever after?" R asked P, as they flip through their History textbook, pretending to find the answer to the essay question that their teacher assigned to everyone in the class. Open-book questions are the worst, P thought to herself.

She thought about R's question, and answered her,"Hmm, I don't know, perhaps not? There are more women in the world than there are men, and unless the only homosexuals in the world are women, then maybe? But men can't be gay."

"Homosexuality is fine by me, true love isn't about physical traits and cultural beliefs. Women can like men or women, so can men. I don't even care if they like both genders, I'm just interested to know if we are all destined to find a supposedly 'other half' of ourselves," R said in response to P's answer.

What R said made P's heart flutter for a short moment, as she finally found out that R isn't homophobic. Now it's only a matter of getting the perfect timing to tell R that P is actually gay. If the situation permits it, she'll even tell R that she's in love with her.

Without waiting for P's opinion, R continued,"I really hope that it's true, that we will all meet someone special at some point of our lives, fall deeply in love with them, get married, have kids and live happily ever after, and that will be it. That's happiness right there. I don't care about all the riches in the world, or the fancy things and lifestyle, or popularity. All I need is someone I fall onto and be comforted when I'm weak, someone I can support and support me, someone to share our happiness and special moments together."

P looked at her as she said all the things she said, and thought that R was the sweetest girl she had ever met. So pure, so loving. Ever word she said made P fell more and more in love with her, but while she felt all warm and fuzzy in her heart listening to R, she can't help but notice the little black fog in her mind, warning her that she doesn't know how R will react to her true feelings towards R: that while R accepts P as her close friend, P wanted to be a lot more to R than mere friends. A cold ice storm came storming into her warmed heart, freezing the ventricles and clotted all her blood cells into sharp tubes of bloody icicles, stabbing into the walls of her heart and brought her back to reality. Homosexuality isn't a norm in their school, known for their conventional and close-minded culture, so it's best for P to keep her identity and feelings to herself for the time being. 

Maybe, it's just a phase. Maybe, I just spent too much time with her and I've confused our friendship as something more. Maybe. It's nothing. She turned her head back to her old, hand-me-down textbook and tries to focus on the task at hand, and stop thinking about this.

R fell silent for a little while as well, then said,"I really hate myself for liking him, but I just can't let M go. It's like I'm bound to him by some invisible string that I can't cut off. I don't know how to explain it, but every time I see M, I just felt so happy. Just the sight of him for one short moment makes me happy and makes me forget about whatever bad day that I was having. I've never had such feelings towards anyone in my life, not even my ex-boyfriends, but I felt so strongly towards M. I felt like, no matter how hard I try, I'm just going to keep going back to him, even though I know that he doesn't feel the same way towards me. It's crazy, right?"

If P's heart was still trying to melt the icicles stuck in its chambers, it's no longer doing that. The walls of her heart have now completely frozen solid, and her body is numb from the cold spreading from her core. She now know for sure that her feelings towards R will never be repaid, and that she will always be just a friend to R. Her gay friend, nothing more, she thought.

She came home and immediately threw herself onto her bed, and cried into her pillows. She had no idea how long she sobbed, but she could feel that her pillow was soaking wet with her tears, and that bewildered her. She had never liked anyone in her life, and thought that maybe she's just not the type to fall in love, and her mother's selfish departure from her family made her detest any form of love because she believed that love will only bring pain at the end of the day, and if you can't have love and happiness without pain, then she would rather not have it at all. As she sobbed for the last time before her tired eyes close shut as she drifts off into her dreams, she thanked God that it's the last schooling day of the week. "TGIF huh," she said to herself with a chuckle, and fell asleep as the last drop of tear rolled down her left eye onto her tear-soaked pillow.

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Word count: 980

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

P.M.R (I)

Write a story beginning with: "It had been raining all day..."
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It had been raining all day and the sky still shows no sign of the Sun's attempt to peek out behind the dark clouds to shine its rays on them, if he even tries at all. October has always been P's favourite worst month of the year; exams are always scheduled around this particular month, and almost everyday is a rainy one. She's getting sick and tired of waking up to dawns that feel like dusks and not being sure if it's really morning at all when she opens her eyes everyday. The grandfather clock by the hallway chimed and she sees that it's 6.30 p.m. She sighed and closed her novel she was reading, and gets up from the sofa. I guess he's not coming home again tonight, she thought to herself as she enters the kitchen and pulls out a packet of instant noodles from the cabinet. She's gotten used to her father not coming home for dinner. Clients are so troublesome sometimes, I had to stay back to meet them. I wanted to keep the meetings short, but you know how it is, some people just doesn't know when to stop talking and have some consideration for other people's time, he always complains to her, but she can never know for sure if that's the truth, or that her father just wants to avoid the fact that there will always be an extra empty chair at the dinner table after her mother left three years ago, abruptly and quietly.

She poured the cooked noodles into a bowl and was just about to take her first sip on the delicious but MSG-loaded soup when her phone vibrated. It was a message from M: Yo, he said. 'sup, she replied.

Did u manage 2 jot down the ques that we're supposed 2 do 4 add math jz nw?

Yep i did... Prac 9.1 no. 2,4,5,7(a)-(g), 9, 12, 15. Prac 9.2 all n Prac 9.3 odd numbers.

Thx!

No prob, wher did u go during class jz nw?

She waited, but his replies stopped coming as she took her last slurp of the noodles. Oh well, she thought, I guess he's still busy. M is her best friend and her shoulder to cry on whenever she's feeling down. They've known each other since young and have somehow kept in touch though M's family moved a few times in and out of country due to his father's work. It seems to P that M is preparing to leave the country again as his father got transferred to Chicago just a month ago. She washed the dishes and returned to her seat on the sofa and continues reading her book. She barely got to the middle of the chapter when her phone vibrates again.

Hey! so sorry i missed ur msg earlier! mum called n i had to help her get something from the attic. missed class jz nw cz i was at the principal's office, needed to inform her tat i wont be going on the student-exchange program. btw u free this weeknd?

have some errands to run on saturday, but wont take long. y?

family and i wil b leaving in a month's time, so i wana spend as much time as possible with my friends bfor leaving. 

pfft since when r u sentimental. its nt the first time u leave anyway.

im so disappointed in u. when m i NOT sentimental. so sunday then?

ya sure, sunday

oryt! see u then!

wat do u mean? not cmin 2 schl anymore?

And the replies stopped coming once more. P wondered if she will see M in school tomorrow. It was not the first time his family's moving away, so why is this time any different?

The first bell rang, signifying the beginning of the first period. It's still raining, and many of P's classmates are absent from school; some stayed home to do some revision before the exams starts at the end of the month, some just uses the bad weather as a excuse to laze around at home. About half of P's class is absent today, and just when she thought R will also be absent, she came in not 10 steps away from their BM teacher and hurried to her seat beside P as the teacher enters the class.

"Morning!" R whispered.

"Morning!" P whispered in return.

R took out her books from her backpack and scanned around the class to find that many did not turn up for school today. A little voice in her mind tells her that she should have stayed home today, but she has her own motivation that drives her all the way to school today, despite the terrible weather and her wet shoes due to stepping on a puddle by accident as she exited the car earlier. She looked around for her motivation, and find that he's not here today.

"P, is M absent from school today?" she asked her friend.

"Yeah, I supposed so," she replied.

R sighed. He could have told her that he won't be coming to school today, but he didn't even reply her on Messenger last night when she messaged him. She knew that M is moving to the US soon, and she wasn't going to let her crush on him go unnoticed. So she's been trying to get close to M, but he must have picked up on the hints and is trying to avoid her instead, or maybe he's just been very busy getting the visa and packing for the move. R tries to stay optimistic. He's probably just too busy to chat, she comforted herself, but as the day goes on, she got more and more bored of the lectures. By recess time, she was contemplating on whether she should call home and ask her mum to come over and bring her home. P tried to cheer her up by telling her funny things she's read on the internet the night before and played some games that they've created together previously, but R just doesn't seem to be in the mood for any of that.

P came home and saw that M had sent her a message a few hours earlier, telling her that he won't be attending school this week as he had to go to the US embassy for an interview so he can get his visa. He'd also told her that he won't be attending school for the next week because "I bet the teachers won't be teaching by then anyway, I might as well study at home." She replied to his message and told him about R.

R was really hoping 2 c u in class 2day, y not come so we can study 2gether or smtin?

Nah, R is prolly jz being dramatic. she'll b fine. y do i have to attend schl jz 4 her to c me tho?

Cz thats wat frens do, isnt it?

Well, ya, but i actually have things to do, so, too bad. 

M, y do i feel like ur being mean to her?

Me? i'm not being mean. i'm jz stating things as they r. i have some stuff to get ready for the move, and there's really ntg much 2 do in schl right now, so its logical 4 me 2 skip attending it, don't u think?

Yea, i know. but still, you knew that she likes u. so y can't u b nicer 2 her or smtin. 

P, i AM being nicer to her. it was either telling her straight that i don't feel the same way and break her heart, or this. and i think avoidance triumphs. u know how dramatic she can b, n i dwn 2 b the excuse she uses when she flunk her exams at the end of this month.

P did not know what to say after that. M is right, but P just can't bear seeing the person she likes being hurt. It's bad enough that P can't confess her feelings to R, she can't bear seeing R not being able to be with the person she loves and be happy. 

P? r u still there? 

Ya i'm still here.

Anyway, i just think that since its almost the end of the year, n i'm leaving soon, she'll prolly forget about me n find a new beau by the time school reopens. so there's no need for me 2 b the bad guy here for the sake of letting her know how i feel.

Ok, i get ur point. but jz curious, y don't u like her as more than a fren?

She's jz nt my type. too loud, too shallow for my taste. we don't even share anything in common.

She's not as superficial as u think, M. u jz don't know her that well yet.

Maybe, but she doesn't make me want to get to know her more. i know ur close to both her n me, n u prolly think there's some thing that can bond us together n make us frens, but i don't think she n i can ever get acquainted, if we don't have u as our fren. we're just too different. the only thing that we have in common, is that we both know you.

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Word count: 1,546

Part (II) on the way

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Doing what's right

Write a story that begins with: "Thirty minutes had passed and..."

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Thirty minutes had passed and still no sign of him. I glanced at my phone once again, and there wasn't any notification from him. Maybe my phone is glitchy again, so I unlocked it and launched my Messenger app. Nothing. Check my Whatsapp, nothing. My message inbox, still nothing. There isn't any traffic where I'm at, but maybe there's a massive jam somewhere nearby? I launched Waze, and find not a single red line on any road in my area. Where the heck is he?

"I'm on my way dear, wait for me at the bus stop, okay? I'll be there in 5 minutes," he said over the phone, half an hour ago. He doesn't life far away from me, a 10-minutes drive at most. So why is he taking this long again?

This was not the first time he's been late. In fact, he's been late on-and-off these few weeks, and whenever I asked about his reasons, he'd always either said that he was held up at work or brushed it off, telling me that I'm paranoid and that he didn't take that long. But I know for a fact that I did not over-react, and his constant tardiness and borderline neglectful behaviour is pushing me over the edge. He's not like how he used to be, and whenever we're together I felt more alone than all the other times that I'm actually by myself. The feeling is just different than how it was between us. 

Whenever I feel doubtful of our relationship, I've always liked to think back to how we got to know each other: We met at this very bus stop, both waiting for our respective school buses at 6.15 a.m. every single weekday. I went to an all-girls' school, while he attended an all-boys' school. I always wore my hair in a ponytail, while he'd always have his shirt just slightly untucked because he wanted to look a little less of a geek with his short spiky hair and black-rimmed glasses. We ignored each other at first, as a couple more students arrived to the bus stop for their rides to school, but one month after school reopens, he finally break the ice between us. He introduced himself then asked for my name, and I asked about which school he went to. He didn't need to ask about my school, my uniform told it all, with my red tie and red skirt. "You must be very smart then," he said. I sneered at him and told him not to stereotype me based on my school. He laughed and told me that it was the first time someone got offended when being called smart. I looked away in embarrassment. What is so good about being smart anyway, people always find excuses to make you help them do things because you're smarter than them. I hated that.

We got close over the months, and went on our first date the day after our last SPM paper. He drove his old, beaten-up Toyota to my school and waited for me to come out of the examination hall. I had told my father that I was going out with my friends to celebrate the end of our high school life after my last paper, because he wouldn't have let me stay out after my exams, what more to go on a date with a boy that I've secretly been chatting with till late at night every couple of days since months prior to SPM. Two months after our first date, I brought him home to meet my parents, and he brought me back to his home to meet his. My father was skeptical about him, but my mom liked him, while his parents took me in like their own daughter. His mother had always wanted to have a daughter, but the family decided that it would not be financially possible to do so, so she was more than thrilled to finally have a 'daughter' to have girl-talks and cook with once in a while. 

We did well in our exams, and passed the interview for scholarships to the same college. He slaved through chemistry and physics, while I was always covered in charcoal and paint from my art projects. After college, we each went to a different university; the first time we're apart. We Skyped each other every night no matter how late or how tired we were, because it's the only way we can bear being thousands of miles away from each other. Semester-breaks were bittersweet, because they were never long enough for us to be together, then we had to be separated once again. We worked part-time and saved enough to attend each other's convocation ceremonies, and decided to move to KL together for better job opportunities. Finally, we're together again. We were so excited to finally be 'adults' and take care of our own lives. We'd even talked about our plans and maybe even marriage in two or three years' time, when we're settled in with our careers. 

I got a job in an advertising company, while he worked as an engineer for a big electronics company. Although we're now in the same state, we still barely got to see each other as we were both busy with work. It was fine at first, because we've been through this. "It's just like uni all over again, but we can make it through this with no problem, right?" he asked, with a confident smile on his face and I nodded without any hesitation. We've made it through three years, what's another couple of months, right?

Some days were great, because it made us appreciate each other's presence even more whenever we got together. But some days were depressing, when I see my colleagues getting off work early for dinner with their families and loved ones while I had to work overtime due to last minute changes ordered by my boss. Sometimes when I actually got to get off work early, it was his turn to stay back in his office due to some technical issues with the machines in the factory. Most of the time when we got home from work, we were too tired to even turn on our laptops. It was hard, and eventually we got used to catering to our hectic schedules instead of each other. In a blink of an eye, we've lived like this for two years. Daily phone calls turned to weekly chats, turned to nightly 'goodnight' messages, I can't help but feel that we're drifting apart, and told him about it. So we discussed, and decided that we should try to have dates at least once a week. It worked for a couple of months, until recently when he started to turned up late to our dates or the occasional cancelling of the date altogether due to his work. 

"Does you work have to take over your life?" I asked him in one of our dates. He works in a big company, there can't be just him working on cases and tasks to fix problems. Can't he just pass some things over to his subordinates or his colleagues to handle them? He doesn't like me bringing up his work, sometimes we would end up arguing with each other because of it. 

"Do you think I just work for fun? That I can just walk away whenever I like? I don't own the company, Jane! I just do my best so I can stay employed in this economy!"

I glanced at my watch; It's been 40 minutes now, and far out in the distance a white Honda appeared and grew closer, and stopped in front of me. I opened the door and got into the car. 

"I'm sorry dear, there was some matters that I needed to settle back at the office earlier, so I was late a little."

A little, I thought.

He went on, telling me things about his work, stories about his colleagues and his boss, as if nothing was wrong. We watched a movie, had a quiet dinner and took a short stroll by the night market nearby before we called it a night. It was our typical date night: movies, dinner, a short walk, home. Except, today was our anniversary, our 10th year together.

As we sat on a bench by a playground, I reached into my bag and pulled out a small package neatly wrapped by a maroon-coloured wrapping paper. As I hand it to him, I saw his face froze upon realizing what just happened.

"I don't think I can do this anymore," I said, as I placed the present on his lap.

Tonight I finally realized that I don't have to continue to suffer from this pain and loneliness I've felt for many months. I've come to a realization that this relationship has evolved into nothing more than a burden in my heart and it messes with my emotion every single time I remember that I have a boyfriend that doesn't seem like a boyfriend anymore to me. I can't take anymore broken promises, empty words and heartaches. I can live without this man. And I finally could summon enough will power to break this ball and chain from my ankle.

He stayed quiet for a very long time, and eventually I figured that I'll just leave; I don't need to listen to any excuses from him, I've made up my mind. But as I got up he reached out to grab my arm.

"I'm sorry, Jane. I really am. I didn't mean to forget our anniversary. Please, don't leave me. I can do better. Please..."

"We've been through it many times, Dan. And every time it ended up the same. I don't want to feel disappointed anymore."

"We've been together for 10 years already, I remember this, Jane. I do. Ten years is not a short time, not many people could be together for this long. I promise I'm working my hardest so I won't have to work anymore late-nights, I will be there for you more. Just give me two more months, when I get promoted I won't have to be away as much. We've stayed strong so far, why would you give up on us now?" he asked, with a heavy voice and tears in his eyes.

"That's what you said three months ago, last December, last May. Don't you know it yet, Dan? It's never going to end. I worked hard too. I got promoted too. I'm busy too. But I made sure to make time for you, just as we promised each other. One date each week, that's all. One day, out of seven in a week. I asked for favours, changed shifts, even changed projects just so I can clear one day out for you. But you never seem to do the same. Two years we've been this way, and every year you only got more and more occupied with your work. You're oblivious to it, but it's clear to me that work is more important than the person you claimed you love. I'm tired, Dan. I've had enough."

I shook his hands off mine, and walked towards the bus stop as a bus arrived and got on it, leaving him at the bench with his head in his hands. I don't care where this bus takes me, as long as I'm moving forward towards a better life for myself.

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Word count: 1,916

Monday, October 10, 2016

10 periods (Part II)

Welcome back to Part II! If you're here for the first time, please do read Part I before proceeding (:

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"You're hurt," she said, looking at my right elbow.

I followed her line of sight, to my scratched up arm. I don't remember feeling any pain before this, but now I'm beginning to feel a little stinging from the bloody wound. I must've gotten hurt as we slid past pieces of fallen concrete earlier. She pulled a handkerchief out from her pocket and tied it around my elbow, letting my blood stain the white linen.

"Thank you," I said awkwardly.

"No no, I should be the one saying that to you. If you didn't help me earlier I would've been badly hurt, or I don't know, died or something. That was really brave of you to do something like that. People were running out as fast as they could to escape from being buried and crushed by the falling bricks. You could've escaped with them."

I don't know what I should say to that. I can't escape when you're stuck in here, I thought. I can't tell her that, it might freak her out. Then things will get really awkward in here. 

I shrugged, and said, "just trying to help a fellow classmate out." Lame. LAME. SO LAME, DUMBASS. I mentally gave myself a hard punch in the guts. I could've just shut up. I suck.

"Well, I'm glad you did," she replied, and her lips curled up a little, just enough for me to miss it if I didn't just happened to glance at her. She quickly diverted her eyes to some random calculator crushed beneath the concrete beside us. 

We continued being quiet for a while, then decided to try to scream out for help. If the rescue team hasn't arrived, at least others who are also stuck nearby will hear us. Perhaps we will feel a little less awkward and alone knowing that there are others who are trapped beneath these rubbles, just like us. We called out, and heard voices replying to us somewhere, but we couldn't tell from which direction as they were too faint from our little cave. Well, we're not alone. That's reassuring.

I looked at my watch; 10.15 a.m., recess time. I caress my grumbling stomach, regretting for missing breakfast this morning. Jing Yi, suspecting that I'm hungry, digs into her pinafore pocket and pulls out a small packet of half-eaten Julie's Cheese sandwich crackers, "Here, have this."

"You're not hungry?" I asked. If it was Boon Wei offering me food, I would've devoured it in a heartbeat. Heck, I would've eaten it even when he did not give it to me. But I can't take food from a girl, if she's famished herself. My mother did not raise me to steal food from girls.

"No, it's fine. I had some earlier, before all this happened. I always have some food stored in places in case I got hungry, otherwise my stomach will start to ache. Gastric," she answered,

"So you're like a squirrel then?" I asked jokingly, and she smiled, even giggled a little. Yes, good job Jun Kit.

I took the crackers from her and ate it slowly. It's the only food I have till who-knows-when, I can't just stuff it into my face. With some fuel in my system now, my brain started working again and I thought about some things to talk to her about while we wait to be rescued.

We talked about school, gossiped about teachers, and told each other about our friends; usual, mundane topics. Then we talked about our daily schedules, the tuition classes that we attend after school, and our hobbies and interests, because why not. Occasionally we'd stop and listen to the sounds coming from the outside world, and prepared to scream out for help so people would know that we're here, and come to get us out. The survivors of the earthquake nearby have started scouting for other survivors like us, and if they're able, help those who are trapped underneath the rubbles. The Search and Rescue team have also arrived with their tools and search dogs, and they too begin their tasks to rescue victims as fast as they could. It is now 12.13 p.m., seventh period. We listened to the sound of the crew members working to move pieces of bricks and walls to get to the victims trapped underneath. It won't be long before they work their way to where we and our other schoolmates are. I decided that it was time.

"The Monday school assemblies," I said.

"What about the Monday school assemblies?" she asked.

"I always look forward to them."

"You do? Why? I always find them boring, sometimes unnecessary."

Nnnnnope. Can't do it.

"Because...the piano."

"The piano?"

Abort! Abort!

"Ya, the piano. I really like listening to the piano playing in our school hall." 

I lied. I got cold feet. Maybe I need more time to plan this out. 

Truth is, I couldn't care less about the sound, or the music, or the acoustics of our majestic school hall. I look forward to the assemblies every Monday morning because I knew that she would be playing the anthems on the black upright piano right below the main stage. As soon as the national and state anthems are sung, I started to count down until the end of the assembly, when she will come out to the front once more and play the school anthem before we return to our respective classes. Those were the highlights of my Mondays.

"I really like playing the piano. It makes me feel so happy whenever I see my fingers gliding along the keyboard and listen to the sounds flowing out of the instrument."

She wanted to be a pianist someday, or a piano teacher. In fact, she doesn't mind what she will be in the future, as long as she gets to be around music and the piano every day. She told me that all she needs in this world is a piano, and she would be happy until the day she dies. 

"What do you want to be when you grow up, Jun Kit?" she asked. 

I liked the way she says my name: gentle, and soft, like she only wants me to hear her speak. But then there are just the two of us in this small-confined space, so it made sense to not speak too loudly. I think too much.

"I haven't thought of it much. My parents wants me to be a doctor, or an engineer...typical. But I much rather help my dad out in his business and take over the company one day. Science is what I can do, but business is more up my alley," I answered. I thought about my parents, wondered if they're okay. Are they safe? I hope they are. Jing Yi falls silent. Maybe she's also thinking about her parents. I continued,"but for now, I'll just try to do well in school, and stay alive till it's time to graduate," 

"Stay alive?"

"Yeah, stay alive through all those band practices coming up, if this earthquake didn't succeed in stopping Mohan from giving us a break from the sun. Have you seen him in action before? With his whistle and hailer in the field."

She laughed. "No, I haven't. But I know him from music class and he's a nice guy. Are you exaggerating things?" she asked, skeptical of my description of the newly-elected drum-major.

"Of course I'm not! Don't be fooled by his gentleman-like demeanour. He's vicious on the field!"

"Haha okay! I'll take your word for it then" she giggled. "How did you end up in the school band though? You don't seem to be the 'musical' type."

I didn't want to answer that question, because it's embarrassing. But it's Jing Yi, so, I'll just suck it up and tell her regardless.

"The uniform," I answered, then she burst out laughing.

"Are you serious?! The uniform?!"

"Yeah, c'mon man, I was 13. I didn't know better, and it looked cool to me. But now I don't feel that wearing a cool uniform is worth risking my life for."

"Why do you stay in the school band then?" she asked, since I complained so much about it. 

"Because I'm only one year short of graduating as a band member. If I quit now, I'll have to start all over again with building a reputation and proving myself worthy of being elected as a committee member in other uniform bodies. It's my turn to have minions working under me, after being others' minion for four years. And I already made a pact with my band mates to stay till the end. And, I can't deny that despite the endless torture under the sun, I had fun."

We heard people approaching and called out for help. When suddenly the hole that provided us light and air went dark. We heard a soft sound of a nose sniffing, followed by some barks. Then we hear more footsteps approaching our hole.

"Is there anyone down there?" someone asked from above.

"Yes! There are two of us!" I answered on our behalf. It was about 1.50 p.m.

The rescue team has finally reach us and are now removing the debris so we can get out. Occasionally, one of them would talk to us a bit, just to make sure that we're still there and patiently waiting for freedom. They also asked us if we're hurt anywhere so the paramedics can be on standby with any medical equipment necessary when we get out.

The realization that we're going to be free in a short while somehow brought us back to the fact that we barely knew each other until today. No, only she doesn't knew me until today, because I knew who she is since the first time she sat on the piano bench in the hall and played Negaraku. We fell silent and the awkwardness creeps back into our little cave, filling up the space between us.

"Hey, thanks for coming for me again. I owe you my life, honestly," she said to me.

"It's nothing. I wouldn't forgive myself if I'd left you there just now," I replied.

She looked at me, perplexed. She wanted to say something as the hole above us suddenly opens up and sunlight came flooding into our eyes, and we saw hands extending towards us to pull us out of the space beneath two desks. It was 2.30 p.m.

The paramedics did a quick check on us to make sure that we're okay, and send Jing Yi off to the gathering area to wait for any family member that comes for her, while I was brought to the ambulance nearby to get my wound cleaned and bandaged. We looked at each other's dusty faces, not wanting to be separated as the school grounds have transformed into a foreign land filled with uniformed men and women hustling around hunting for trapped victims under heaps of concrete.

Suddenly, I had an idea. It's the best one that I've had so far. So, I pulled away from the officer and walked towards Jing Yi.

"Can I have your number?" I asked, with a goofy smile on my face. It's the only right thing to do. 

She smiled and told me her mobile number, which I repeated a couple of times to make sure it stays in my brain.

"Call me when you get home later, okay?"

"For sure."

I returned to the officer and after my wounds are nicely bandaged, I was instructed to the gathering area. Jing Yi was no longer there when I arrived at the field, where many other students sit under the trees, waiting for their family to come and take them home. I found my three friends under one of those trees, and plopped down between Sarah and Boon Wei.

"Hey! Oh my God I'm glad you're safe!" exclaimed Sarah.

We told each other about where we went when the disaster struck and what happened to us throughout the day. I, however, did not mention much about what happened to me except telling them that I had hidden myself under a desk, and it had protected me from the bricks that trapped me under the table until some Search and Rescue crew came to my rescue. Sarah and Arif was apparently trapped along with a few other students when the building started to collapse, and one of the students got his leg crushed by the concrete. The boy stayed strong until the end and was sent off to the hospital immediately after the rescuers got them out. It was lucky that the SAR team came on time to free him as he was beginning to lose consciousness from the excessive bleeding. Boon Wei was a luckier. He managed to get to the car park right beside our building and saw it tilt and crashed into the building next to it. I concluded that he's just born lucky. Then, I nonchalantly asked if they had seen Jing Yi, and indeed they had: Boon Wei saw her leaving with her parents just a while ago. I breathe a sigh of relief, and repeated in my mind her number. Yep, still got it.

I looked out to the main gate and saw my parents' car drive through the guardhouse. It was dented at certain places, and was a lot dustier that I'd seen it this morning, but I can recognize that navy blue Hyundai Elantra anywhere. So I got up and almost ran towards the car when Arif asked, "Eh, what's that thing you have in your hand?"

"Oh, it's nothing!"I answered and sprinted towards my parents, with relief shown all over their faces when they see their only son running towards them, slightly hurt but unbroken. I pulled open the door and got in, and was greeted with a huge hug and lots of kisses from my worried mother and my father pulling her away before she smothers me. They had quite an adventure this morning when the earthquake happened, and had driven to a nearby field where people were gathering with their loved ones and whatever they managed to grab hold amidst the chaos. Many buildings collapsed and roads were destroyed; they couldn't have been able to come to get me if the road to my school was compromised by the quake.

I fastened my seat belt and started telling my parents about my day and how I survived the earthquake, all the while looking at the blood-stained handkerchief in my hand.

*********************
Word count: 2,426 words

Sunday, October 9, 2016

10 periods (Part I)

Question: Write a story beginning with "The teacher walked into the classroom. It was the first period..."
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The teacher walked into the classroom. It was the first period, and it was going to be a long day. In fact, this will be an exceptionally long day when you barely slept the previous night. I guess, having a DOTA marathon wasn't one of our best decisions in life. Although, it's not like your parents would entrust the whole house to you every day; no one to answer to, no rules for the whole day. Boon Wei's parents were away due to some problems over his aunt's place, leaving just him and his grandfather at home. As his Ye Ye usually goes to bed at 9.30 p.m., Boon Wei had the whole house all to himself that night. He promised his parents that he will go to bed after watching an episode of 12 Monkeys on Netflix, but it's not like they're there to make sure that he keeps his words like every other night. So he propped himself in front of the PC, logged in to the online site, and called the first person that comes to mind: me.

I was reluctant at first, but he said it was only for a short while. It was 11.15 p.m., and I was planning to hit the sack early that night as band practice was really tiring that evening. I swear the drum-major was aiming to get at least one of us to faint before he's satisfied enough to end the day's training. 

"C'mon la, just one match, okay? I swear. I'm gonna go off by midnight anyway," said he, desperately.

So I agreed. One match. 

I turned on my PC and logged in to the site, and the next thing I know it's 5.30 a.m. and we had to drag our bums away from the computer and get ready for school. So here I am, with my blood-shot eyes being held open by my limp fingers, trying my hardest to stay awake through En. Bakar's lecture on Differentiation, while Boon Wei completely lost his consciousness beside me, his head resting on his opened textbook and drooling all over its pages. Well, at least he's not snoring. And Arif's back is big enough to shield him from En. Bakar's view. Lucky bastard.

I've always thought that hanging a clock right in front of the class was a bad idea, as it tends to make us long for the end of every period, especially during boring classes like Sejarah. Today, time seems to tick away ever so slowly compared to the past, and the more I can't focus on En. Bakar's scribbling on the board, the more my eyes are drawn to the needles on the clock. Tick...tick...tick...tick... 

It gets harder and harder for me to keep my eyes open. My head suddenly weighed a ton and I have to support it with my hands, but it isn't long before my elbows start slipping slowly along the smooth surface of my desk and eventually I felt my chin touching the center-parting of my textbook. You gotta stay awake Jun Kit, you gotta stay awake, I keep thinking in my head as I feel myself floating and drifting off to some dreamland, when suddenly someone knocked on our classroom door and snaps me back into reality.

A junior entered and and told En. Bakar something and left, probably returning to her classroom. En. Bakar continued teaching, as he always does whenever someone came in asking for one of his students. He dislikes being interrupted, and hated his students missing out on his lessons when they're supposed to be learning, and not using his time to meet other teachers for other tasks. 

His lecture went on for 15 more minutes, then he decided to stop when he saw our hopeless faces staring at him and his symbols on the blackboard. There isn't much time left till the end of he period anyway, so he gave us some exercises to complete while he returns to his seat at the teacher's table to read the newspaper.

"By the way, Jing Yi, Puan Preeta wants to meet you at the staff room," he announced as he flips through the paper to the Economy section. 

I turned to my far left and watch as the petite girl with a high ponytail slips through the back of her friend's chair and glided through the classroom, took the Tag Keluar and went outside. 

I raised my hand and asked for permission to the restroom; I really need to splash my face with some water and freshen myself. And maybe I'll bump into Jing Yi on the way back and finally muster enough courage and say something to her, or at least, say hi.

"There's only 10 more minutes and my period will be over, I'm sure you can wait till then," rejected En. Bakar.

10 minutes of peace before the next teacher comes in, I might use the time to rest my eyes a bit. As I close myself and prepare myself for a power nap, Sarah turned to me and said, "When are you ever going to talk to her?"

"I don't know what are you talking about," I answered.

"Oh please, you just had to go out to the toilet right when she went out, huh? Planning to 'bump' into her on the way back to class?"

She knew me so well. I can't believe that we only knew each other since the beginning of this year and already she can see right through my thoughts. Never let a girl come too close to your personal space; they're walking spywares. All they need is to get their target into their proximity and they'll suck every piece of information they needed right out of them. Or, maybe I'm just too dumb to come up with a more sophisticated plan to talk to a girl. Correction: not A girl, THE girl. I have no problem talking to anyone when needed, I just can't talk to HER.

Arif, who's sitting beside Sarah, came to my rescue.

"Aiya, you don't so kaypo lah. Give the guy a break, not everyone is like me, okay? Not everyone is brave and thick-skinned enough to force himself to sit beside the girl he likes."

That's right, Sarah and Arif are dating. 

I ignored the couple's banter and waited for the bell to ring, occasionally picking on Boon Wei just so he wouldn't be so comfortable sleeping in class while I suffered through the lesson.

The school bell rang, signifying the beginning of the third period, and I took off to the restroom as fast as I could. Maybe a jog is better than walking, at least it gets the blood pumping a bit, then I might make it to the toilet sink in one piece, considering how weak and zombie-like I am feeling right now. All I need is one person to touch me with the tip of their finger, and I will crumble to the ground and stay there for the rest of the day, sleeping. The drum-major would love to see me now, I bet he lives to see people suffer.

So I ran to the toilet and stuck my head under the running tap water and let the cool water wash the fatigue away. Best.

When I return to class, there was a teacher already sitting at the teacher's table. Apparently our Biology teacher took an emergency leave for the day and there would be two free periods, instead of learning about Respiration. Ms. Wong did leave us with some exercises to complete while she's away, of course, but who does homework during school hours anyway.

I glance over to my left, and see Jing Yi's ponytail poking out behind her friend's profile. There goes my chance to talk to her. Dejected, I decided to carry on with what I really wanted to do before going off to the toilet earlier. So I stack my textbooks on my desk, throw my arms around them and laid my head on the stack of books. A nap, finally. Boon Wei is still fast asleep on my right, his position unchanged since the beginning of Add Maths earlier.

I was having the time of my life dreaming of pizzas and double-chocolate milkshake when a slight tremor woke me up from my gourmet heaven. 

"Sarah, did you call me just now?"

"No, I didn't. But did you feel that? The ground shook a bit," answered Sarah, looking worried.

All of a sudden the floor began to shake vigorously and bottles began to fall from desks in our classroom. People begin to scream and panic all through our three-storey building. Our substitute teacher tries to calm everybody down and get us to leave in an orderly manner, but everyone could see that he isn't sure of what he's doing. Nobody is. We were briefed on what we should do when there's a fire, but we were taught nothing on how to react when there's an earthquake.

Some started running, while some froze at their places, not knowing what to do. Boon Wei was woken by the intense shaking and staggered out the door after trying to drag me along with him. I wouldn't go with him. I couldn't. Where is she? 

I stood on my shaky chair and scanned through the crown of panic students and saw her trapped by a few tables that got pushed together from the shaking. She was pushing tables aside to make enough space for her to slide out from the desks. The ceiling began to crack and pieces of glass slid off from their steel brackets and shattered on the floor. The cracks seemed to grow like a fast-motion video of a growing tree, extending to the walls around us. Jing Yi is still struggling to free herself when a piece of the ceiling suddenly fell just a meter away from her, landing on one of our desks and cracked the wooden surface.

National Geographic! I recalled watching a short clip on what we should do during an earthquake once, when I was channel surfing at home one weekend afternoon.

"Drop and cover!" I screamed at Jing Yi, but she doesn't seem to hear me.

So I leap off from my chair and dashed towards her, pushing desks aside trying to reach her as fast as I can. When I finally got to her the first thing I did was to push her head-first under one of the desks surrounding us and I follow suit under the table right next to hers.

"Hold the legs! Don't let go of your table! Keep it over your head, make sure your whole body is under it!" I screamed, making sure that she hears me. Tears were welling up in her brown eyes as she nodded obediently, with her hands each holding tight to a metal desk leg, her knuckles touching mine.

It feels like the ground would never stop shaking as things fall, crash and shatter around us. Other students who were around us have all hid themselves under desks too; it's the best option we had. Running out in this condition risks getting hurt by fallen debris. For the longest period of time, Jing Yi and I just stared at each other, her seeking comfort from me and me providing every ounce of assurance that I could find for her. It was the most dangerous time of our lives, yet, I don't feel as afraid as I should be. Maybe because I felt that I couldn't give in to the fear, knowing that there's someone that I need to protect in this tragedy.

I looked at my watch: 9.35 a.m., fourth period. The shaking subsided into a tremor, similar to what we experienced right before the earthquake hits earlier. Everything quieted down and an eerie silence filling up our ears. We waited.

Then comes the aftershock and everything starts to shake once more. More pieces of concrete, big and small, continued to fall from the ceiling, occasionally hitting the surfaces of our tables. Good thing they're made of steel, the desks' frames. At least they won't be crushed so easily like those wooden ones. We hold on to our tables and stayed on our spots as best as we can, but I felt myself gradually sliding away from her as floor underneath us began to tilt to one side. The building was falling.

Before I slid away from Jing Yi, I extended my hands and pulled her desk to me, her along with it. I told her to let go of her desk, and hold on to me instead. She grab my waist without any hesitation, burying her head right under my right arm, while I crouch over her bent body and hook on to the four desks legs with my arms, interlocking them so there's no way her desk can escape from me. 

We hit a wall, and heard a loud crash above us. I can feel that the building is still falling, with more pieces of the ceiling raining down on us and blocking more and more of daylight from our view. Eventually the motion slowed to a halt as the aftershock ended. Then it just her, me, a glimpse of sunlight from a hole between the overlapping concrete pieces above us, and the silence. Before, my ears were saturated with sounds of chaos and voices of fear. Now, nothing. I wonder if everyone is alright. Boon Wei, Sarah, Arif, did they get out safely? 

I loosen my hold on the desks; they're not going anywhere. As I try to sit back, I realized that she is still holding on tightly to me. I rested my left hand on her back, and patted slowly and lightly as she sobbed. She must've been terrified from all this.

"It's okay, I got you," I tried to comfort her.

We stayed like this for a little while. I waited for her to recollect herself and sit back so we can see each other's faces again. It was then that I realized that I am alone with her, without the panic, without the chaos. Just her and me. 

Talk about the most awkward first date.


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Word count: 2,373 

Monday, October 3, 2016

An OCD's Experience of Burglary.

Written based on the question: "I keep thinking about it, and the more I think about it the more..."

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I keep thinking about it, and the more I think about it the more it doesn't make sense. I locked the windows and the door, I'm sure of that. I made sure everything was in its place before I went up to bed. The living room was tidy, the curtains were drawn, and the kitchen was spotless. Not forgetting the alarm system: it was DEFINITELY activated. So why am I greeted with all this filth when I came down this morning?

I was never a messy person. "Neat" would be an understatement when it is used to describe myself. I MUST have order, and I must be clean at all times. I was always the one that came to school in the whitest blouse and the straightest pinafore, and I went home looking exactly the way I entered the school grounds every single day of my schooling life. Every. Single. Day. Some days my blouse was so white that it almost glowed under the purplish-blue hue of the early morning sky. My belongings were always where I liked them to be, all categorized and placed strategically so I could keep them back as easily as I would take them out. You might think, a freak like me, surely there would be countless times that I'd been bullied, and you would have suspected wrongly. Who would dare disturb a 1.9 m, 90 kg girl who easily towered over even the tallest teacher in school, and was famous for being the (unofficial) MVP of all Tarik Tali events in every Sports Day for five consecutive years? So, yes, everybody left little OCD giant alone to her book-arranging and pencil-sharpening. I just love being organized, and all my life I've been organized, until this faithful morning. So, you can just imagine how horrified I am, finding things where they should not be. 

The freshly-bought magazines are all torn out of their plastic wrappers and spread all around the coffee table, WHICH, has a mug of half-drunken coffee placed dangerously close to the edge of the table, WITHOUT A COASTER. NO. Just, NO. As quick as lightning I dashed to the living room to save my beloved white rug from destruction, if God forbid an earthquake had to happen right at this moment and shake the damn mug over the edge. So I picked up the cool ceramic mug off the table, and saw the unmissable coffee ring on the white marble table, and right next to the stain, on the rug (which I saved from a potential coffee spillage!), dirt. I have never felt so enraged that I actually felt nauseated to the point of vomiting, but of course, I wouldn't do that. Not on my rug, even if it's already ruined with a snot of the planet. 

There are some fingerprints left on the television screen, which is strange, because which burglar would be dumb enough to not wear a glove when they break-in to houses. Also, who touches the television screen?? I can never understand the minds of criminals, but I would expect them to at least wipe their fingerprints off with a napkin, which I'd conveniently provided in a nice little Hello Kitty tissue box right beside the television. Nevertheless, the alarm did not go off, I just realized. I turned to my front door, where the controls for the security system are. "Activated", it said. Then I went around the house, pulling back every single curtain and check on every single window pane. Nothing. All windows are shut, just the way I left them last night. No footprint, not even a speck of dirt anywhere. So, how did this bottom-grade burglar who's foolish enough to leave fingerprints and evidence on every single thing he touched and did, manage to enter my house unnoticed?

You would be thinking: Well, check the CCTV! Yes, I would've, but then you didn't see the disaster in the kitchen. My cereal boxes are all toppled over, Koko Krunch is mixing with Fitnesse is mixing with Cheerios on top of a pile of Corn Flakes. The fridge door is opened (I try not to think so much about the electricity bill that I will be receiving very soon), so is the oven with some brown slime splattered all over the interior, which is also where I find the partially melted bottle of Nutella. The hand towel is on the floor, in a mangled state and soaked in what appears to be pasta sauce. The table towel is found on the stove, which, I'm glad it was not turned on by the burglar last night otherwise I would be waking up without a house to live in anymore, IF I survived the fire, that is.

By now, you must be thinking: Have you checked your belongings? Is anything valuable missing? Well, nothing is missing, I can tell you that. Because the place where I hid my valuables was not even touched. But just to make you feel better, I will check it out.

Yep, everything is still there, all in their organized boxes and piles.

I must call the cops now, before I start cleaning up all this mess. So I dialed 999 and reported the incident, and it will take about 10 minutes until the police arrive to investigate everything. 10 minutes of living in this chaos; I have to keep myself calm.

My phone started ringing; it's 9 a.m., I should be at work now, so I'm guessing it should be my boss, Karen. And I was correct. Karen called and questioned me on my tardiness and of course asked about the Lee-Wong deal. 

"I've done the proposal yesterday and emailed it to Brian to triple-check them," I said, as calmly as I can.

"What?? I just saw Brian and he did not receive email from you," replied the panicky Karen. We have been working on this deal for over two months and the long hours and late nights for a deal on one stupid piece of land is taking its toll on us, especially Karen being the main PIC of this deal. You see, Mr.Lee is a cut-throat man, while Mr.Wong is your typical kiasu uncle, so it had to take us a long time before finally agreeing on all the terms and conditions for Wong to finally pay for the land he so desperately wanted.

"Well, you have to ask him to check again, I am sure I've sent him a copy, I can see it right now in my 'sent' folder," I said, staring at my computer screen in a corner of the living room.

"Got ah? Okay okay I will find him again, bye," answered Karen, and the call was cut off.

Two police officers turned up at my door a little bit later and made their rounds around the house. They find the whole situation odd, as clearly nothing was stolen; it seems like the burglar really just wanted to watch some TV and have some breakfast. They then asked for my CCTV footage, so I brought them to my computer and pull up the recordings:

11.30 p.m, that's me, turning the lights off and the alarm system on, then head upstairs. 

12 a.m, the whole house is dark.


12.30 a.m, still nothing. Se we fast forwarded the footage and suddenly there's some movement in one of the screens and we slowed down the recordings to the original speed. 


Wait. What?

That's me!

That's me coming down the stairs, turning off the security system, opening my front door, turned, and walked straight to the couch in front of the TV and sat down. Just sitting and staring at the blank television screen. I don't even remember doing all that. Was I sleep-walking? Have I sleep-walked before? Have I been opening my front door wide for anyone to come through every night? When did this started? Suddenly a chill creeps up my spine, to the back of my neck; have I always behaved this dangerously?

"Ah, miss ah, you sure this is a break-in ah? You opened the door wor," said one of the officers.

"Arr, wait. Wait. Let's continue watching," I said. I can't be the one who caused this entire catastrophe, could I?

I was wavering on whether I have lost my mind and then we saw someone passed by my front porch, and very quickly took some steps back, and peeked into my living room. That was Beng, my neighbor. Also known as my arch nemesis. So why was he on my property?!

Beng walked into my living room, where I was, and appeared to be talking to me, but I was not responding. He must've realized that I was sleep-walking, because he started taking the magazines on the coffee table and ripping the plastic wrappers right in front of my face, one at a time, taunting me, and I showed no response to whatever he was doing at all. Well, that explains the mess on the table.
He then proceeded to the kitchen and begin to make a mess everywhere, as we've seen the aftermath earlier. It seems like he was trying to test his limits on how loud and messy he can be before I woke up and catch him in action. But no, still no response. 

Eventually he grew tired of terrorizing my house and decided to make himself a cup of coffee and sat down RIGHT BESIDE ME and began sipping his beverage, IN MY FAVORITE MUG. Then he tried to turn on the television but couldn't find the remote, so he went towards the device and touched all over it, hoping to find the 'On' button. "It's voice-activated, you idiot," I thought to myself. Fool.

After failing to turn the television on, he decided that it was time to head back home. He'd even waved his hand right in front of my face before strolling out of my house like he just wont the lottery!

"Officer! You saw what he did! Isn't this considered as invasion of property?!" I exclaimed. Beng HAS to be arrested for doing this to my house!

After he left, there was just me, just sitting in the living room staring at the television, with my front door still opened wide. We fast forwarded the footage further, and when the time showed 5 a.m, I was seen geeting up from the couch, walked to the front door to shut it, turned the alarm system back on, and walked up the stairs, towards my bedroom.

The three of us fell into an awkward silence after we finished watching the CCTV footage. I can feel that they're confused at what's happening too: is this even a legitimate case of a break-in?

"Err, technically, you opened the door lah...but then... that doesn't mean your neighbor can simply masuk and buka party here. You sure ah, you didn't allow him to come in?" asked the second officer, finally breaking the silence.

"Of course not! Where got people open their front door big big late at night wan??"

"Okay, miss. Then we will go to your neighbor's place and get his testimony, okay?"

"Ya ya okay, then my house like that, can I clean up or not?"

"Hmm, not yet la, my partner contacted the station just now. Since you still insist to lodge a report then we still have to collect some evidence of your neighbor entering your house and carry on with our SOP. So, you have to wait a bit for our team to arrive can?"

Reluctantly, I waited for more officers to come over and collect everything that they needed. They took pictures of the 'crime scenes' and took fingerprint samples. I would've asked them to get Beng's DNA from the mug he drank from too, if I didn't give in to my condition and decided to wash the mug first. Taking DNA samples might be too much, but it's Beng, so I don't really care. 

I called my mother and asked if I have always been sleep-walking since young, but she confidently told me that I have no such problems growing up:


"Girl, make sure you get a check-up at the doctor's soon, okay? Ask about the sleep-walking and if there's any way you can stop it. Dangerous lo, if this continues," my mum advised, clearly concerned.


"Okay mummy, I will go soon. Either tonight or tomorrow," I answered, trying to provide some comfort.


It was a weird day. 

Well, at least Mr.Lee and Mr.Wong finally signed the agreements, as a very excited Karen told me over the phone later that day.

********
End
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Word count: 2,104 

Clearly, I am an over-achiever. D:

For more stories I've written previously, click here.