Monday, September 26, 2011

Challenge 37: The Reunion

The school compound was unusually quiet. It was unusual to me because the school which I remembered was always filled with the chatter of students, some sudden outburst of a teacher’s reproach or the shrill ringing of the school bell.

“Visiting it again made me realised how I much I missed my teachers.” I had found Sarah mawkish and unnecessarily sentimental when she said this. But as I was pacing along the corridor of the classrooms, I caught myself feeling exactly the same way.

I realised that I wasn’t alone when I heard a voice. “Come on, you can do it!” and followed by the laughter of children.

Out in the fields, there was a family with picnic basket, and picnic mat spread out over the grass.

Her hair sparkled with gold when the evening sun touched it for a moment. The curls, the colour, that hair, I recognised it immediately. Mrs. Sweetman taught us literature when I was sitting for my O’levels. She was the only Caucasian teacher in our school.

Her eyes were the most noticeable. They were blue, the same blue which Sarah and I had described as Smurfy blue. It was the same pair of eyes that had watched us intensely as we tried to write an essay on “The driving force behind Macbeth’s ambition.” It was the same pair of eyes that had seen us through the exams, and the same pair of eyes that was glossy with a little wetness when I got distinction for literature.

No doubt, it was the same eyes. But shouldn’t it be framed with a little wrinkles or some crow’s feet at least?

She didn’t seemed to have aged, which made me realised that it wasn’t Mrs. Sweetman. It wasn’t her. At least not exactly. It has been 14 years, surely no cosmetics could cover that trace so well?

Then I remembered the news about her returning to UK for her retirement. She can’t be Mrs. Sweetman. But those eyes, they resembled so much like hers.

When I was trying to figure that out, she had spotted me. She nodded and smiled, a friendly acknowledgment between two strangers. No sign of recognition from her at all.

I decided to unravel the mystery.

“Mrs. Sweetman?” and offered my hand for a handshake.
As her hand slid into mine, I noticed that her nails were painted orange. The Mrs. Sweetman I knew only stick to red or beige.

“I’m her daughter, Winnie.”

There and then, the puzzle was solved.

“I thought I had travelled through time!” I laughed “How is she? I hope she has been keeping well?”

“Oh you didn’t know?” Winnie’s eyebrows crinkled.

She looked down for a moment before she said “My mother died of cancer last year”

474 words.

This might look easy, but it's quite a tough excercise! :P

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Challenge 1: The Choice

She was sitting on the couch, right leg slung over the left, arms crossed and her lips pouted in an exaggerated way. Her eyes stared fixedly, not taking them away.

The situation became very uncomfortable and it was particularly so with the silence. They had been silent for nearly 30 minutes. The last word said was “Suits you!” and Jason walked away to the kitchen. As Sharon watched him turned his back, she could do nothing else but pointed an accusing finger at me and said “It is all your fault!”

Jason might not give in this time. Nancy could be on the losing ground. The couch became her banishment, taking along the ‘accused’, the cause of the fight, as she had said. She didn’t need chains for the confinement, her piercing stare had replaced that and it was sufficient to instill fear.

Before Nancy moved in, days were happier. We shared the bed, the breakfast, the couch and the TV. We shared a life.

We had our daily morning walks where we would listen to his stories together. Jason would read them out while we were out in the park. As he reads them, he would make some changes here and there, and viola! He has a story to submit to the magazine again the next day.

Before Nancy moved in, days were simpler. Jason could concentrate on his writing, and do what he loves most. Writing was our bread and butter. It was also food for Jason’s soul. He could never feel more alive doing something else.
But Nancy couldn’t understand that. Nancy believes in driving expensive cars, living in big houses and good statuses in the society.

When Nancy moved in the first week, she tried to convince Jason to take his bar exams. By the second week, she succeeded. This should have sounded the alarm that trouble was lurking into our peaceful life.

The book Jason was working on was left unfinished. Soon, he got so caught up with the exams, the book was left forgotten.

Two months later, he passed his bar exams, which was a good thing that was packaged with trouble.

Nancy started suggesting Jason to get employment in a law firm. She started by suggestions, which turned into demands when Jason continued to say ‘No’. Writing was what he wanted to do, Nancy just didn’t get it.

She was relentless. One day, as the three of us were watching TV, Nancy pointed to Rowan Atkinson and said “Look at him, aimless and silly. Being sentimental at the wrong things! Come on, it is just a plush toy bear!”

Nancy always sees different things. She sees Mr. Bean, while we see Rowan Atkinson.
Jason knew that her comment was meant for him. He played along by saying “Well, looks like his bear understood him better than anyone else.”

That was how it all started. Nancy identified a new rival, a new threat.

“No, no dog pound!” Jason raised his voice.

“You have a choice, your wife or this bitch.”

Ouch, that hurts. It is a bad word in the human world.

Finally, Jason threw his arms in exasperation and said “Suits you!”. His words left Nancy’s question unanswered, a choice not decided.

The 30 minutes of silence extended till the night. We went to bed, with the anger, disappointment and frustration still hanging in the air.

The next morning, with the leash in his hands and penance in his eyes, Jason said to me, “I’m so sorry Vicky.”

585 words