Monday, September 6, 2010

A Fairytail : Chapter 16

‘You’ve all got ten more minutes,’ the examination invigilator boomed over the microphone. Anna was writing furiously trying to cramp as many words as possible on her last sheet of answer paper. From the corner of her eye, she caught Wei Yee who was seated beside her, tapping the tip of her ballpoint pen on the table rhythmically, as if willing for time to pass quicker. Anna, filled with anxiety and irritation, shushed her friend who replied with a lop sided grin.

The two girls have always competed against each other throughout their academic years. Anna would spend countless hours burying herself in her notes and textbooks but alas, Wei Yee would always emerge the victor despite taking things a lot easier. Wei Yee would contribute the fact that she paid her utmost attention during lectures and tutorials but Anna often argued scornfully that her best friend is blessed with a photographic memory and the intelligence of a rocket scientist. She frequently blamed this unfairness on the genes she inherited.

‘Pens down everyone,’ the invigilator said. ‘And I mean now!’ she added, referring to the few students who obviously ignored her initial statement. After their exam sheets were collected, the girls along with the rest of the students thronged towards the bottleneck at the exit of the hall. A few of them were spotted browsing deep into their textbooks, trying to confirm their answers. Some looked relieved whilst others appeared dejected.

Outside, the weather was simply lovely. The air was fresh from the after-rain and the sun was still playing hide and seek behind thick heavy clouds.
‘I need to head to the library. Got a book overdue,’ Wei Yee said.
‘Oh ok. We’re still set for lunch tomorrow right?’ Anna asked.
‘Yup,’ Wei Yee answered and offered her friend a pinky promise.
‘See ya babe,’ as she walked towards the opposite direction.
Gabriel was leaning against one of the concrete pillars, playing on his mobile, oblivious to the group of girls who were too busy admiring him to notice Anna approaching. Anna was close enough to make out the whispered words hot, gorgeous and yummy before one of them spotted her and promptly nudged the rest. The group scooted away with much reluctance.
‘Enjoying all the attention huh?’ Anna said with much sarcasm.
Gabriel looked up and responded with a blank look, the confusion making him look all the more dashing.
‘Nevermind,’ she said as she looped her right arm into his left.
From behind, a voice was calling loudly, ‘Anna’.
They both turned around and a guy was running towards them. He was catching his breath when he finally stood in front of the pair.
‘Here,’ the guy said, handing over a cardigan to Anna. ‘I saw you left it behind in the hall earlier’.
‘Oh yea. Silly me,’ Anna said as she took her cardigan from the smiling guy. ‘Thank you so much ...
‘It’s Rufus,’ he said, still smiling.
‘Well, thank you Rufus. I’m Anna and this is ...' she answered.
But he cut her midsentence and said ‘I know who you are. You’re from 10B right?’ he referred to her class.
Anna looked over at Gabriel who was trying to stare down Rufus before nodding awkwardly.
‘I’m from 10A. So I guess I’ll see you around eh,’ he said with a wink before turning around and taking his leave.
‘You know him?’ Gabriel asked as they descended down the staircase.
‘Obviously not. I don’t even know his name,’ she said.
‘Well, he most definitely knows you,’ he said with a tone of jealousy.
‘You’re acting all silly. Come on, our exams are just over. You promised to take me some place nice to celebrate,’ she said reaching out to tickle his chin.
His attempt to stay livid failed miserably and he broke into a smile. He squeezed her waist a little tighter and said ‘I know just the place’.
As they exited the college grounds, they heard a honk. They spun around and saw a silver BMW 7 Series flashing its headlights at them.
Puzzled, Anna looked over at Gabriel whose shoulder had slumped and a scowl plastered across his face.
‘Wait here for me,’ his voice stern.
He didn’t wait for her response and walked towards the car. From the back, his body language seemed abnormally rigid with tense. The tinted window at the back wound down and she saw Gabriel lowering himself, speaking to whoever it was inside. From where she was standing, she couldn’t hear the conversation but she saw that the sentences exchanged were brief. He straightened himself and jogged back towards her. She could tell he wasn’t his cheerful self by the looks of his tightly clenched jaw.
‘I’m so sorry baby but I’m afraid I’ve got to give our date a miss,’ he said looking utterly disappointed.
‘Hey, don’t worry ‘bout it ok. We could always do it another time but is everything ok?’ she asked worryingly. ‘Who’s that in the car?’
‘I’ll tell you everything later ok. Promise,’ he said as he hurriedly walked back to the Beamer.
Gabriel got into the back seat, closed the door and the car sped off like a bullet, leaving behind a very distressed Anna.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Fairytail : Chapter 15

The stillness was shattered by her coughing. When it eventually stopped, spots of greenish phlegm plastered her callused palms. Anna walked in groggily and passed her a warm glass of water. She stroked her mother’s back for a bit before Claire urged her daughter to head back to bed.

She stared out of the window as the first rays of the morning peeked from the horizon. Up above, the crescent shaped moon still lingered stubbornly, unwilling to slumber. Claire pushed opened the double glass panes and a sudden chilly breeze caressed her face. It freshened her instantly. The street in front of her home is barren except for the attendance of the neighbourhood mongrels who had parked themselves lazily at the front gates of a vacated terrace. Perched on the window sill next door, two pigeons were having an early argument. When they noticed Claire staring, they flapped their wings furiously and disappeared from sight.

After a series of agonizing chemotherapy sessions, her doctor seemed positive that she’s well on her way to a full recovery but he warned that a relapse is always on the cards. Before discharging Claire, he reminded her to cherish her second chance at life.

Everyone had advised her to take things slow but Claire had so much she wanted to do and she wanted to do them all now. The phobia of her illness returning continued to haunt her. Still feeling weak from the treatments, she was certain she wouldn’t survive another battle with the cancer.

She spent very little time doing nothing during her three months of medical leave. She wakes up at dawn and walks herself to the playground nearby where she would join the elderly folks to practice tai chi, (a graceful martial art focussing on internal force of the mind and body). Soon after, she would busy herself in the kitchen preparing a scrumptious breakfast for Anna. Gone were the days where her daughter started her day with stale bread or dry biscuits. Nowadays, Anna filled her belly with poached eggs on crispy toast, fluffy pancakes drizzled with honey, chinese porridge with pickled cabbages just to name a few. Once Anna’s off to college, Claire would religiously surf the cooking channels to pick up new recipes. In the afternoons, after a deserving nap, she would do some light reading or occasionally go for tea with Mrs. Chan to catch up on the latest gossips. For the better part of the evening, she will cook up a storm, experimenting on the various formulas derived by the kitchen scientists and enjoying every minute of it. Then, mother and daughter would take pleasure eating and chatting about the silly nothings of the day. Sometimes Gabriel would join them as well when invited and Claire is beginning to get used to him being part of her daughter’s life now.


It was a dream like no other. This one felt uncomfortably real and the sheer intensity of it seeped into her soul. Claire was trapped in total darkness. The sense of being lost suffocated her. When she lifted it to her face, she couldn’t even see her own palms. She shouted frantically for Anna. There was no response, not even the echo from her own voice. She dared not move, not knowing what lies in front or behind or beneath. Claire flung her arms around, hoping to grasp on something … anything. Panic surged and though she saw nothing, she felt the shadows hiding behind the darkness mocking her. Is this what death is she asked herself. Claire broke down and dropped on her knees, sobbing uncontrollably. She choked on her own breath and gasped for air. The thought of this dreaded feeling never ending depressed here immensely and she wept even harder. And then she heard it. It was very faint she was certain to have missed it if she wasn’t shrouded with absolute quietness. She strained to listen and there it was again, it seemed like a dog’s howl and it reverberated her skin. It’s as if it was trying to draw Claire towards it. She was trying to pinpoint the direction it was coming from and then heard a bark so loud it drummed her ears painfully. Claire jolted awake with her heart beating rapidly and felt that her blouse was soaked with sweat. Outside, rain was pouring. She was startled as lightning flashed across the window followed by the deafening boom of thunder.