Sunday, September 5, 2010

One Shot



Is making myself believing that I can achieve something beyond my capability the same as lying to myself?

If it is, then I have been lying to myself for almost my entire life.

1st June 2011

Whenever it rained outside the house, no matter how heavy it was, the other children whom I had befriended in the house had stayed indoors and had no intentions of going out. It was me that had always sat nearest to the window- the best I could do to compensate for the disapproval of my guardian to play in the rain, listening to the rhythmic drops of the rain as it landed onto the zinc roof and I watched attentively as the droplets kissed the window panels, forming an artwork on the fragile glasses. I enjoyed the music it created and when the wind blew, the droplets raced among themselves, converging and diverging paths of each other. It provided me with a sense of comfort, a sense of assurance; a moment of amusement and a moment of utter joy. I did not know where these feelings originated from but I knew for sure, I liked it. And it struck me, time and time again, why the other children didn’t like it, or enjoyed it, as much as I did. I was five, but that did not deter me to imagine the joy of dancing in the rain. When I asked them to join me by the window, they declined. When I ask for a reason, they simply answered that the rain spoils their fun. If it wasn’t for the rain, they would be out in the field or at least outside the house playing ‘Police and Thief’.

I wondered then, why was there rain. Why the thick, dark clouds hovering above us will at some point pour over our heads and make us wet. Why these clouds create a sound so loud that people may spring up from their sleep. Or why did these clouds bear flashes of light that comes on and goes off within seconds, slicing through the sky. Some even said that God was sad and those droplets falling from the sky were tears of the Heaven above. Why was it created when no one likes it? Was it made to accompany me through my time here? When I ponder upon these thoughts by the window, it came to me that being the rain was lonesome. There was no one it could play with and no one it could ever be with.

Over the years, as I reflected the life I led to me, I understood why I liked the rain or why I enjoyed its company. It was because when I saw the rain, I saw myself.

Today had been one of the best days of my life. It felt awkward at first sight- or may be anger, but when I let myself to take it all in, overcame it and tried to understand, I realized it was easier than I had imagined it to be. It even felt weird to even think about it initially, what more plan for it, but whenever I felt a breakdown in the courage to accomplish it, I look for the strength in her, someone that had shed so much light in my life, to propel my mission.

I parked my car and came out, grinning since I had started driving from the café where we met to where my car was parked. I reached for the key in my pocket and opened the door. Just before I stepped into the house, a thunder was heard and I immediately glanced to the sky. The clouds were dark and pregnant and I sensed an imminent rain. I dusted my shoes as I removed them and arranged them on the rack, pulled out my socks and rolled them before putting them in the shoes. I went to my work desk, folded my sleeves up until the elbows were noticeable and stared through the window. I could smell the rain. The birds in the distance flew away from the clouds that, from where I stood, I could see it had already began to rain. I wondered when it was my turn for it to rain here. I was anticipating the rain. The birds were flying in my direction, escaping as far as it could from getting wet- the similar reaction of a human being.

As I sat on the chair, with a pen held in my right hand and a paper lying on the table, I noticed the first raindrop smashed onto my window in front of me, directing all my attention away the paper and onto the little but surely significant raindrop. And seconds later, the rain became heavier and the raindrop became more frequent. I halted my hands and for a while, I smiled brightly to myself.

When I came to know why people didn’t like the rain and why I enjoyed it more than the others do, I found another answer to my puzzling thought. Something greater than seeing myself as the rain and something far superior to what I had thought. It was that I had learned that the rain wasn’t lonely, or that I wasn’t alone. I was never alone. It depends on how we look at the world, from our own eyes or from the eyes of others that we learn to live by each other. Sometimes, we need a little something to grasp the true meaning of it and through my experience of this discovery or the rollercoaster of my journey to be precise, I finally understood.

We tend to think that we come into this world alone; we continue to live in it all by ourselves, and when we leave the world, we will be alone in the afterlife. But from my experience, it showed, or rather proved to me, otherwise. We are never alone in this world. Never. And even if at any moment we think we are, we aren’t. We have family and friends that enrich us throughout our lifetime. And the reason why we don’t see this is because we take them for granted. They stand right before us, and only if we choose to accept and receive do we discard these false thoughts. This, I have learned through someone who have changed me around, that kindly allowed me into her life and shared with me what she had always believed in.

I can never change what was written. And even with a second chance, it is beyond my power and capability to bring back life from the dead. But one thing for certain that I can change is the future. By realizing that at the soonest of time, and as much as I wished I had realized it at the time I laid my eyes on, I try to mend the wrong. At the very least, I tried.

I shifted my attention from the raindrop to the photo frame at the left corner of this table. The picture immortalized the fond memories between us and the friendship we shared. It was taken in front of the Petronas Twin Towers, standing tall and majestically as the backdrop that belittled both him and I posing before it. It was the first photograph of us here in Kuala Lumpur when we left our hometown and we looked terribly excited in it. I released the pen from my grip and reached out to retrieve it, bringing it closer to me and pulled the photograph out from the frame. The edges of the photograph had frail but the quality of it did not deteriorate a bit. It looked as good as new, and as young as we were. When I flipped to the back of it, I recognized my handwriting and it writes ‘Friends Forever’ in capital above our names. My eyes became teary.

People call me the Black Eye because I have a mole slightly above my right eye. Rong Ming, the man next to me in the picture and the first friend I knew in the house among other children and had grown closer each day, said it was because the mole has a special sense to see the right in things and subsequently do the right actions that he gave me that nickname. Rong Ming became much like a brother. He was protective over me and accompanied me wherever I went. It was his behaviour, an attribute that he owned exclusively and it distinguished him from the other people I met. My real name is Lucas. Just Lucas because I didn’t know who my family was or what my family name was. Despite what he said about me making the right choices, he was not right; because for what it may be right to him or me, the damage was eventually being inflicted onto the victim. This, a secret I had kept solely between him and me, had made me become the rain. I slipped the photograph back into the frame, and at the same time brought myself back to the present, and replaced the frame in its original position.

I looked to the rain again and saw a faint image of my parents forming onto the window glass. It was not an imaginary figure of how my parents should look like because I met with them about an hour ago, because I had searched for them. But I wouldn’t jump straight into that part of story. Not just yet, not so soon.
There are many things in life that a man wants and of the long list of desire is to actually love someone and be loved. I wondered if I will be able to experience love, having that the secret will haunt me forever. When I thought the past had receded, slowly into the distance, it resurfaced. The history, and the pain of it, was like a resilient intangible monster. This was supposed to be a story of me. But now, I realized that it is not all about me as we are not alone in this world. It is a story of two souls, falling in love with one another that will hurt more people than the both of them could fathom.

And so, I pulled the paper back in front of me and snatched the pen I held earlier to begin to craft my letter- with all the right words in my mind pouring out. It opened with,

To my forever love, …

And I inhaled deeply.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Will


Losing someone is not losing what he has left. On this dear date last year, my father left us for heaven. It definitely has to be heaven because he was a great man, a wonderful father and a loving husband. It does not do him justice for him to live in pain. He might have made new friends already and for sure he will not feel lonely there, just as how he wished for all of us here to be. He was a man of words and his words of wisdom are still fresh and alive, as if he stands before me, uttering those words with pride and dignity. Sometimes, his words were too in-depth for me that I could not grasp and interpret what he actually meant that eventually left me drowning in the pool of words. I then simply put on my dumb look and would ask him in return, and he would sit down patiently beside me to explain the words he said, even if it takes hours for me to fully understand what he said and for him to explain them completely. Unfortunately, his last words were one that took me months to discover the true meaning without him by my side. I was alone, struggling to decipher his meaning that finally brought me right to my nose.

The moon tonight is bright with a simple smile in the vast night sky. The weather is crisp with stars accompanying the moon. There is no sound of crickets singing for rain but only low voices of my brother chatting with his wife can be heard. My mother is busy preparing her delicious chicken curry in the kitchen and my sister readied the dinner table before rushing to the living room to catch the final episode of ‘Moonlight Resonance’. I am in the front porch and I could smell the chicken curry from here. I bet my neighbours are cursing me for not inviting them over for dinner. I might just take out some, put them in a separate bowl and hand it to them before dinner, just to make it up to them and not be cursed.

I am waiting for my eldest brother to arrive. He should have been here ten minutes ago. My stomach is craving for food but I remembered my father once said ‘patience is virtue’. I respect him very much, and his words made a part of me. But he is taking too long and I wonder if something might have happened to him. Something awfully bad could have happened. I grab my handphone from the rack, dial in his number and soon, he answers and I breathed a sigh of relief.

“ Hey, Chris. I’m on my way. Driving. Be there in 5 minutes. Sorry,” he said in one breath and hangs up. I had not a chance to greet him.
I place my handphone onto its rack and reach out for the Papers. I return to the front porch and flip open the paper. Making the headline is the reduction in fuel price again. I turn to the sports section and realize that Arsenal drew with Liverpool. Nothing interests me, just the same old news. But page 23 caught my attention. There is a story on family issues. They fought because they feel that the family wealth is not being equally shared and this has led to a court case. There is no will left by the departed. This struck to me a story similar to my own, but my father left us with a will. A will so deep to be understood.

I have a story to tell, not in the papers of course. I feel as if there is magic. A miracle. Family magic, I would say. One year seemed so short a time but we have changed in so many ways. Let me warn you, we were not like today and you may not like it, but bear with me and you will finally understand. The will, like my father had written, is our will. I have five minutes to tell you before my brother arrives, but I know I will take longer than that. And so, let me start.


It was a fine Saturday evening in December, the 22nd to be exact, with hardly any clouds in the sky, and certainly no rain in sight. I was in the front porch of my house trying to light up the barbeque stove. My father was with me in the porch, offering to lend a helping hand but I had time after time rejected his kind offer. He moved to the kitchen instead but only to find that the reply was the same as mine from my mother and sister.

It was the ‘Tong Zhi’ festival and my sister was busy helping my mother shaping red and white glutinous rice balls for the ceremony. The red and white balls are called ‘Thong Yuen’ and we will eat them after we have prayed. My mother said that once we have eaten the ‘Thong Yuen’, we will be a year older. My father would correct her by saying that we will be a year wiser rather than older.
They knew that if my father was in the kitchen, it would be catastrophic. I remembered the previous year when he tried shaping the dough. It turned into cubes instead and my sister had to redo them again. I know that my hands were not made for the kitchen and I had better be off doing something else to make myself useful. My sister, Jen, was not like me and my father. She has my mother’s hands. She is capable of doing almost everything when it comes to work using the hands. No doubt that she has chosen the right career to pursue, as a pianist and a part-time piano teacher. She resumed her task shaping the dough after she managed to convince my father entirely to watch television. I could see from the look of my father that he felt isolated.

He tiptoed to my brother’s room, Max, who was at that time in the shower. I was curious, and I followed silently behind my father. He knew my brother was in the shower and he decided to be a little busybody. He looked over his table and noticed a golden box. His desire to open it was immense but it was immediately interrupted when my brother’s handphone on the table suddenly rings. He panicked, and I hurriedly ran back to the porch and resumed my attention toward the barbeque stove. He left Max’s room and walked back to the living room and turned on the television. I was grinning when I saw my father and his doings, of course did not see me when I grinned.

“ Hey Chris!” a voice coming from outside the house and I turned my head slowly around.
“ Oh, hi May! Thought you would call before coming?”
“ Yea… I did, but your brother wasn’t answering the phone,” she said. I reached for the gate and opened it for her to enter.
“ He must be in the shower. Come on in, he’ll be out soon,” I replied, and returned to the barbeque stove and continued my effort to light the charcoal.
“ We are having BBQ tonight?” she asked as if my brother did not inform her what we were going to eat. May was my brother’s girlfriend whom he met in college.
“ Er… yea… lucky the weather is great huh…,” I answered just before my brother dashed out from his room, well dressed and interrupted my conversation with May. Lucky he did, if not, I will go on and on about the weather.
“ Sorry May. I was having my shower when you called. I…” my brother’s sentence was left in thin air as he looked outside the house. A taxi stopped in front of the house and I went next to him only to share his surprise. Both my mother and sister peeked through the window to see who it was. The door opened and I knew he looked familiar.
“ Hi Hane,” my father burst from inside the house, in the living room to the outside. It was my eldest brother. I thought he was working in Australia and could not be back for the dinner like the previous years. It had been five years since I last saw him. We chatted over MSN but nothing more. He looked different. He looked great and handsome.
“ Hi Pa,” he removed his stylish sunglasses and hugged Pa, and moved to get his luggage. “ I guess you did not inform them that I will be back this year. They all look stunned,” he continued, looking at our faces. My mother and sister rushed outside and greeted him excitedly. I brought myself closer to him and gave him a slight nudge, like what we usually do, followed by Max. May did not move. I supposed Max had told her about Hane, only that she had not seen him yet.
“I see a pretty lady standing over there. Yours?” he looked at me cheekily and I shook my head. “Then it must be yours,” he shifted his face towards Max and later whispered to him, “Good choice.”
“ Oh ya, Hane, this is my girlfriend. She is May. And May, this is my elder brother, Hane.” They exchanged handshakes and Hane gave her a hug. We usually address ourselves with our English name. Only when it was necessary, we use our Chinese name. Honestly, we preferred to be called in our English name. People find it difficult to pronounce our Chinese name accurately and often it becomes hilarious. Hane was 29 years old and he still had not found a girl. Max, two years younger, already had May who was 26. Jen was 25 and she had been too busy focusing on her music career that she remained single. I was too young to date, only 23. That was what my parents said. I had to have a job before I could have a girl. Though I disagreed with them in many ways, finding a girl when I am financially stable makes a solid point.
“ Come on in, son. You must be tired with all the flying,” my mother spoke. She was glad he was back as this festival also meant a family reunion.
“ Neh…I’m alright. Are we ready for dinner cause’ I’m starving.”
“ I’ll get the stuff out and we can start,” my sister answered on behalf of my mother and disappeared from the front porch. I wanted to say that the barbeque stove was not ready but I was too ashamed to utter the words. An adult like me could not light up a fire.
“ Where’s the fire?” my father was the first to notice and soon, they crowded the barbeque stand.
“ Who’s in charge of lighting the stove?” Hane questioned but no one replied. I slowly raised my left hand into the air like a kindergarten school student wanting to answer a question. Hane shook his head.
“ You should have let me helped you. I’ll light it up in no time,” Pa said while the others stared at me. I wanted to defend myself by saying that I could light it up but I just needed more time. Before I could start, I saw my father’s knee kissed the ground and his body began to collapse to the floor, followed immediately by the scream of my sister.


“ Move! Move aside! We have an emergency coming our way!” the nurses yelled as they pushed my father to the emergency room. We surrounded my father and tried talking to him to keep him conscious. The distance from the hospital’s front door to the emergency room seemed so long that we quickened our pace and helped the nurses to push. A doctor was ready in front of the emergency room.

“ Will he be alright?” my mother ran to the doctor and asked with tears filling her worried eyes.
“ I’m not sure ma’am. But I will try my best,” he replied and entered the room. I was not sure whether that helped to calm my mother down but we tried to convince her that Pa will be fine. He was a strong man. We were not allowed to enter and so we waited outside the emergency room, praying and hoping, until Hane broke the silence.
“ I’m going down to the shop to get something to eat. Anyone needs something to bite?” There was a long pause when Hane asked. “Pa will be fine and he surely does not want to see us hungry.” Everyone looked worried and remained silent.
“ I’ll go with you. We did not have dinner.” Though I was not hungry, I felt it was better for me to leave the place for a while. The longer I waited, the more bad thoughts filled my mind.
“ Get me a cup of coffee and a hot Milo for May. I’ll stay here with Ma, May and Jen,” Max stood up, placed his orders and sat down. We turned to Jen and Ma but they have lost their appetite to eat and declined our offer. Hane and I disappeared from the corridor in front of the emergency room and headed to the shop.
Ampang Puteri Hospital was a busy hospital. As we made our way to the shop, we noticed many other emergency cases. Children got burned when playing with firecrackers, victims of a car accident and a pregnant woman going into labour. Nothing seemed to me more serious than my father’s scenario. Or so I thought.

“ Good evening, sir. How can I help you?” a lady in the shop attended to us.
“ Good evening.. Can you get us three cups of coffee and a hot Milo, and two hot dogs, all takeaways,” Hane replied and turned to me. I nodded in agreement.
“ Alright, sir. I’ll be back with you shortly.” She informed us and vanished to the back.
“ I’ll be back here for some time,” my brother turned to me and said.
“ Oh, why? Is everything OK in Australia?”
“ Yes, everything’s fine. I thought that I have left home for quite some time and decided to have a longer holiday here, to make it up.”
“ I see. So you got anywhere to stay?”
“ Yes, I have rented an apartment from my friend.”
“ Why? Why not stay together with us at home?”
“ I have promised my friend already. It’s not far from home anyway.”
“ Pa and Ma will be thrilled to have you at home.”
“ Yeah, they will.” Our conversation was put to a pause. We turned our heads the opposite sides and observed the shop. It was clean and there were many other people having their dinner, though they were there, I could see that their minds were far off the tables. There was a table on our right. The man sitting on the left side of the table burst into tears when his wife, I supposed, spread an unfortunate news. Soon, everyone around the table began to weep as tears rolled down their cheeks. They quickly left the shop. It was not a pleasant sight to see.
“ Did Pa ever tell you or talk to you about his health?” Hane broke the silence between us and resumed our conversation.
“ Nope. I have never asked him. Wait… I did once ask him when he was coughing badly. You know him, he would say he is fine even when he is sick. He does not like us asking him about his health,” I answered.
“ So this is Pa’s first? It’s pretty bad since he actually collapsed.”
“ Yes. He looked strong just before you came.” I remembered what he did during the evening. He looked childish doing so. And now, he was in a room not knowing whether he could live.
“ There you go, sir. That’ll be RM 9.60,” the lady that attended to us returned with a plastic bag in hand. Hane retrieved his wallet and pulled out a RM 10 note. We headed back to meet the others after she returned Hane the change. It was a silent walk back as we prayed along the way.
They were not there when we returned. We wandered around and found that they had been moved to another room. Pa was safe. Our prayers were heard. They surrounded his bed, just like how it was when he was pushed into the emergency room. He was asleep. We watched him. Ma was trying to force a smile, so did Jen. Hane distributed the drinks to Max and May, and handed me my hot dog and my cup of coffee. We were somehow relieved and I took my first bite.

The doctor entered the room and Ma went straight to him. “ How is he?”
“ He is fine, for the moment. He should be awake by tomorrow morning. When he is awake, do spend time with him,” the doctor advised.
“ What… what do you mean?” Ma looked puzzled. We turned our heads and faced the doctor.
“ He did not tell you anything?” Ma shook her head. “ He may not want you to know this last time but, I’m sorry to tell you that your father, he is in the final stage of cancer.”
My cup of coffee slipped through my fingers and fell onto the floor as I heard the words coming out from the doctor’s mouth, killing me inside one at a time.


The Sun rose and rays of light shone through the clear windows. I was awakened by the missiles of heat rays fired at my face and slowly moved myself toward the curtains and closed partially the windows. It was a Sunday morning and I had never gotten up this early since I left childhood. Back then, I would be wide awake at 8 am watching cartoons on the television. Ma was sleeping on the chair next to Pa. Jen and Hane were sleeping at the couch next to the door. Max and May were nowhere in sight. I wondered if they had left after they heard the devastating news. Pa was on the bed, looking the most comfortable on the outside among the rest. He suddenly began to turn his head toward me and his eyes started to open. He looked vulnerable.

“ Morning, Pa.” I walked closer to the bed, my voice lowered not trying to wake the others up. Last night had been rough.
“ You’re up early. Thought you would never see me like this,” he said, his tone slightly jokingly and repositioned himself on the bed.
“ Why didn’t you tell us? Someday, we’ll know,” I told him, sounding slightly dismayed and his face became serious.
“ The doctor must have told you. I did not want all of you to be worried. You know how your mother would have reacted,” he answered carefully.
“ But you still should have told us. At least you could go for treatment. Better than now…” I told him and left it there. I could feel my voice lowering and I was about to let a tear run down my cheeks.
“ I went for treatments. Only that I didn’t tell them to you. I did it behind your back. Don’t worry, son. I will be alright.”
“ What if you don’t?”
“ If I don’t, for one thing I’m sure, I will not die today. There’s still so many things for me to see. And when that day comes, I would have spent my time to the richest of values.” I admired him. Even in demanding time like this he could remain optimistic. I hoped that I could share his optimism and think like him. I used the back of my palm to wipe the loose tear. Ma woke up, followed by Hane. Jen was still sleeping and even when she was asleep I could see how tired she was. There was a knock on the door and Max and May entered the room.
“ Hi Pa. Glad you are awake. We got something to tell you,” they neared the bed and spoke with full of enthusiasm. They moved their fingers left and right repeatedly until I found it irritating. I did not see it at first but I later noticed a ring sparkling in May’s finger.
“ Oh… Congratulations, son! I knew May was the perfect one for you ever since I laid my eyes on her. Thank you, May. And I know you’ll make the best wife for my son,” Pa congratulated them. I moved toward them and congratulated him. They would make a wonderful couple. Ma was too overwhelmed with the news that she stood unmoved for seconds. She smiled and gave Max a hug. She turned to May and they too exchanged hugs. It was good news to hear on this Sunday morning.

Jen was awaken by the noise and was at first in a state of confusion. She pinched herself hard, and walked to Max to congratulate him. He was beaming with joy. She turned to May and congratulated her as well. “ You must tell me all about it. How did my brother proposed to you? I want to hear it all.” Jen was as thrilled as May.
Pa looked at us from his bed with a broad smile. He was contented to see us smiling again despite his condition, and he struggled to utter, “ So, when are you planning to get married?”
“Well, we have not found a perfect date. I have thought of asking you to pick a suitable date for us, you know, I don’t really know much about Chinese dates for marriage,” Max responded.
“ Actually, I’m not that good too,” he replied and chuckled. It was candy to the eyes to see Pa in such a mood. “ May be I’ll try asking around. Max, do you mind if I am to talk to you alone. I have something to tell you, in private,” he said teasingly and winked at my mother.
“ Oh sure. It’s fine with me.” We, except Max, left the room and waited outside again. Max closed the door behind us, as requested by Pa, and left us in a state of boredom outside the room. I tried to peep through the windows to see and placed my ears as close to the door to hear their conversation but to no avail. Ma restricted me to do so the second time and I was asked to sit without my will. I was curious, but my curiosity was killed when I could see the doctor taking steps toward our way. It was not a good sign and we were so positive now.
“ Mrs Chin, may I have a word with you. It’s about your husband.” Ma agreed and they moved to the other corner of the corridor. What is with everyone? Trying to keep things so private, I asked myself. Not long after Ma talked to the doctor, she pulled out a tissue paper from her pocket and began to wipe her tears. The doctor tried to calm her down but she was reluctant. We ran toward her and thanked the doctor somehow, not knowing what he had told our mother.
“ Ma, what did the doctor say? What did he say? Don’t scare us, Ma, you’re scaring us now,” I asked, forcing her to relay the message from the doctor. She was speechless and we could not get a word out from her. Pa’s room door opened and Max hurriedly walked toward us. None of us could get Ma to speak. But she finally managed to utter a few words in between her breathe. It was not easy to hear her, but I could grasp what she uttered. It was horrible news.
“The doctor said… he said… your Pa… he is… he has only 3 months… if miracle happens…that if it does… then, then, then… he’ll have… six months,” Ma relayed the news and replaced her hands on her teary eyes.


Monday morning was gloomy and dark. Although it was only nine in the morning, it felt like it was 7 at night. The air was still and my house was silent. Max was still in his room. Ma and Jen were in the hospital accompanying Pa. My neighbours left for their hometown, one to Johor and the other to Perlis, for it was Christmas Eve. I made myself a cup of coffee and brought it to the porch where I sat down on the bench and sipped my drink. The newspaper had not arrived and my eyes wandered around aimlessly. Slowly, my mind was filled with thoughts of my father and sweet memories when we were young were mentally replayed. I grinned to myself at each memory and then sipped my coffee. Pa had taught us to be optimistic, and it was high time I practiced his words. He had 6 more months, if miracle happens. Six more great months together.

“ Morning, Chris.”
“ Morning.” I turned to the voice. Max joined me with his cup of coffee. He sat on the bench next to me and looked toward the dark clouds above us. “ So, don’t mind me asking, what did Pa say to you yesterday,” I asked curiously.
“Oh, not at all. He was telling me how excited he is with my wedding. He said he wants to be a part of it. I argued with him about his condition but he insisted of helping and I couldn’t say no,” he replied.
“ Oh ya, that’s for sure. He’ll get what he wants. That’s the spirit he wants to instill in us. Look at Hane now. He is so successful.” I stopped. “ So, how is everything going on?”
“ Pa actually gave me a date yesterday. He said it was a date dear to him and it would be the perfect date for my wedding.”
“ Really? When is it?”
“ March the 12th.” I looked at him with surprise. My mouth agape.
“ But that’s his anniversary.”
“ Yes, and he insisted. He said he would want to celebrate his 30th anniversary on the day I would be married. He said he would be over the moon. I guess that’s the best I could do before he…”
“ Don’t say that! He’ll be there since he said so. You better get prepared. You’ve got less than three months to the wedding then.”
“ It’ll be the wedding of the century, I bet,” he claimed.
“ Great. Tell me if you need my help.”
“ About that, I might need you to be our host.”
“ Oh… I’m honoured. Thank you. And I’ll be a great one for you.”
“ Alright then. I’m going out with May later. To do some stuffs. And I’ll drop by to see Pa later in the evening.” He completed his cup of coffee and went into the kitchen. I was still sipping my half-filled cup. May came and Max got properly dressed before they both entered the car and sped off.

Being alone in the house was great last time but this time, it was a different feeling. It was quiet. It was empty. The whole neighourhood was quiet. It was so quiet that I quickly finished my coffee, went to the kitchen and washed it up. The newspaper arrived but I did not bother to read it. I took my morning bath and got dressed. I was thinking of wearing red today but I changed to a green top. I grabbed my car keys from the holders and started my engine. My handphone rang before I could move.
“ Hello,” I greeted.
“ Hello. Is that Mr Chris?” a lady replied.
“ Yes, speaking. May I know who am I talking to, please?” I asked.
“ Oh, I’m Lydia from W and C Co. I would like to inform you that you are hired by our boss. Can you start on the 2nd January?”
“ Oh sure. I’ll be there.” She did not know how happy I was to be called to work in a big company.
“ Thank you, Mr Chris. Hope to see you soon.” She ended the conversation. I placed my handphone safely into my pocket and drove to Ampang Point. I needed something to wear.

Shopping was not my thing to do. I rounded shop after another and could not get one suitable shirt for myself. I finally landed buying a decent blue long-sleeve shirt and another black stripped shirt that looked great in me. I had pants and ties and did not bother looking at new ones. I headed for lunch at the McDonalds before I walked my way to the hospital. It was just a stone’s throw away and I did not bother driving there.
“ Hi, Ma. Jen. How’s Pa today?” I asked.
“ He’s doing fine. Doctor said he could be discharged soon,” Ma replied.
“ Oh… That’s good news. How about you guys go get something to eat. I’ll be here to look after Pa. You guys didn’t eat yet right?”
“ You’re right. I think I might need something to eat. I’ll go with Jen.” They left the room and closed the door behind them. I sat next to Pa and he slowly opened his eyes. It shocked me, and it was the second time him doing so.
“ Ma and Jen are out?” He asked and I nodded. He let out a mischievous grin.
“ Why? You want to see them?”
“ No… I mean, I’m glad they are out.”
“ Why? You mean, you were pretending sleeping all this while? How could you?” My eyebrows rose.
“ No… I mean at least now that they’re out, I can breathe. When they were here, their eyes were always on me. They were pretty overprotective over me, like a little kid.”
“ I see, but you can’t blame them. They’re just concern with your health.”
“ You’re right. But it’s just so… so… just don’t tell them I said this.”
“ You have my word.”
“ So, what’s Max doing today? His big day’s soon. I can’t wait.”
“ About that Pa, why did you suggest that date? It’s your anniversary.”

“ It’s because it is my anniversary that I told him this date. It’s my 30th one. Can you imagine how many peaceful and fantastic years I had with your Ma and all of you?” He smiled. “ What better way to celebrate beside a wedding ceremony of your brother. I’ve waited long enough for one of you to be married.” I went next to the bed and sat on the chair.
“ Guess what, Pa. I received a call from the company and they hired me to work. I’ll start in January. And Max also asked me to be his host.”
“ Oh great. I’m just so excited.” As he continued, his excitement transformed into disappointment, “but I feel so worthless. I could not help all of you with the wedding.”
“ Pa, you’re not worthless. You’re never worthless. It’ll be great, Pa. You rest while let us do the job.”
“ I bet I could relax, even when you can’t even light the barbeque stove. Ha,” he teased and I returned him a sheepish smile. Max and his fiancée entered the room.
“ Thought you’ll be here later in the evening?” I asked.
“ That was the plan, but we couldn’t get to call the restaurants to discuss matters over. So, we decided to visit Pa first.” Max answered.
“ You’re finding a place for the wedding?” Pa spoke.
“ Yes, Pa. We couldn’t get one ‘til today. But don’t worry, I’ll get one just in time.” Max responded and turned hopelessly to May.
“ I’ve just the right place for you. Since you can’t get one, how about a garden wedding? It’ll be wonderful.” Pa suggested.
“ A garden. That’s even harder to find.”
“ Nope. Don’t you remember where I usually bring you to a garden during your holidays when you were a kid? That’ll make the perfect spot.”
“ I don’t quite remember. Where?” Max scratched his head.
“ Oh, that’s a beautiful place,” I said. Max turned to me and his look told me that he had forgotten the place. “ Remember where you accidentally poked yourself with the rose thorns. And cried for hours.”
“ I remember now. Oh, that’s a beautiful place, and come to think of it, it’s a lovely place.” He looked at May, who obviously did not know where it was. “ It’s not that far from here. I’ll bring you there tomorrow. You’ll surely like the place. Thanks, Pa, for reminding me of that place.”
Ma and Jen returned from their lunch and greeted Max and May. “ Hane’s not here yet? He text me he’ll be here soon. He said he has something to show.” Jen informed us while she placed her handphone into her pocket.
“ Ma, Pa suggested a place for the wedding. Remember the garden you always brought us there? That’s the place.” Ma did not look surprised. Instead, she smiled.
“ Of course I remember, son. I’ll never forget. And I agree with you. It’ll make the best spot. A bit of redecorating and it’ll look fabulous.” She turned to Pa. There was a knock on the door and it began to open. The doctor entered.
“ Ah… Good afternoon. What a nice time. I’m here to share with you good news. Your father is stable but we will still need to do check-ups sometimes. From my judgment, he’ll be out in five days,” the doctor said. We were beaming with joy and could not wait for Pa to be home. The doctor left the room. Hane entered immediately after the doctor left.
“ So, Pa’s out soon. That’s good.” Hane spoke and greeted us. He was carrying something behind him.
“ What’s that you want to show us?” Jen asked.
“ Oh,” he responded and revealed what was behind him. “ It’s the shirt Pa has always wanted to wear. I bought it so you could wear them for Max’s wedding.”
“ Wow, you can still remember! After 5 years. Thank you very much.” Pa smiled.
“ You’ll be the best looking man that night, Pa, without a doubt.” Max announced. Hane kept the shirt after we looked at it. Max was right, Pa will look more than handsome.


It was Christmas. My neighbour’s house was beautifully decorated. There was a ‘Merry Christmas’ banner hung on their porch. They bought a seven- feet tall Christmas tree and placed it in their living room. I could see it through the windows. He and his family had spent the whole afternoon bringing the tree into the house and completed it with Christmas balls, presents and other ornaments, and had spent the whole evening fixing coloured light bulbs around their garden three days ago. They whirled some bulbs around the plants in the garden and some on the pillars. On my way back from the hospital last night, the house was dazzlingly lit and it looked amazing from afar. They had done a fantastic job. We were mesmerized by the beauty of the house and wished our house could be as beautiful as their.

This Christmas was different. I had to turn down three invitations to my friends’ house as I would prefer to spend time with my family. Pa told me blood is thicker than water, so I have weighed out my friends this time around. My friends understood well. It was an ordinary day for all of us. Max tried calling some caterers for his wedding and he sounded slightly heated when talking over the phone. Jane followed May in the morning to the bridal store to get a wedding gown. Hane brought Ma to the hospital to visit Pa and discussed what they would wear for the wedding. I was at home, listing down the names of our guests and finding their numbers in the phone book. The wedding had become our focus, and our distraction from thinking about Pa’s condition.

Max managed to find a caterer that fit his requirements later in the afternoon. After more than twenty calls, he fixed to meet the caterers tomorrow. I had listed the guests and it reached about 50 people. Max said that would be the perfect number. Alas, I could only get 35 numbers from the phone book and I had to double my effort looking for the remaining ones. Jen and May got back from the store about four and Jen claimed that they had found the most elegant gown for May for her wedding. Max promised that he will look for one that is as elegant as how Jen had described May’s gown. I made coffee for our teatime and we sat in the porch, under the fine Christmas weather.

“ I can’t wait to be married,” Max told May.
“ I can’t wait for it, too.” They neared each other and were close enough for their lips to touch one another, but they pulled apart when Jen and I saw the action. We grinned inwardly and immediately left the porch so that they could be together. Minutes after we left, they joined us in the kitchen and informed us that they were going to the garden. They offered Jen and me to tag along but we declined the invitation as we sensed something in the porch might just spark again in the garden and it will be awkward for us to see. They left the house. Jen moved toward her piano and played some melodies, and I switched on the television to watch Christmas movies, if there were any. I slept instead.

Max and May returned home after visiting the garden and bought some fried noodles along the way back for dinner. I called for pizzas though. Jen asked about the garden and Max replied that it will need some cleaning and redecorating. I offered Max my help with the garden. He said he had all under control and did not want to trouble us any further. May said it was very beautiful and she could picture herself in the garden already. We knew she was not lying, the garden can cast magic.

Hane and Ma were back just in time for dinner. They had not had their dinner and joined us at the table. Hane talked unwillingly about his day in the hospital whereas Ma spoke with delight. We told them ours, of course minus the one Max and May almost kissed in the porch. It was not that it was a sin, but it was mere awkwardness for me to see my brother kissing.

“ Pa will be home tomorrow. The doctor said,” Ma announced. That is our Christmas gift, I said quietly but happily to myself and looked up to Ma as I took my slice of pizza.


The clock showed 10 in the morning and we headed to the hospital. Hane and I went to complete some documents at the counter while Ma, Jen, Max and May went to the room and packed Pa’s things. When we joined the rest in the room, they were ready to leave, especially Pa. He had been wanting to leave the hospital.

Days went by. Time flew like birds in the sky. Ushering the New Year was the past, the Chinese New Year was the present and the future was the wedding. We did not have anything special to welcome the new year but we did went to Dataran Merdeka for the countdown. Fireworks were splendid. Chinese New Year fell on a Thursday. We had a quiet reunion dinner the night before and a little gathering with Pa’s siblings and peers. It has been our tradition to gamble during the Chinese New Year. We played Black Jack 21 most of the time, and I was not and never will be a professional gambler. I lost RM 20 in a day! We talked about Max’s wedding and they sounded as excited as we were and were looking forward to it. Though some of them were close to tears knowing and remembering about Pa’s health, Pa, as always, shared his optimism with the few and as I turned to see them the second time, they were laughing with tears of joy. Pa, like the garden, can cast magic too.

Something I cannot deny was that Pa’s condition was turning from bad to worse as time ticked. Hane and I took turns to bring him to the hospital. Max was too busy, so was Jen. Jen was preparing for her piano competition which was to be held on 20th February. She had two weeks to perfect her pieces. Pa wanted her to compete.

I was not entirely happy with my new job. My boss was a man hard to please. He was a perfectionist, but I was not. My work time was not fixed and I was needed at the office sometimes on a Saturday or even on a Sunday. Looking at the bright side, this job gave me the green light to date a woman and it was all the drive I needed to stay with the company. Pa advised me not to think of girls only but to have the desire to succeed in my career. A man without a career is a man without a life, but career is not life. He was deep in his words. I just nodded.

Two weeks passed by and Jen was prepared for her competition. We knew she could do it, we supported her.
“ All the best. You can do it!” I cheered for her.
“ You’ll do just fine, Jen. As long as you give your best, be happy with the results,” Pa said and Jen responded with a smile. It was her turn to the stage as the host announced her name. We went to our seats and cheered silently for her as her gentle fingers graced through the keys of the piano. Note by note, she played ‘My Heart Will Go On’ as beautifully as she looked. If Celine Dion sings as she plays, she would win immediately, hands down. She played her second and final pieces well and a wave of cheers and thunderous claps were heard from the audience. We went to her and said how amazing she was. We waited for the results back at our seats.

The host went to the stage with the results in his hand. Our hearts were racing, but Jen’s was the fastest. He announced and congratulated the second runner up. It was not my sister, which was good. He announced the runner up and Jen’s name was called. She went up the stage broken- heartedly and received her prize. She was second place, but to her, she had lost.
“ Cheer up, Jen. Second is not that bad,” Hane tried to convince her she did well.
“ I know. But I was aiming for first,” Jen said, with a look of disappointment.
“ Don’t be too hard on yourself. You outdid the rest. Out of 50 and you got second,” I tried to help but I was not sure whether I succeeded doing so. Pa looked at me.
“ You did your best, didn’t you Jen?” Pa asked. Jen simply nodded. “ Then you should be happy. What doesn’t kill you will just make you stronger, and I’m sure the lost didn’t kill you. Silver didn’t kill you. The piano didn’t kill you. You always have next year, and next year you’ll be a stronger contestant.” Jen turned to Pa at his words.
“ Pa, you always know what to say,” finally Jen let out a narrow smile.
“ You know what Jen, how about you playing for our wedding. I’d like to walk down the aisle with the first piece you played,” Max proposed, turning to May. “ That’ll complete my preparation for the wedding. I’ve got everything else done.”
“ I’d love to, Max. I guess I’ll play even better then, with the right mix of emotion.” Though it was second place, in our family, she had already won first.
Very soon, the Chinese New Year would be the past and the wedding would be the present. And the future would be uncertain. We would not know what. But Pa most certainly knew his.


Max could not sleep, so were Pa, Ma and Jen. I was tired with work and I slept soundly on my bed. My boss would not give me four days off and so I had only three, beginning the day of when my brother would be married. From my room, I could hear them speaking excitedly. I managed to get three hours of sleep before Max woke me up.

“ You prepared everything for tonight?” Max asked. He spoke clearly, but I could barely understand his words. I was still half asleep, half awake. I took me some time to reply him.
“ Uh-hu,” I managed to utter. “ What about tonight?”
“ You forgot, didn’t you? You’re supposed to be the host for my wedding,” I had totally forgotten about it but I did not want to admit. I wanted to blame it on my workload but I stopped myself. I was wide awake then.
“ Right. I’ll be prepared,” I removed the blankets and got off my bed.
“ How could you? I knew I should have reminded you last night,” his voice grew louder and fiercer. Mine too. I had a tired day at work.
“ It’s just hosting. I could be ready and done soon,” I said defensively.
“ If I knew this was about to happen, which I have thought so, then I should have asked someone else to be the host. You don’t look good at the moment too,” he said. Our conversation elevated to a war of words.
“ What’s that supposed to mean? I’m not good enough for you. For me to be your host.” I looked sharply at him, piercing through his eyes.
“ Yup. You don’t look like you’re giving a damn thing about being a host!”
“ Max, it’s just a host. I can do it,” I softened my voice a little, trying to calm him down. He was not cooperating.
“ See, you’re doing it again. You think being a host isn’t a great deal, and what if you say something wrong, something unpleasant tonight. You will spoil everything I have worked for three months, and worst, I won’t get married.”
“ It’s not that serious. You will still wed tonight. I promise you I’ll be great for you.”
“ That’s enough! I hope I can rely on that promise. No point me arguing with you now. You’re just too tired with your work, sleepy eyes, and exhausted body. I’m not even complaining.”
“Complaining? I’m not complaining too. I’m just too busy and it slipped my mind about being a host tonight. That’s all!”
“ What’s all the noise?” Pa entered my room and saw Max and I arguing. I knew it was my fault, but Max inflamed it. “ It’s your day, Max, what’s wrong?”
“ I couldn’t believe you, Chris. You’re useless!” Neither he nor I answered Pa’s question. We did not pay any attention to Pa’s presence as well.
“ You two are brothers. Over a little thing about host and a quarrel occurs.”
“ Me? I can’t believe you.” Pa coughed hard enough for us to turn to him. He got our attention now.
“ You two are brothers. Remember. There is a saying that goes something like this. The tongue and the teeth stay together. Sometimes the teeth accidentally bite the tongue but sooner or later, they’ll be back together, needing one another. Like you, there’ll be conflict. But you can’t stay fighting for long and be together back. Chris will be your host. What more today is your big day. Go out and have a rest, Max,” Pa spoke. Max exited the room unwillingly. The argument was over. It always does when Pa stepped in.
“ You’re right, Pa. I’ll say sorry to him later. When his anger subsides.”
“ You’ll know what to do. I know you’ll know. Get some rest too. He’s put a lot in this wedding. Pressure,” Pa said and left me alone in my room. I was all alone, but I was not to sleep, not anymore, with an important task in hand and due tonight.

I took a pen and a piece of paper and scribbled something on it. Max was right. This was hard than I thought. I couldn’t find the right words to use, the exact expressions to say and the true emotions to convey. It was not an easy task, but it was the correct thing to do. I drafted a few paragraphs, and read again and again and it still did not seem proper. Many entered the bin, and soon my bin was half full. I finally thought of something meaningful to say, and I’m sure my brother would be impressed. The Sun was about up. I took a long time to complete.
“ Max, about just now, I’m real sorry,” I went out to meet Max, who was at the porch. “ I should have known how hard it would be for you to know that if I don’t do well, your wedding would be half as good.” Max did not say a word, but his cheeks were damp. I wondered whether he was crying.
“ You’re not wrong. I was. May be I was too nervous with my wedding. Too anxious. Being too perfect for the wedding. I’m now single and in hours, I’ll be married. It’s the pressure before the wedding,” he opened his mouth. “ I’m sorry I said those words to you. I know you’ll do great for me.”
“ But it was partly my fault too. I had been too busy with work and I forgot about it.”
“ I should say sorry too.” He wiped his eyes. “Then I guess we are equal then.”
“ I guess so. I’m done with it. Do you want to hear it?”
“ No, Chris. I believe you. And I know you’ll say the right things for me. Surprise me.” He said, gave me a nudge and went into the house. Pa saw us from afar and he was grinning. I followed after Max and prepared myself for breakfast, then lunch. Wedding’s in a few hours.


The garden was beautiful. It reminded me of one of the many fairy tale weddings I read when I was young. There was an arc of purple orchids at the entrance. There were beds of bright red, yellow and white roses at each corner of the garden. The tables were placed at the center of the garden, pulling the guests into the magic of the garden. A long red carpet leading to the stage through the pool of tables was equipped with trails of red rose petals. The stage was blanketed with petals of white roses and a large heart-shaped board was centered at the stage. There were glasses of champagne on the left with the wedding cake on the right. The garden was beyond beautiful. The caterers arranged the food at the side of the garden, leaded the way by the tulips. At the other side of the garden was Jen’s beloved grand piano. On each table, there was a candle with flowers surrounding it at the bottom as the centerpiece. According to Max, there were a thousand little candles placed around the dinner place and it was lit. At six, the guests arrived and they were instantly amazed upon entrance. They were greeted with an ice sculpture of two birds kissing in the middle of the field of blossom plants.

The sun was almost down in the cloudless sky and it cast rays of light across the garden. Gentle wind was felt brushing through our hairs. Tranquility. With the sun setting as the natural backdrop, the view was breathtaking. As it began to turn dark, the thousand lit candles amplified the atmosphere and it was romantic. Sounds of crickets could be heard entertaining our guests before the start of the wedding. I rose to the stage not long after that.

“ Ladies and gentlemen, before I invite the bride and bridegroom to the stage, please allow me to share with you something personal. I have always love weddings; attending weddings, preparing for weddings although it is not my profession. Nothing beats the feel when seeing one man and one woman become together as one. They share nothing but love, faith and joy, but what takes a marriage to the other level? It takes more than love. It needs commitment, a commitment so long, so solid, so strong that could lead to the building up a family. A family, when that man becomes a father, then a grandfather, when the woman becomes a mother, then a grandmother. It’s pure love as the foundation that solidifies the many many years and brings about commitment. And it is because of the purity of love itself; we are all witnessing the coming together of my brother, Max Chin and May Ng, today as I would quote my brother’s words that this is to be the wedding of the century. The start of an adventure, I welcome and give a big round of applause to the ever-loving newly weds.”

Dry ice was emitted at the entrance and it looked heavenly as the bride and bridegroom emerged and made their way through. Max looked stunning in his tuxedo but it was May who took the spotlight. She was drop-dead gorgeous. Her long flowing hair was curled at the bottom and suited her best. She walked down the aisle with an elegant golden gown and moved with poise to the stage. Jen played her piano and it was undeniably more melodious than she had played during her competition. Each note was played with emotion as Max and May took small steps to the stage, waving to the guests along the way until they climbed the stairs to the stage.

“ Both of you are a match made in heaven. You look wonderful. May I have the bridegroom to say a few words,” I continued. I passed my microphone to Max and he spoke effortlessly. It ended with claps from the guests. “ And to you, the bride, to say a few words.” She took the microphone and expressed how lucky she was to meet Max and promised to be the best wife in the world. As the host, I was envious of them. We moved to the bottle of champagne and opened it. The cork flew across the guests and hit the arch of orchids. We cheered ‘yum seng’ three times and emptied our glasses. We moved to the cake and Max and his wife cut the cake at the first level of the five-level cake. They sat on the first table after all was done and I announced it was time to feast on the food.

“ That’s a wonderful thing you said up there. I couldn’t thank you more,” Max thanked me.
“ Oh, it’s nothing. I hope I didn’t disappoint you.”
“ You certainly did not. Anyway, about Pa…”
“ Not to worry, I have that in store too.” Max smiled and walked to the food corner. I had some myself first before heading up the stage the second time.
“ Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you are all enjoying dinner. It’s good, huh? I’m sorry to interrupt but on this very happy occasion too, I would like to share with you another great thing. My father, Luke Chin, is the man.” Pa looked at me on the stage. “ He is the backbone of our family. He made our home our fortress, and his words of wisdoms are too rich that even money can’t buy. He is happily married to another great woman, a woman who showered all of us with motherly love and care. She is my mother, Annie Liew. And today is the day that back thirty years ago, they started on a journey of marriage that knows no future. But with full commitment, as I have said earlier, came us and here we are, together, to also celebrate their thirtieth anniversary. Lift your wine glasses high in the air as we cheer and congratulate them. Happy anniversary, Pa and Ma. Thank you so much.” For once, I saw my father’s eyes red and teary. My brothers and sister with May rose to the stage and together we cheered. Pa refused to speak. He was speechless. But he finally spoke.

“ This is my family. And this is where I dedicated my life to.”


The wedding ended early this morning. At one in the morning, there were guests whom we sat and chit chatted with. It had been long since I last saw them. We exchanged stories of our lives and it was interesting to know more about them. Pa left for home near midnight. It was already sporting of him to join us until midnight. The doctor advised him to sleep early. Jen hired some people to bring back her piano and she followed them home. Hane and I drank glasses of wine as we talked to our relatives. At two, we all headed home. Max and May stayed in Westin for their first night as husband and wife.

I slept until two in the afternoon. The sounds of my mother talking loudly and hurriedly woke me up. Jen dashed into my room, without a knock on the door.
“ Chris, Pa. There’s something wrong with Pa.”
“ What!?” I was frightened and horrified. I sprang from the bed onto my two feet and followed Jen out from my room. I couldn’t let a tear run down my cheek. Pa was coughing badly. His eyes could not open and his speech was very unclear. He barely could stand. Ma panicked and did not know what to do. I carried Pa into my car and drove above speed limit to the hospital.

Pa was rushed into the emergency room. Three months were up. But we were hoping for a miracle. We thought it would be more than three months. We prayed until the doctor came out from the room.
“ He’s okay. He must have eaten something wrong or have been too exhausted. He’s a strong man. But we advise you to let him stay in the hospital. You can see him now,” the doctor enlightened us with the good news. We entered the room and Pa was there, lying on the bed, looking at our relieved faces. We neared him and told him how frightened we were. Hane was with us. Max and May rushed from Westin to the hospital. He was relieved when we called to tell him that Pa was fine. Pa refused to disclose what he did in the morning. Ma did not know either. She was doing her own stuffs in the kitchen and he was doing his outside.

We followed the doctor’s advice and Pa stayed in the hospital. Weeks passed by, three months gone, and Pa grew weaker each time. The doctor said it was a miracle for Pa. I believed in miracle and it never failed me. May shared with him news. Pa was about to be a grandfather. May was pregnant. He spoke to us and said that he will leave peacefully and happily as he has already experiences the best of life and was with us through the happiest moments. He told me how happy he was to see Max be married, I got a job, Hane was back for holidays and Jen was to be a professional pianist someday. He would have a grandchild; his wife would be a grandmother. The happiest, though, was when we celebrated his anniversary. It was a black moment.

Pa had left us. All our relatives and close friends sent him off and it was a tough period for us. It was a loss beyond imaginable. Pa was a great man to everyone in his life. He was a man of great influence. Ma was the hardest to accept the fact. I was a man, a man with feelings, and I cried to his departure. It was the only natural and genuine thing to do. Keeping tears in my eyes only made me feel more pain. I trapped myself in my room, recalled his presence around me and my tears could not stop rolling down my soaked cheeks. I missed him tremendously. We were all supporting each other to face and overcome this resilient hurdle. Ma could not.

Pa’s lawyer came to our house two days after Pa left. He said Pa left us with a will and it was the shortest he had seen in his entire career. It was three sentences long. He asked whether it was the right time to read it and we agreed. Ma was silent and she looked as if her soul was apart from her body. She was in the room when the will was read, but her mind swayed off into the past with Pa. The lawyer started.
“ To my beloved Ma, Hane, Max, Jen, Chris and May, when you are listening to this, I am most probably on my way there, somewhere far, far away from all of you but I will be watching over you. I have only three things to say and you’ll hear me no more, all of my wealth in the bank and my possessions are to be passed to my wife, Annie Liew, and that the garden, where I brought the children when they were little, is to be inherited to my four dear children and daughter-in-law. And before I leave you the last time, the last thing I would like to say is that the will is forever will be our will.” Three long, complete sentences. We understood clearly the first two, but stumbled to understand the third. May be it was not the time for us to know. Pa’s words sometimes needed time to grow. He wrote only three things.
“ This is the shortest I have ever seen,” the lawyer claimed.
“ So Pa left us the garden and Ma to keep his wealth,” Hane spoke sounding unhappy but we did not bother to respond to it. We were tired. Ma was still thinking about Pa even when the lawyer finished reading the will. The lawyer continued and said something that shocked Ma back into the house.
“ Mr Chin rewrote his will about three months ago. If I’m not wrong, it was the day after Max got married. He told me how delighted he was.” Ma looked to the lawyer. We now knew where Pa had gone earlier in the morning. He went to meet the lawyer and may be included May in his will. Pa was equal of a man. He scared us all.


Bang! Bang! Bang!
“ Hane just sent me a message. He wants to meet us at home this evening. He said it’s urgent,” I conveyed the message I received from Hane to Max. We were in a shooting range. Max had a crush on guns and bullets and he loved to go shooting. He invited me to join him. He was an amateur sharp-shooter, I was nobody.
“ I wonder what’s the urgency. Tell him we’ll be there.”
Bang! Bang! Bang! Bull’s eye, not mine.
“ So you and May planning to cancel the honeymoon to Paris?”
“ Not really a cancellation. A postponement. I wanted to go ahead with the honeymoon but she said it was better for the both of us if we do it later.”
“ I think it’s alright if you wanna go ahead with it, if you’re asking me.”
“ I thought so too, but she is right. She’s four months pregnant, and she wouldn’t enjoy much then.”
“ Oh yes, I forgot about that.”
Bang! Bang! Bang! My bullet went out the target. It was humiliating.

“ You’re really not good at this.” Max said teasingly.
We went for lunch at Pelita Restaurant. I ordered a plate of chapatti and had ‘teh tarik’. Max was hungry after the shooting and ate fried rice and ‘roti canai’. Halfway through my lunch, I received another message on my handphone. This time it was from my office. Lydia informed me that my boss wants me to be in the office for a meeting tomorrow. Tomorrow was a Sunday. I dislike my job even more.
Max left not long after he ate to fetch May. I paid the bill, it was a bet I obviously would lost. I visited the video shop next door to grab some cheap DVDs to watch. I bought ‘The Speed’. I had watched it on the television twice and I liked it a lot. It was worth buying.

Ma was not in the house. She had been going out often lately and I was rather uncomfortable with it. I discussed it with Jen once; she said Ma is doing fine. Jen was out too, probably in class with some students. I was left all alone in the house to watch the movie until Hane arrived. He was before time, five. The movie ended when he came, just right.
“ I’m not sure where Ma and Jen went, but Max and May will be here soon. What’s the urgent matter? Come on in first. Do you want anything to drink? Coffee?” I slightly nudged him. His body moved away from me a little when I did so. He never did so before.
“ I’ll wait for the rest before I tell. They’ll be here soon anyway. Jen said she’ll be here at five thirty. Thanks for the coffee, but I prefer without.” He entered the house, looking solemn and unsmiling. His facial expression intrigued me.
Jen came home together with Max and May. They parked their cars opposite our house. I offered to make coffee or any other drink but Hane instructed us to sit in the living room. He wanted to start on the matter.
“ I called you here because I want to discuss something important with you. It’s about the garden Pa inherited to us.” We turned serious hearing Hane’s words. “ I have wild ideas about the garden and I bet it’ll work. It’ll gain more profit than anything else.”
“ Profit? I don’t get you,” I asked, puzzled.
“ The garden is a kilometer squared large. It’s a big piece of land, in a prime area. I thought of demolishing it and do something there, like a condominium, apartment or a hotel.”
“ Are you crazy? That garden treasures a million memories of us!” Max said.
“I know, but think about its fetch. It’s a place so strategic in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. May be millions.”
“ Are you willing to pay that for our memories? I don’t get you,” Max said, sounding heated.
“ The memories are in our heads, Max. So what for to keep a garden so big, where there is no use?”
“ No use? It’s a garden,” I spoke.
“ I don’t care what you said. I’m putting my foot on the ground and I’d say no.”
“ But we all have our share in the garden. 5 of us, with twenty percent each.”
“ If you get more than fifty, which I don’t think you’ll even get.”
“ Jen’s with me.”
“ What!” Max looked furious over Hane. I was angry, but not like Max.
“ I called Jen and told her about it. She said she agreed, if it’s for the better.” Max turned to Jen.
“ For the better, Jen? Now he wants to destroy and take away all the sweet memories of Pa and us. You can live with that?” Jen looked at them, sandwiched between the two.
“ Jen, you know what the garden means to us and you are willing to let it all go away?” I asked Jen.
“ I’m not taking your memories of Pa away. I’m just saying why keep the place for no purpose? It was not well kept when you first went to see it, am I right? I know because I remembered of the garden too and I went on the day we had ‘Thong Zhi’, before coming here. It was right after I arrived in KL.”
“ It was not well kept, right, but that doesn’t say anything. Don’t that feeling come back to you when you visited the place? It’s where I wed too!”
“ You’re not being rational.”
“ I’m not? We have our childhood dreams buried in the garden. I was wed in the garden. You remembered of the place when you reached KL. Doesn’t that mean anything to you? Aren’t you being rational?”
“ Yes I am. Listen to me. It could fetch millions.”
“ You know what, I couldn’t believe that you’re a money-minded person. My brother, with so high qualification, could be blinded by money and greed.”
“ I know what I’m doing.”
“ I don’t at all!” Max was fuming with anger. There was complete silence in the room for minutes.
“ Hane and Max, why don’t we talk this over properly, professionally and maturely?” I said, taking the role of a big brother. I was also upset with Hane, but I wanted to hear more from him. There surely was a reason.
“ I’m not going to listen to his crap! It’s just silly. Plain stupidity! Pa would be ashamed.”
“ Pa would be ashamed we are quarreling now.” I replied Max, though I was on the same page with him.
“ Alright then. You can listen to his ideas all you want, Chris. The decision is in your hands. Hane and Jen make forty percent. May and I hold forty percent. I hope you’ll be wiser than Hane.” He stood, followed by May. May did not want to leave but Max was infuriated and left the house. He slammed the front door on his way out. The three of us stayed in the room looking sad. I was blown away. Hane looked displeased. Jen did not utter a single word in the argument. The silence resumed for minutes until Hane broke it.

“ I have made my point clearly. You decide.” He said sternly and left the house. I looked at Jen and she turned away. There was a reason why Jen supported Hane. It took her to let go all of her sweet memories. What was worse was that I have to make a decision. One will be extremely happy and the other will be in total distraught. I had not a single idea to reach my decision and I wished Pa would be here to guide me.


The house was empty at night. Ma was still out. Jen left after the tense moment to meet her friends at OldTown Kopitiam. I made Maggi noodles for dinner and brought it to the living room and ate while watching television. I had lots of thinking to do that I decided not to eat out. I had work the next day too. After dinner, I went into my room and did some typing. I prepared the things needed for the meeting until near midnight. Before I went to bed, I heard noises coming from my living room. I was afraid it could be burglars and retrieved for my handphone. I pressed 9, 9, 1 but I did not dial. If anything goes awry, I’ll hit the ‘call’. There were sounds of the chair being moved and my nerves sprinted through my muscles. I opened my room door gingerly and looked out. It was dark. The light was off. I tried not to get noticed. There was one figure only and I was affirmative I could get him down.

The light was switched on and I saw Ma. She looked filthy. I left out a sigh.
“ Ma? Where have you been? I thought it was a burglar. Are you alright? You look messy,” I walked to her. She smelled of beer.
“ I’m alright. Go to bed. It’s just the chair. Someone must have put it here and I knocked it,” she said choppily. I had dinner there and forgot to replace the chair. “ I’ll just put it back at the usual.” She staggered her way to the chair. I went beside her.
“ You’re drinking, Ma? I thought you don’t?”
“ Oh, son. I’m not drinking. I drank.” She laughed to herself as if it was a joke. It wasn’t to me.
“ You’re drunk, Ma. You don’t know what you’re saying.”
“ Of course I do, dear. You want to know something. You look just like when you were five. Cute and handsome. Your Pa, my husband, look exactly just like you.”
“ I’m bringing you back to your room. How much did you drink?” I shouldered her.
“ You’ll look like Pa when you’re his age. I drank plenty. And don’t go around being like Pa. I’ll drink if I want too.”
“ You’re really drunk. Come, let me bring you to the room.” She pushed me aside and she fell to the floor.
“ You know what, we should buy beers and stock them up in our fridge. It’s good,” she said then giggled. I kneeled down to lift her up. She threw my hands away from her. I looked at her.
“ Don’t you touch me!” She scolded.
“ Ma, it’s me.”
“ I can stand on my own. Pa is not around and I can stand. Don’t you touch me!” I neared my hands and she again blasted my hands away.
“ I said I can live without! You look like Pa, you’re not Pa.”
“ I’m not Pa and I will never be him.”
“ Then leave me alone.” I took steps backward and saw her from far. My eyes turned red and began to cry. What happened to Ma?

She slowly stood and staggered herself into her room. I followed her behind in case if she fell. She did not and made it into her room. She locked it and I went to my room. I couldn’t sleep. I was worried of Ma. She had never drink and now she drank until she got drunk. I received a message on my handphone and it was from Jen. She was staying overnight at her friend’s house. I did not know what to do. I did not know who to turn to. What have my family become of? This question popped mentally in my mind. I tried to close my eyes, but I could not fall asleep. I saw mental images of Pa.


I made my own breakfast, a cup of coffee to kick-start the day and a toasted bread with strawberry jam. I glanced several times at Ma’s room but the door was shut. I wanted to check on her but she had locked the door. She locked herself in.
I was late to work but my boss accepted my apologies. It was kind of him to accept it, though he was the one that asked me to work today and supposed to seek apologies from me as well. I did not say anything and attended the meeting, did some work in the office and left as soon as I was not needed. I headed back home and noticed Hane’s car was parked in front of the house. I walked into the porch and I could hear Hane and Jen discussing from outside. I was clearly eavesdropping.
“ You should just tell them. They’ll help you.” Jen advised.
“ Tell them what. Tell them that I’m broke.” Broke? Hane is broke?
“ No, tell them you need financial help and we could stop fighting over the garden.”
“ They don’t have enough. And I don’t want them to bear my burden. I owe people money, lots of them.” Hane borrowed money?
“ But we can help. Someway, it will work.”
“ I’m not going to, not any time soon. I checked with some companies and they are willing to pay five million ringgit. I’ll get one million and a bit more, I’m cleared off my debts.” Debts?
“ But if Chris doesn’t go with you? He knows I treasure memories and that garden has a lot. He’ll know sooner or later.”
“ If he doesn’t go with me, then I’ll need someone to help divide the garden into five portions. I’ll sell mine off.”
“ How much will you get?”
“ Less than a million. If I get the better part, the most it fetches is seven hundred and fifty thousand ringgit. It’s not a lot, but it’ll help.”
“ You can have my part too.” How desperate is Hane? Jen’s willing to give hers. I had thousands of questions to ask.
“ No. I will not take. You have sacrificed enough for me. You even took the hit from Max. I don’t know how to thank you.”
“ No need any thanks. We’re brother and sister.” I heard enough and did not bother listening more. I entered the house. Jen and Hane were surprised to see me.
“ Hey Hane, you’re here,” I greeted and pretended I did not hear anything, not knowing anything. “ Hey Jen. How was last night with your friends?”
“ Hey Chris. I though you’ll be at work?” He turned to Jen. “ I better be off, see you soon.” He left.
“ Oh, last night was good. Did Ma come home?” I looked at her
“ I’m not too sure. I was asleep ‘til morning. She’s not here?” I lied. I wasn’t a good liar but I tried my best.
“ Nope. She was out when I came home. Dinner in tonight?”
“ Out. And join me.” I walked into my room. Ma went out again and I suspected she had been drinking. I had to investigate, so was about Hane. I retrieved my handphone from the pocket and sent Hane a message. He replied a ‘yes’. I was going for dinner with Hane and Jen, who did not know I invited Hane, and I will solve a puzzle.

Dinner was at Ah Chay Restaurant. Jen and I arrived first and Jen kept questioning me who was the third chair for. Hane came and he was surprised to see Jen. So was Jen.
“ Don’t mind Jen here.” I said.
“ Not at all.” He sat and we ordered our dinner.
“ I’m not being busybody, but I overheard your conversation with Jen this afternoon.”
“ What!” Hane burst and all other customers in the restaurant stopped to look at him.
“ I want to know the truth. What’s going on?” I sincerely curious. Hane was still.
“ I think you should tell him, Hane.”
“ Tell me what?”
“ I’m in a serious problem and there is only one way out.” Hane told.
“ What’s so serious? Share with us, we might help.”
“ I owe someone money overseas. Near two million ringgit now.” His voice subdued.
“ That’s a lot. What happened? You gambled?” My eyes wide open.
“ No, it was a project. I need money. I partnered someone, a jerk. I borrowed a million ringgit. The project failed terribly and my partner fled off. I had to pay his share. It’s about two.”
“ How could you have trusted him?”
“ He’s an old friend of mine. I couldn’t believe him doing so.”
“ So how much are you short now? We could help.”
“ I’m completely broke. Two is what I need to pay.”
“ That’s a lot. No wonder you thought of selling the garden.”
“ Yes.”
“ But that garden is our land.” I interrupted before he could continue.
“ And it was right Max fought for it. It was where he wed. It was where we played together as a kid. I’m sacrificing my childhood memories, but asking him to sacrifice the wedding memory would be too much for me to ask.” I nodded.
“ Don’t worry. I’ll try talking to him. He’ll understand.”
“ No. Don’t! I don’t want him to know and show sympathy on me. He’ll give up his and I’m not going to ask him take sacrifices.”
“ You’re not to say. I’ll tell him and let him decide.”
“ Please, Chris, don’t tell him. Then, I would be embarrassed as well. And I have faced enough embarrassment from you and Jen. Promise me you won’t tell him and he wouldn’t know. Not from you.” I did not know what to do, but my heart told me to abide to Hane.
“ I promise you I’ll not tell.” I turned away but continued my sentence. “ And I guess I’ve made a decision. I’ll agree with your idea to sell the garden. It’s for the better. Max will understand.” I ended the conversation. Our food came and we filled our ravenous stomach. No more secrets between us, so far.


It was a starless night and the sky looked bare. Only the moon was present with me, accompanying me along with the chilly weather as I ambled around my porch. I remembered when I was young, about the age of four, I would lift my head and look toward the sky in delight. I was proud when counting the stars twinkling above me under the warm arms of my father and mother. I would stop at ten, and Pa would continue counting them for me. Ma smiled when she looked at us together on the bench. I could not even find a star in the sky tonight. No star, no Pa, and Ma was not back since morning. Only I, and a bench were left in the porch.

It was a comforting moment for me in the porch. The weekend had been tense, and I was not sure if it would get any worse. My mind was too indulged in the relaxing walk, unwinding myself from the tangled workload and forgetting about family problems, until I saw Ma came home. Again, she smelled like a lady bathed in alcohol.

“ Ma, you’re drinking again?” I went closer to her and supported her at the shoulder. She barely could walk straight. I was downhearted to see Ma in this condition.
“ Son, must I tell you again, I’m not drinking. I drank.” She laughed at herself.
“ Ma!” My voice rose loud and she shuttered. “ Do you know what you are doing?” I was agitated with her behaviour though I had tremendous respect for her. “ You look filthy, smell of beer and couldn’t even walk straight.” She was almost falling when I grabbed her at her arms.
“ You don’t go acting around like Pa or my mother,” she warned me.
“ I’m not them. I’m not acting like them either,” I corrected her. “ You know you made Jen and I worried sick waiting for you.”
“ Oh, where’s Jen? Where is Jen? Is she home? Now? She can’t see me like this. Tell me, hurry, where is she?” Ma asked repeatedly, suddenly became frightened.
“ She’s staying overnight at Hane’s apartment. She has to know this. Ma, you need to stop.” I shook her as I replied.
“ Oh, lucky me. Don’t tell her I drank.”
“ Ma, you have to listen to me. You have to stop. You never drink before and you hated them. It’ll never do you any good.”
“ Promise me you won’t tell.” She sounded sober at that moment.
“ I won’t tell her if you stop.” Ma did not respond, and staggered herself into her room, and locked the door behind her. Her situation worried me a lot, and how she had changed. She could not help but spoiled my mood for the night. Finally, the weekend was over.

Monday morning was bright early. Ma was awake and she prepared breakfast for herself and me. French toast had never tasted so good. I was thrilled to see Ma in the kitchen and her room door open. She enjoyed preparing the meal but enjoyed more when we were eating together on the table.
“ I’m sorry I drink.” She started.
“ It’s alright. As long as you’re okay now.”
“ Don’t take it too hard if I said the wrong thing.”
I wanted to chat with her longer but if I did not leave soon, I would be late again at the office. Twice in a row and I’d be seeing a warning letter. I apologized and left the table. It was a good start for the new week.

Work was not demanding today, so were Tuesday and Wednesday. I was back from the office at five thirty and helped my mother in the kitchen with dinner. She must have been keeping her promise. I kept mine. Thursday was dreadful. We had meeting earlier in the morning and had to complete the task assigned to us on the day itself. I left at seven, when the task was done. Friday was ordinary until later. I went back home and spotted Max and May in my house.
“ Hey Max. Hey May.” I neared Max to give a nudge but he refused.
“ I heard you’ve made a decision. How could you be so stupid to sell the garden?” His voice grew.
“ Sell the garden?” Ma overheard and dashed from the kitchen toward us.
“ Not now, Max. Not in front of Ma,” I whispered into Max’s ears and turned. “ No one’s selling the garden,” I looked at Ma.
“ Who is selling the garden?” She repeated her question.
“ It’s Hane. And Jen and Chris, Ma. They are selling the only memory of us as family,” Max ignored my whisper and blurted out. I sighed aloud. Ma’s mouth was agape and she placed her palms over it to cover. She was extremely surprised.
“ How could you, Chris? The garden means a lot to our family. What do you get from selling the garden?” It was tempting to reason out to them but I held my promise tight. Hane owed me.
“ Did Hane threaten you? I know you’re not like this, Chris.” Max asked.
“ No, it has got nothing to do with Hane. I would also want to sell and get my share in the garden.”
“ You mean you need money? How much?” Max was disappointed. Jen arrived home and she was pulled into the conversation as well.
“ Jen, what do you think you’re doing? What is Hane actually thinking!?” Ma turned to Jen then looked away in distress.
“ Ma, we need to sell the garden. It’s for the better.” I claimed.
“ Better what?” Ma questioned.
“ For money? Money can’t buy memories. Hane needs money? That’s why it’s for the better?” Max words shot like missiles.
“ Answer us, Chris? Jen?” Ma pleaded.
“ No one.” Jen insisted. But it was me who got the unwanted attention.
“ It’s me!” Everyone, including May who had been so quiet, turned to me. “ I need money. I’m broke now and I owe people money. Two million ringgit! Two. And I need to clear it soon. By selling the garden, I would have enough,” I lied, twisted the story and put the blame on me. Everybody’s eyebrow rose except Jen’s. She knew the truth, but like me, she was keeping her promise.
“ You should tell us. We could help,” Ma softened her voice.
“ I have nothing to say.” Max collapsed onto the couch and squeezed his forehead.
“ Ma, I don’t want to burden anyone in this family.”
“ Selling it would be burden,” Ma told instantaneously.
“ No. I don’t want to always rely on you. On anyone.”
“ You know what, you’ve made a decision and I have made mine. Sell the garden, if it’s for the better,” Max said reluctantly. I knew he would understand. But it was not me he needed to understand. “ I know you have thought it through. And it’s the best decision.” Max ended the discussion.
“ Let’s have dinner and see what we can come up with,” Ma suggested.
“ How about using Pa’s money, the one Pa left for you. Could you borrow Chris first?” Jen suggested to Ma. Ma turned away in silence and entered the kitchen, and pretended like she had not heard the suggestion.


One lie led to another. Ma thought of all sorts of ideas to help me out. My relationship with Max turned slightly cold. Mine with Hane was, on the other hand, sweeter. He did not know I had changed his story and took the shot. I was merely picking sides and chose to support Hane. I hoped I stood on the right side. Jen played along with me, pretending to find for potential buyers. Hane did not tell us the real potential buyers, and we did not bother to ask. Faking one would be troublesome. I called Hane to meet me Sunday noon.
“ I have to tell you something.” I started.
“ What?”
“ I told them….” For one moment, he froze. “… It was me who needed the money. Exact story of yours, but me becoming you.” He looked somehow relieved.
“ Why did you do that?”
“ To cover you. Ma knows about it too and she’s helping us find a potential buyer. I need to know yours.” Hane looked rather uncomfortable when I asked him for it.
“ Er… It’s called… I’m not sure but I think it is RamaFarm Hotel Company. It’s a hotel. They’ll buy the garden to build a hotel.” He revealed after much hesitation.
“ Thanks. I’ll tell Ma we found one. By the way, Max was not unhappy when he heard about the reason. May be you would want to tell him the truth soon?”
“ No, let’s just keep it this way first.” We had our lunch and I invited Hane over to meet Ma, but he rejected. He claimed he had errands to run. I did not bother. He looked weird and acted strange after I told him about the change of plan.
Max was at home when I arrived. May stayed back in her home. Jen was with Ma, preparing for dinner.
“ Hey, Chris. I got ideas on how to get cash,” Max showed me some printed papers.
“ Thank you. You don’t want me selling the garden, don’t you?” I asked knowing the answer.
“ Yes, I really don’t want you doing so. But if that’s the best, then I’ll have no choice but to respect your decision.”
“ You’re a good brother. Anyways, Ma, I have found the potential buyer. RamaFarm Hotel Company. About five million,” Max looked disappointed but the name rang a bell.
“ Isn’t that a new hotel company? I read it in the newspaper days ago,” he asked me and I was not sure of the answer. I gave him a slight nod and grinned a little.
“ Five million, that’s good.” Ma spoke and the multiple conversations were left at that. Dinner was ready. Max left after dinner. Jen went to bed early. She had class the next day. Ma entered her room and locked her door. Time slowly grew old, and it was midnight. I was not yet asleep. I was thinking about work. When I was about to snooze, Max sent me a text message.

-Meet me Tuesday at two at Starbucks, GEM. Come alone. Very urgent. About the company. Tell no one.-

Alone? What is it that’s so private Max needed me to go alone? Very urgent and about the company? Is there a problem with the company? Should I or should I not inform Hane? I don’t want him to be cheated again. But Max sent ‘tell no one’. What’s the secret? What’s that suppose to mean? I talked to myself, lying helplessly on the bed until I slept.

Ma’s room door was shut when I woke up in the morning. I wondered whether she went out drinking again. She had stopped drinking the past week, for all I knew. Or may be she was just still asleep in her room and did not want to be disturbed. But it was already eight and Ma had never gotten up later than seven. I walked to her room and knocked politely on her door. No reply. I turned the door knob. It was unlocked. My curiosity was bubbling and it forced me to enter.

Her room smelled of alcohol and I was flabbergasted. The smell came from her room and not from her this time. Ma was drinking again. I sensed so. I searched around her room to find the source. I checked her toilet but nothing was found. I looked under her bed and there were nothing but shoe boxes. I scanned her bookshelf and there were only cook books and Pa’s journals. Nothing extraordinary was there. I moved to her closet and opened it though I knew there would be only her clothes. I found more than just clothes. Two cartons of beer, two cans were opened, three decks of playing cards, and many casino chips treasured inside the closet.


I stood in front of the exposed closet motionless. My eyes were wide opened. My mouth was wide ajar. I could not believe my eyes and hoped everything before me was faux and that I was only hallucinating. Unfortunately, I was not. Ma is drinking, but is she also gambling? What should I do? She’s already becoming an alcoholic and who knows, may be even a gambler. But where did she get all the money from? Questions were popping in my head like mushrooms. I did not know what to do, or where to go. My handphone suddenly rang and broke my deep thoughts. It was from Hane and I was speechless when he greeted.

“ Hello…” I did not reply him. “ Hello, Chris. You there? Hello, hello…”
“ Oh… Hi, Hane,” I finally answered. “ Anything?”
“ What took you so long? Anyway, will you be free this afternoon?”
“ Oh, it’s nothing. Erm…” I stopped and thought of my work. Damn, I have a meeting at ten! “ Oh, damn!”
“ Are you alright?”
“ Yeah, I’m fine. I just remembered I have a meeting today. Most probably ‘til night.”
“ Oh, I see. What were doing just now? I got the contract in my hands and need Jen and your signature.”
“ Oh, but I can’t miss the meeting. I’ll sign it tomorrow noon. I’ll go to your place.”
“ Alright then. Don’t mind leaving a message for Jen. See ya, bye.”
“ Bye.” I hung up the phone and left Ma’s room. I wrote a note for Jen on a piece of paper and stick it on the refrigerator. I hurriedly grabbed my car keys and drove myself to work. Ma was still conquering my mind.

Meetings were never fun. I had to sit in the meeting room and listened for hours. It was my duty and my responsibility to do so. If not, I would had left right away. Pa once said to never forget your duty, for it is the responsibility you need to fulfill. I voiced out my opinions on certain issues in the discussion. It went well and they accepted my ideas. They said my idea has potential and needed further research. I was assigned to research. I should not have opened my mouth.
It was five thirty when I left the office. I bought some apples en route back home. Ma was not there. Jen did dinner and we talked.
“ You received the note?” I asked.
“ Oh, yes. I signed on the contract already. They just need yours and the garden is theirs. Do you think we are doing the right thing?”
“ I’m not sure. It’s still not too late. I have not signed on the contract.”
“ Do you think Pa would be happy to know?” She asked me. Bringing Pa into the conversation always brought chills.
“ I don’t know.” I shook my head.
“ And Ma. By the way, where is she?” She asked and I shut my mouth. “ You know?”
“ Actually, I’m not sure whether I should tell you this or not…” I decided to spill the beans. Ma needed more attention.
“ Tell me what?”
“ That actually Ma is drinking. And I suspect she’s gambling too,” I told.
“ What!? She’s drinking? Since when?” Her eyes enlarged.
“ For the past weeks. I told her to stop.”
“ Weeks!? You knew about it and have never told me.”
“ She said she’ll stop. I didn’t know she kept some in her room.”
“ In her room? We have to help her.”
“ For sure. She thinks getting drunk makes her happy.”
“ It does. But not long.” We devised some ideas to help Ma. We did not want her to fall prey to alcohol. She was not very healthy. We waited at the living room for Ma to return. I slept on the couch waiting for Ma when suddenly I woke up to the sounds of an argument.
“ Ma, you’re drunk!” Jen yelled.
“ You’re right. Not like your brother. I told him I was not drinking. I drank.” Ma laughed at herself. Jen was dead serious.
“ Ma. You have to stop. I will throw the beers in your room away.”
“ Oh no, you won’t, dear.”
“ Try me!” Jen walked off the argument and went into her room. Ma staggered herself into her room. I lay on the couch, listening to the argument and decided not to interfere. I in the argument only would cloud things up. I resumed my sleep.
Morning came. The sun was midway up a Tuesday. Ma’s door was shut. I did not bother thinking where she might be or what she might be doing. Jen’s door was also closed. She usually wakes up later than nine. I drove myself to work. Suddenly I felt that work was not as troublesome and tiresome as family.
I took back my words. Work was just the same as family. I was busy researching when suddenly Jen called.
“ Hey, Chris. You need to be back here at once. Ma just fainted.” She sounded teary.
“ Oh, I’ll be right there.” I hung up and informed my boss. He allowed me to leave. He had changed, I knew since he allowed me home. I rushed into my car and sped home, praying that I was not too late.
Jen was there and she looked panicked. I carried Ma into my car. She was not entirely unconscious but she was mumbling something in between her breath. I could not hear her, so was Jen. I drove speedily to the hospital. She was brought in as an emergency case and was admitted into the emergency room. I did not know how serious it was, but Jen told me something totally distasteful. Ma had a history with alcohol. She was once an addict.
Jen and I paced the floor. We were praying that Ma would be fine. We had not contacted Hane and Max. Jen only called me. But Hane called, then Max.
“ Hey, Chris. You said you’ll be coming?” Hane asked.
“ Yeah, I thought so, but…”
“ But you’re busy with your job. Chris, this is important.”
“ Ma’s admitted to hospital.” He was silent. “ The same one as Pa’s.”
“ I’ll be there.” He hung up. Ten minutes later, I received a call from Max.
“ Chris, you forgot again.” Max said.
“ Forgot what?”
“ Are you really that busy? You forgot to meet me at Starbucks.” I remembered but did not reply him. “ I’m still here. Come, it’s urgent.”
“ Ma’s admitted to hospital.” The exact words I said to Hane. Max was quiet.
“ I’ll be there to tell you then.” He hung up.
Thirty minutes later, Hane arrived, followed by Max and May. They did not greet each other. Max even glared at Hane. They waited outside with me and Jen. The whole day was dedicated to Ma. But somehow, Max caught a time to talk to me in private. He shared with me something nasty about the company. What was worse was that Hane was involved too. This time, he was not cheated, but cheating. And it changed my perception of him as my eldest brother.


I was furious with the news Max shared with me and I couldn’t help but to investigate more. The more I know, the more I angered. I called for a family meeting at my house after work. I wanted to expose Hane. I got the pieces of puzzles in place. No wonder he wanted me to sign it so badly. No wonder he was hesitant when I asked him about the company. No wonder he visited the garden as soon as he arrived in KL. No wonder he said he had some crazy ideas and I was dumb enough to join in. He had it all mapped out. He was the smartest. He was unbelievable! I did not know whether to trust him anymore or what to trust so far. He had played our emotions and attacked us when we were most vulnerable.

Jen was preparing dinner while she waited for Max, May, Hane and me to come. I arrived first, then Max and May, and finally Hane. I did not tell anyone about it. Max knew only half the story. He did not know the whole story and I claimed I knew most of the parts. I started by shocking everyone, especially Hane.
“ I’m not signing the contract. I’m not selling the garden.” I announced with a fierce tone in my voice.
“ What!?” All four of them were stunned. I could see Jen’s, Max’s and May’s lips curved upwards but Hane was steaming.
“ Why all the sudden?” Hane asked.
“ Because there’s a liar among us,” I replied sarcastically. Hane looked guilty while the rest looked confused.
“ What do you mean?” Hane asked, pretending to be innocent and clean.
“ Who else but you!” The rest turned their heads to Hane.
“ I don’t get what you mean.” Hane defended.
“ If you’re not telling. Then I’ll tell my version and let you judge how accurate is my story.” I told.
“ I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Hane responded looking innocent. I turned to Max and May.
“ It was not me who is in need of the money. It was Hane.” Max and May looked bewildered. “ I covered him up. And I don’t know how true that story is!”
“ How true? It was pure.” Hane claimed.
“ Then what about the company. And how you’re trying to cheat us all.” Max looked as if he’d figured out my point. Jen and May was still confused. Hane was still denying.
“ To cheat you all?”
“ I know about the company. And your project!” Hane looked pale. “ You wanted us to sell the garden to a company, a company you’re a part from. And together you’ll build a hotel and you get part of the profit. That’s smart of you. You know how much we would sacrifice for that! Our past. Our memories. I don’t know how you could live that without.”
“ That’s the second part I hid. The first part is true. I’m not lying. I need to pay off my debts. And the third part…”
“ Do so, just stay off our garden.”
“ I can’t. It’s the only place I can find for money.”
“ How we know if that’s real?”
“ Trust me, I’m your brother. And you didn’t hear the third part.”
“ I need not too, because I will never trust you! You’re a liar!” I could not believe I said those piercing words.
“ I’m a what?” Hane asked me to repeat my words. I did without remorse.
“ You’re a smart liar. Well done.” I said.
“ If that’s what you think I am, I have nothing more to say. But I will fight for the garden, no matter what cost. You leave me no choice but to erase the memories.” He spoke with fury. He was determined when he left and I was sure I hurt him with my words. I was unsure whether I had done the right thing. I wished for Pa, I still could not get his last sentence in the will.
I went to visit Ma the next day after work. She looked drained when I talked to her. It was only Ma and me in the room and we chatted.
“ Ma, what happened to you?” I asked from the bottom of my heart.
“ I’m sorry, dear. I could not forget your father and I turned to beers. I was happy the moment I drank beer. I could feel his presence around me.” She closed her eyes.
“ We always remember of Pa. We never forget. We never want to forget. He may not be near us, and wished for us to move on in life from above. He will forever be in our hearts.” I tried to comfort her.
“ You’re like him. You know the right words to say.”
“ Pa was a great man, a great teacher. And I’m certain he does not want to see you like this.” I attempted to cheer Ma up. She let a narrow smile and I was somewhat successful then. Pa’s final sentence finally moved slow into my head. I could almost get want he meant, and still could not understand a thing. But I’m slowly getting there. “ Ma, I have to tell you something.” I decided to spill everything.
“ About what?”
“ About the garden. It was not me who needed the money. It was Hane.” Ma did not look surprise.
“ I knew it wasn’t you. It was not your type to owe money. Besides, there’s no purpose. I was just wondering who you were covering up for.”
“ I’m not sure I did the right thing. I’m not sure Hane told the truth. I discovered that Hane has something to do with the company and I could not trust him anymore. The company will demolish the garden and build a hotel. I told him I did not want to sell the garden, knowing he was involved and not fighting for it. We went into an argument and I’m not sure whether I did the right thing.” I confessed everything to Ma. She was the only neutral person I knew to talk to and to judge.
“ But what if he really needs the money?”
“ I don’t know. I was blinded by anger and did not believe about the owing money part. I was rash.” I sounded guilty. “ I should have listened to his explanation.”
“ It was not entirely your fault. He did not tell you about the company. The garden meant a lot to us.”
“ I know, and he is determined to get it now. He said no matter what, he’s getting the garden. I’m afraid he’ll commit something illegal.”
“ Oh no, he won’t.” Ma assured me. I remembered Jen’s first suggestion Ma pretended not to pay attention to.
“ Ma, how much did Pa left you?”
“ Pa? About three million.” Ma replied hesitantly.
“ Can we borrow the money to pay off Hane’s debt, if he’s telling us the truth?” Ma did not give an immediate respond. She paused quite long then answered.
“ I’m sorry I can’t. Because…”
“ Then it’s alright, Ma. We’ll think of some other way.” I stopped but she was adamant to continue and end her hung sentence.
“ Because I have lost all the money.” I looked at her, puzzled. “ Apart from drinking, I gambled to occupy my time alone. And I have lost it all.” I took a step back. I didn’t want to listen anymore.


Friday. It used to be my favourite day of the week. I looked forward to the weekends and rejoiced the weekdays were over. But not this Friday. Not at all. I did not know what my family had become of and turned into. Everything had changed. Everything was the reverse, everything was upside-down. Pa once said that a family is like a bowl of soup. What makes a soup good is its ingredients and they way it is prepared. Like a family with strong values and good relationship throughout, the family becomes an ideal family. Without any of these, the soup, or family, will not taste as great as it is supposed to be. Like now, there were so many things hidden among one member to another. Secrets had become a priority and truthfulness had become second. Prejudice and anger raced to conquer us. It was never like that in my family. Pa had lost two things he owned last, the wealth Ma had lost and the garden Hane was about to fight for. The only thing left was the third, and I still could not get his ideas. It took time, but I did not want to take any longer. Pa, tell me, what do you actually mean when you wrote ‘the will is our will’.

After work had become leisure. I thought of going to the movies and laughed at some comedies to escape from the pressing situation. I thought of heading for some sushi. I thought of playing a game of bowling. I also thought of drinking beer. But it was Max’s call that gave me something to do, and it was very vital.
“ Chris, Hane just called me. He said he managed to get the garden. I don’t know if he’s telling the truth, but he sounded positive of getting one.”
“ Oh, no. I knew he could get it. Is he doing anything illegal to get it?”
“I don’t know. May and I are going to his house. We need to wake him up. He’s obsessed with the garden. We have to stop him from dealing with anything illegal.”
“ I’ll meet you at Hane’s house.” I hung up the conversation and drove there. The thoughts of movie, sushi and bowling vanished off my mind. The road was busied with traffic jams, as always a Friday and it was peak time. Cars were bumper to bumper. The journey was torturous and tedious, but it was absolutely necessary. Hane was there, occupying my thoughts.
I parked my car and ran into Hane’s apartment. From the corridor I could hear shouts. His house door was unlocked and I entered without asking for permission. Max and May were already there when I arrived. The argument had already started.
“ You have to tell us everything, Hane. We want to help you,” Max questioned.
“ I don’t need your help or mercy.”
“ Just tell us the truth,” I restate Max’s question.
“ You want to know. Then, I’ll tell you. I really owe money overseas. I need to sell the garden. I’m building a hotel on it. And I’ll get the profit.”
“ You’re not money-minded, Hane. Tell us the truth.” I pressed him to reveal.
“ I’m not. And the profit is actually… actually… directed to Pa’s account for Ma to use.”
“ For Ma to use? But she’s got enough,” Max looked confused.
“ Ma gambled. And she had lost the money. I wanted to borrow her some the other day and she told me about it.”
“ But you still need not sell the garden.”
“ I need to. You don’t understand! The garden is our only source of money.”
“ We can share. We can borrow our friends and relatives’ money. We’ll do all sorts to help you. You don’t need to sell the garden,” I suggested.
“ You are really willing to forget the memories? Please do not sell off the garden. It’s against our will. Pa’s will. And it was where I wed. Don’t you remember how beautiful the place was?”
“ I’m sorry Chris, Max and May, but I have no choice. The papers in my hand will give me the power to sell the garden.”
“ You doing anything illegal? How did you get the garden?”
“ I’m not committing any crime nor illegal. I’m sorry. I really need to sell the garden. It’s better for all of us.” Hane said and exiting his apartment. I stood still with May. Max looked desperate to keep the garden. He was more than desperate. He was vehement.

Max leaped aggressively onto Hane and he fell to the floor. Max grabbed the papers in Hane’s hand and tore them apart. Hane was furious and sprang and gave Max a solid punch in his stomach. Max was instable, and Hane kicked him repeatedly in his abdomen. Max collapsed to the ground. I went in the fight and May and I tried to separate them. Hane was tough and gave me a blow onto my head. I collapsed uncontrollably onto the floor and my vision became unclear. I grabbed him in his leg when I was down but he kicked me aside. Hane had gone beyond control. Max got up and pushed May aside. He dashed toward Hane and punched his head. Hane seemed unhurt and gave another strong blow to Max. Max collapsed onto the floor the second time. Hane kicked him sideways and Max was groaning in pain. I felt powerless and worthless lying on the floor, witnessing the fight among my brothers. May went close to Hane and tried to stop him from kicking. Hane was merciless and shoved May away. May fell to the ground and she started to cry. She was bleeding. Hane panicked and left his apartment, leaving the three of us in agony and injured. Max struggled to stand and moved to help May. I attempted to stand and dialed for ambulance. May was bleeding profusely. She was too soon for labour. We prayed she’ll be fine.

She was rushed into the hospital. The nurses helped to clean our wounds. I needed to stitch near my eyes. Seven dreadful stitches. It was a deep cut above my left eyes on the forehead. Max only suffered a few bruises on his right cheek. There was nothing more serious than that, except for May. We suffered no internal injuries.
“ If anything happens to May or my baby, I swear I’m going to kill him!” Max warned me, in rage.
“ Please, Max, don’t worsen the situation. No matter what, he’s still our elder brother,” I said. We paced in front of the emergency room and waited for the doctor to come out. An hour we waited and the doctor emerged.
“ I’m sorry. We did our best, but it was beyond us to save both,” the doctor shared the unfortunate news. “ Your wife is safe.” The doctor left after finishing the sentence.
“ I’m going to kill Hane. I’m going to shoot him now!” Max was overwhelmed with revenge and anger. He thrust me aside and zeroed away from where we stood. He did not know where Hane was, but he was to hunt him down and pull the trigger.


Max had turned into a brutal beast. His eyes were glowing when he left and I had never seen him with such rage before. If he shoots Hane, he’ll go to jail and I can’t let that happen. He had a gun and he was a sharp shooter. I knew because I went to the shooting range with him once. He was ruthless and rash over a decision. Revenge was first on his list, and the only thing playing in his mind. He had forgotten about May lying broken-heartedly on the bed. She was devastated and needed Max the most to overcome the news together. But Max was not there for her. He was out hunting for Hane, and I was following him closely behind. I had to stop everything. And somehow, it was my duty to bring everything back to normal. Pa’s will changed everything, and I still could not get his final words.

“ Max, stop! You can’t kill Hane,” I shouted to him from afar, rushing toward him.
“ Go away!” He barked.
“ You can’t take things into your own hands. There’s rule. Law.” I was near enough to grab his hands.
“ I’m breaking it, like how he’s breaking it by getting the garden.”
“ But that’s not right. And Pa had never taught us to break rules. We can report to the police about Hane.”
“ He took everything I have from me. What more does he want from me? First, he wanted the garden. I wed there! That memory can’t buy. We even played together as a kid there. It was our favourite place during the holidays. Second, he killed my baby!”
“ It was an accident.” I tried to rationalize.
“ I swore I’m going to kill him. And I’m going to.”
“ But it’s not always like that. You could be jailed. Think of us. Think of Ma. Think of May, for goodness sake!” I tried to calm him but he was steaming with revenge. My effort was a plain waste. He had been calm enough when Hane was to take the garden, and when his baby died, he had reached his limit.
“ Go away, I’m warning you!” He stared me. His horrifying eyes terrified me. He was going to shoot, I know. I pulled his arms back but he was strong and reluctant. He dished me aside and entered his car. I sprinted to my car, started the engine and tailed Max. He was driving awfully fast. I had no choice but to accelerate my car.

He beat several red lights and the way he drove scared me to death. His mind was filled with vengeance, and he was not thinking right. He cornered dangerously and accelerated precariously. His life could be at stake instead. He was heading to Hane’s apartment, but he was not there. Lucky, I thought. I gravely hoped not to witness any shooting or bloodshed. The thought terrified me more. They were both my brothers, and they were both heading the wrong direction.

Max drove to Hane’s favourite place to eat, but he was not there. Again, I was lucky. He felt dissatisfied and continued to search for him. The longer he couldn’t find Hane, the thicker his revenge for him was. He drove to the company that was about to buy the garden. He was itching to pull the trigger and end it all, no matter what cost. I followed Max closely though he knew I was behind him. Hane was not there. Lucky, for the third time, and it seldom last for the fourth.

Max thought of one more place to go to. It was the garden. It was the only place Max could think of where Hane might be. I prayed for Hane not to be there. At least I could have one day to pacify Max. I crossed my fingers as I drove. My miracle did not happen. Hane’s car was parked on the outside of the garden, but he was nowhere in sight.

“ Stop, please Max. Stop, you can’t kill him. He’s our brother.” I tried to awake him from being blinded by revenge.
“ He killed my baby. Go away, or I might need to shoot you too.” He warned me the second time. I stood stationary. Max retrieved the gun from his side pocket and aimed it at me. I could see the bullet in the gun. “ Stay where you are, and I’ll not shoot you.” I did not move. Max was lethal.
He entered the garden and tiptoed slowly and carefully over the grasses. He did not want Hane to know his presence. I trailed behind Max as silently as possible. I had to stop, no matter what it takes me. Suddenly, Pa’s final words popped inside my head again. The will is our will. But the words then disappeared when I saw Hane’s back. He was admiring the roses on the ground. Max was standing not very far from Hane and me. And Max raised his arm gradually and aimed the gun toward Hane’s back.
“ Hey Hane.” Max said cynically. His arms were straight. His palms were holding the gun tight. It was pointed directly toward Hane. It was directed to his heart. Hane slowly turned his head around. It was not dark in the garden. There were lights and Hane could immediately see the weapon in Max’s hands.
“ Hey…” He stopped. “ What are you doing? With the gun?” His words stammered. He was wide-eyed to see Max pointing the gun toward him.
“ Why do you even need to come to the garden? You no longer like it.” Max took two steps nearer to Hane, and two steps further away from me. “ Do you know what you did?”
“ Calm down, Max. Put the gun down.”
“ Don’t ask me to come down now! Don’t you know what you just did!?” Max shouted. “ You just killed my baby!” Hane’s eyes were gleaming with guilt and was seeking for forgiveness..
“ I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to…”
“ I’m sorry? That’s all you could say? I’m sorry? You wanted to take everything I have. I have a beautiful wife, you don’t have. I wed in a beautiful place, you don’t even have a girl. I was about to be a father, you, for all I know, couldn’t be one. What is that you want from me? I’ve lost the garden to you, and my baby. What more do you want?” Max bombarded Hane.
“ I don’t intend to take anything from you.” Hane raised his hands high and his palms were facing Max. Hane was trembling slightly.
“ You’re envious of me! Jealousy. Isn’t that right? You weren’t satisfied with what I have.”
“ Yes, I was envious of you. But I don’t want to take anything from you!”
“ Stop lying!” I was counting my steps and chances. I needed to stop this fight. And there’s only one way, though it could cost me my life.
“ I’m not. I need the money.”
“ You know what, I have enough! Enough with your nonsense! You made me no choice.”
“ I’m sorry, Max. I hope I could repay you with all my heart.” Before Max pulled the trigger, I bravely leaped in front of him and held his arms toward the sky. I shouted for Hane to run. We struggled with the gun, but he got the upperhand. He punched me in the face violently and aimed for Hane again. I bled. I bounced off the ground and grappled his hand holding the gun. I pressed his arms downwards. We wrestled for the gun. And I suddenly felt the trigger with my fingers and it was within my reach. Bang!


“ Argh!” I groaned so loud the whole hospital could hear me. Hane lifted me to the emergency room. I was losing blood profusely. The deadly bullet pierced though my thin skin and I was not sure whether it hit my vital stomach. The pain was excruciating and I was completely conscious to experience it. Max left the scene after the shot. My plan worked after all, but I had to face its consequences.
“ I’m sorry, Chris. Thank you.” I replied that it was nothing but my duty.
“ If the police questions you, tell them it was a struggle. I pulled the trigger. I voluntarily did it. It was the only way to end the struggle.”
“ Why would you want me to say that? We should tell the truth.”
“ Because that’s the truth. I shot myself. I pulled the trigger.”
“ But why did you do that?”
“ Because it’s the only right thing to do. I want us to be back together as a happy family. I did it on my own will. And I hope we’ll be like that.”
“ But these things will never change. I hurt you and he tried to shoot me.”
“ I’m willing to forgive you, Hane. But are you willing to forgive yourself?” I closed my eyes and rested in the emergency room. Hane was asked to leave by the nurse. I was suffering in the midst of removing the bullet. The bullet was priceless.
I opened my weary eyes and saw Max standing beside my bed. He was in tears.
“ I’m sorry, Chris. I’m sorry.”
“ It was not your fault. I pulled the trigger.”
“ I know, that’s what the polices said. Why must you say so? I shot you. I’m willing to enter jail. I should be punished”
“ No. I shot myself. It’s true.”
“ But why?”
“ Because that’s the only way I could stop all the mess. Looked at how we have changed. We were not like these months ago. I liked the way it was. I hated the way it is now.”
“ But… but how am I going to ask for your forgiveness? And from May? She’ll be sad to hear these all.”
“ You don’t need to. Because I have forgiven you, Max. I bet May will too, and everyone else. Only can you forgive yourself?” He did not say a word.
“ You’re like Pa. You just know what to say.” He wiped his eyes. “ I’m glad I have a brother like you.”
“ Remember Pa once said, like the tongue and teeth. They live together, but sometimes the teeth accidentally…”
“… bites the tongue. Like us, there will be conflict. But we will be together back.” Max continued where I stopped. He dived onto me and gave me a hug. I let out a cry. He was pressing on my injured stomach. “ You ok?”
“ It’ll heal. Don’t you worry.”
Max left my room to go to May’s. I was positive we’ll change again, in a good way. Hane and Jen visited me thirty minutes after Max left.
“ Are you ok?” Jen asked.
“ Yes, I am. That’s what the doctor said. Thank you for telling the police.”
“ It was not a problem. I did what you want.” Hane looked straight at me in the eyes. “ I came here for another reason. I’m here to tell you that I’m not selling the garden. I realized how precious it is, what memories of us it holds. Max was right. He wed there and we played together as a kid. Money can’t buy these.”
“ That’s great, Hane. I’m glad to hear you’re not selling it. It also treasures the memories of Pa.” Hane nodded. Jen grinned.
“ But there’s one more thing. I’m quitting RamaFarm Hotel Company. I’ll collect as much money as I can to pay the debts and go back to Australia. And I don’t think I’ll ever come back.” I looked at him puzzled. I wanted a reason. “ Because I can’t face all of you anymore. I used Jen. I used Ma. I used everyone.” Jen looked rather offended.
“ What do you mean ‘you used me’?” Jen questioned.
“ You didn’t.” I defended Hane.
“ I did, only behind your back and I can’t face it anymore. I dragged Ma to drink again. I drank with her. She accompanied me to drink. I have a partner. I told her that beers can make her happy. I encouraged her to. I didn’t know she has a history with alcohol. Lucky it wasn’t too late.” I was listening to Hane attentively. Jen looked stunned. “ She gambled to help me financially, but it just became worse. Ma lost everything Pa passed to her. I can’t live with that.”
“ She’s fine now. And we can build wealth together.”
“ And Jen.” Jen turned to Hane, looking slightly angered. “ I wanted her to give me her share in the garden. She did when I told her my reason. Though I did not tell her all, she was willing to help me and I took for granted. I lied to her. Then you, then Max and May. I used all of you for my own gain. I was greedy and forget that the garden meant so much to us.”
“ Hane, please stay. I can forgive you. They will too.”
“ I won’t.” Jen interrupted and slapped Hane’s left cheek hard. It was sudden. Hane took it like a man. Jen could not stand to see Hane anymore and left me with him.
“ Jen won’t, and I can never forgive my mistakes. And it’s time I take it on me.” The nurse entered my room and informed that I needed to take my medicine. Hane left when the nurse attended to me.
“ I’m just curious. Don’t mind me asking, who’s that man that left your room?” the nurse asked. I was surprised when she asked.
“ Not at all. He’s my brother. Why you ask?” I replied her.
“ Oh, I have seen him in the hospital a few times,” she claimed. My eyebrows rose.
“ Most probably to visit my mother, or my brother. Or my father months ago.” I tried to reason her but she denied it was a visit to a patient. I wondered whether nurses are so busybody.
“ He went to see Dr Meng,” the nurse told.
“ Dr Meng?” She burned my curiosity.
“ Dr Meng. He deals with cancer patients. I think that man just now, your brother, I think I saw him being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.” My heart skipped a beat.


That was the third part Hane had left us out with. I finally got what he meant and what we wanted to do. He was a brilliant and wise man. I was prejudiced of him and looked at only one side of the story. I now know why he wanted to go back to Australia and not want to come back. He did not want us to know about the cancer. I was not sure whether what the nurse did was unethical or not, but it really helped clarify things more. Why was Hane so secretive? I needed to talk to him. I needed to say how sorry I was to mistreat him. I needed to know before he goes back. I have to meet him.

“ Hey Hane, when are you free?” I called Hane.
“ Anytime. I’m not going back to Australia until the 15th August. Why?”
“ Could you bring me to the garden? I think I know what does Pa’s final words finally meant.” It was not a lie, I know I was getting there.
“ Sure. When?”
“ Today.” We said goodbyes and hung up the phone. I will push Hane to confess everything. He had been an incredible actor and his scripts were spectacular.
Hane came at one and fetched me for lunch with him. Chicken rice. I did not tell him or ask him anything during lunch. I thought it was inappropriate and it was not the right place. I patiently waited until he and I finished lunch and headed to the garden.

He parked his car under a shady coconut tree. It was the one and only coconut tree in the garden and I couldn’t care less. We strolled along the garden and reached the spot where I got shot. I could still remember the incident like it was an hour ago, and the pain I had endured. There was no blood stain on the ground. The rain had washed it off clean. The roses were in full bloom and the orchids from the arc Max wed was still there. So were the tulips. Though it was not as properly arranged as the wedding night, it looked just as beautiful. I could not take it any longer and I started the conversation.
“ I heard about your third part.”
“ What third part?” He looked as if nothing was it.
“ Why must you keep on hiding things from us? I know about it.”
“ I don’t know. May be I’m just worried you all might be scared, since after Pa.” He slowly revealed.
“ So you decided to do it and face it yourself? You made us hated you.”
“ That’s my purpose. For you to hate me and leave me and forget about me. Then I can leave.”
“ But that’s not right! You are our brother, no matter what. So tell me everything now. I want to know. No more secrets.” He started his story.

“ Back in Australia, I went for a check-up and was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I owe people money just as I have said to you. I remembered about the garden and came back to KL. It was just the right time, when Max got married, and I claimed it was a holiday, that I would be back here for some time. I wanted to spend time with all of you. After Pa left, I visited Ma to tell her my situation, minus my sickness. But when I got to the house, I saw her drinking beers. She even told me she gambled and lost everything. I didn’t know how to react and left the house after saying that I owe people money. Then I saw a potential buyer for the garden and asked for partnership. I wanted to direct all the profits to Pa’s account for Ma to use. I dragged Jen in, then you. I had some misunderstanding with Max and he was right to defend the garden. Partly, I was thinking about myself either. I thought of clearing off my debts and had forgotten about Max’s emotions. You even got shot and Jen miscarriages. I already cancelled the deal selling the garden, and made Ma, Jen, Max and May to hate me so that I can leave. My main plan was to be hated, without any death. If I had told all of you the truth, then Max could be a father, Ma could be a grandmother. You wouldn’t get shot. I regret and truly am sorry.” He told everything in detail. He sounded remorseful.

“ Do you think it’s right to just leave like this? I mean knowing we will never see you again if you…” I stopped and waited for him to reply.
“ I’m not sure, but that’s the best I can think of.”
“ You’re really good. You’re willing to take the hit and made us turned our backs on you. I could not know how much pain you have faced.” He coughed, just like Pa. “ Doctor said anything?”
“ Yes, if I continue my treatment, I may live longer than expected.”
“ Then go for treatment.”
“ I need money.” The thought of selling the garden popped in my mind but he was adamant not to sell it. It had made us go against one another and changed everything. We continued to stroll along the garden, admiring and enjoying the flowers in deep silence. It was not a hot day. It was nice to walk in this weather. It was nice to finally know the truth. It would be nicer if I know what Pa’s final words mean.
“ You want to know something. You’re actually very stupid. How could you think of such way,” I said jokingly. He grinned.
“ I don’t know. May be it’s always family over anything first.” We made a turn and strolled back to Hane’s car. “ You said you know what Pa meant. What actually?”
“ Actually, I lied just to make you come here with me. The garden cast magic. You can’t lie here. It knows,” I laughed. He just grinned with me. “ And now I know your true colours. I’m really sorry.”
“ Oh yes. It does cast magic.” We reached our car. Hane unlocked the car and I opened the door.
“ Your father planted that coconut tree,” it was a voice from behind us. I turned to see who it was from. It was from an old man. He looked like a gardener. “ Your father put lots of effort to make it grow here.”
“ Who are you?” Hane asked politely.
“ I’m the gardener. Your father was a great man.”
“ Oh yes, he was. You know him?” I replied him.
“ Follow me. I have something to tell you,” he invited us to the garden shed. It was a small shed but he said he was contented to live in it. It was Pa who had given him a place to live and he truly respects my father.
“ How long do you know my father?” I asked.
“ Long ago, before you were born. Your father gave me a will to live. I left my family in my kampong to come here to work. There was a fire in my kampong a year later and my house was burnt down, along with my three kids and my wife. I was sad and almost committed suicide. I tried to hang myself but your father came and rescued me. He talked to me and he made me realize it was not the end of the world. He made me busy with gardening. And I finally moved on in life.”
“ He gave you a will to live?” I retold his words. Something was coming up to me.
“ Yes. Then he planted that tree. He told me not to help and he wanted to do it on his own. When it was first started, it was little. Your father took lots of care and finally it bear fruits. A lot, and it was sweet. Though it was just a tree, I could see his will and determination was great.” Will? That’s the second time I heard the word in this conversation.
“ I guess he must have been proud that it’s big, tall and still fruitful ‘til today,” Hane added.
“ Of course he was. When he came for your brother’s wedding, he was looking at the tree with awe. Do you know the significance of the garden to him?” We looked at each other and shook our heads a little. “ It was where he proposed to your mother, where he got married, where you all played as a kid, where his son got married and where he celebrated his thirtieth anniversary.” We thought Pa proposed to Ma in a park. It was this garden actually. We thought they were married in a restaurant. It was here in the garden. “ And your brother’s wedding looked exactly just like his.” No wonder Pa wanted the garden to be the place where Max should wed.
“ You know a lot about our father.” We looked at the gardener, paying full concentration to his words.

“ Not as much as you do. But we were great friends and he respected our friendship. There were a few times we had disagreements on the plants but it was alright after that. When he knew he was diagnosed with cancer, he came to the garden. He told me about the three months miracle and he was wishing for it. His will for it. He wanted to see and experience the happy moments with you, especially his thirtieth anniversary.. It was miracles come true, and I was glad. He was a man of strong will.” The word will appeared the third time and I finally knew what Pa was trying to tell us. I consumed too much time for something so simple. I know what Pa’s will mean.
“ And I never even get to know you,” I responded. The sky was turning dark and it was high time we leave the garden.
“ Call me Pak Mardin. That’s what your Pa calls me.”
“ It was a pleasure meeting you, Pak Mardin,” Hane said. We exchanged handshakes and headed to the car. It was enlightening. I was tremendously happy. I was ecstatic when we entered the car and began to drive back to the hospital.
“ I’m calling for a family meeting and you must be there. I got Pa’s will,” I announced proudly.
“ What’s it?” Hane asked.
“ All this while, I didn’t know. But our lives are the will. We are the walking will. Pa left us knowing so much in the future.” I smiled broadly to myself. Hane turned to me and looked even more puzzled than Pa’s words. No doubt, the garden can cast magic.

Twenty One

I hurried myself and dragged Hane from dillydallying me to May’s room in the hospital. It was where I called for the family meeting and I was more than eager to meet them. I took small steps, then large ones, and I finally ran. I was excited to know what it meant and animated to break it to them. I reached the room and there they were, waiting for me as I entered. They look rather oblivious.
“ Hey, Chris. Why do you call for a family meeting?” Max welcomed me then asked. Hane did not reach the room yet. I sprinted and left him behind despite my injuries.
“ Because I finally got Pa’s last sentence in his will.” Everyone gave a surprise gaze at me.
“ You did, son? You really know?” Ma wanted a confirmation.
“ Yes, I really know. It took time, and I finally got it. The garden can cast magic,” I assured them.
“ What does it mean?” Jen neared me to ask. Hane reached the room and he was hesitant to enter. But he did.
“ What are you doing here? I never want to see you again!” Max told.
“ Max…” May pulled Max nearer to her.
“ I wanted Hane to come too, because he has the right to know. And the right for all of you to know,” I said.
“ The right for me to know? What do I need to know?” Max repeated me. Hane entered the room but did not near the bed and us. He stood far from us. Jen was not happy to see him there either.

“ That he was actually the good person and we turned against him. We did not believe him and he was such a great actor. A white liar. A man whose heart so vast was filled with secrets we have taken for granted and jumped into conclusion. He wanted to leave so that he does not want us to suffer. He hid things from us, and only now I know his real intention. I’m truly sorry,” I informed.

“ Who are you talking about? Who is this ‘he’? ‘He’ doesn’t sound like Pa,” Max asked for clarification.
“ The ‘he’ I’m talking about is our brother, Hane,” Jen and Max squeezed their faces.
“ I don’t quite get you, Chris. Hane was a good person, with good intention but a liar?” Max looked baffled. Jen was perplexed.

“ Yes. He was acting so that we could hate him. So that we could forget him. But that’s not possible because I know, and you should know. Hane is suffering from pancreatic cancer.” That stunned everyone. “ He knew about this back in Australia and wanted to spend time with us. Doctor said it was nothing serious, just minor detection so far.” Ma looked relieved. The others continued to look surprise.
“ Oh…” Max sighed.
“ He really owe people money in Australia and needed to sell the garden. Then we went through everything. The arguments. The fights. He partnered a company and wanted to direct all profit to Pa’s account for Ma to use.”
“ But Ma has Pa’s money,” Jen asked not knowing anything more.
“ No, Ma does not have it anymore. Remember when you asked and she walked away in silence. She has lost them already. And Hane knew about it earlier than us. He twisted the story and said he pulled Ma back into drinking and gambling but it was a lie. Ma drank even before Hane knew. He wanted us to hate him more. Hane wanted to help Ma.” Ma nodded in agreement. Her eyes began to red.
“ Why must you do so?” Jen asked. Hane did not speak. I spoke on his behalf.

“ Because he wanted us to hate him. He was willing to take the pain. His plan backfired when May’s baby died. He decided to not sell the garden and just make Max forget about him and flee to Australia. He wanted to end everything. It was not his intention to take anything away from you, Max. He felt pain just as how you felt about losing your wedding memory. He does not want us to know of his sickness. He was thinking about all of us.” Max let a tear run down his cheeks. He moved to Hane and hugged him.
“ I’m really sorry. I tried to kill you. I didn’t know you were actually helping Ma by taking all these pain,” Max apologized.
“ I should apologize. I hope you will forgive me. I hope May too,” Hane replied in tears.
“ She did not put the blame on you anyway. It was me who was rash.”
“ I’m so sorry Hane,” Jen apologized and gave Hane a hug. I stood and witness the scene. Though it was sad, I was happy the way it went.

“ Which then brings me to Pa’s will,” I interrupted. “ Pa wrote that the will is our will because we are his walking will.” Everyone looked confused again. “ Pa knew what was about to happen. Pa saw the future somehow. Just try to put the pieces together and look at us now.”
“ I really don’t understand you,” Max asked.
“ Apart from wealth and the garden, Pa had left us all with an individual will. Our lives tell the will. I dislike my job and Pa knew about it. But what he was trying to tell me is that I should have the will to strive in my career. I should be determined to work, just like how the tree in the garden could grow with so much attention Pa gave. Look how fruitful it is. And to you Jen. He wanted you to be a professional pianist someday. He saw you played in the competition and when you lost, he told you to try next year. He said that whatever did not kill you will just make you stronger. That’s his will. For you to have the will to continue practicing and become a world class pianist someday. Never give up!”
“ You are right,” Jen responded.

“ And Ma. Pa knew that when he left, you would be distraught. He was right. You turned to drinking and gambling. But you stopped. You quit and realize it soon. He wants you to have the will to move on in life, without him by your side, and most likely now that you have. Same as to Max and May. He also must have wanted you two to move on in life despite losing your baby. It’s easy to say, but hard to do. You couldn’t and wanted to shoot Max. But now that you have realized, Pa would be happy.”
“ Pa was a wise man,” May spoke.

“ And Hane, now that you have been diagnosed with cancer, he should want you to have the will to battle it and win it over. Remember the gardener said how determined Pa was when he knew about his time and Max was to be married. His will to live for the moment was what he wants from you too. To have the will to fight and win. I’m sure he wants me to have the will to cure my injured wound as well. That’s what he meant by writing that the will is our will. His will changes with time and not a permanent one. It will be one that will forever be in our hearts and we will always remember him. I don’t know how true I am, but I am sure this is what he was trying to tell us. Pa’s will is nothing concrete but abstract. His will is our will in all ways, and the most important, it is our will to live life together as a family, like Pa has always wanted to.”


It was the will for me to change the change, even if it took me a bullet. I’m delighted everything is back at where it should be. A happy family. Five minutes? I’m not really sure. But Hane has not arrived. He promised me five minutes but I have always known him he was a wise liar. Jen’s Moonlight Resonance has just ended and she moves to her piano and plays a few melodies. She is a deserving gold medalist in the recent piano competition. She was second and now the first. Pa was right, whatever did not kill you will just make you stronger. Jen is fantastic and is much better and more polished as compared to before. I’m fully recovered from my injured wound and I am waiting for Hane to arrive. Max, who is inside with May, suddenly screams.

Hane finally arrives. His car is parked outside and he and I enter the house. Jen stops playing the piano and welcomes Hane. Max and May come out from the room and help Ma prepare the plates of rice. When it is ready, we sit and have our dinner. I have taken some out and kept them in a container. I am giving it to my neighbours as a token of apology.

“ Doctor said my cancer cells are not multiplying. Plus, they have become inactive,” Hane says with delight. Ma is brimming with joy. We are happy for Hane.
“ And we would like to also add something nice to the table,” May informs and signals for Max to start.
“ We are having a baby. May is pregnant.”
“ Ah ha! Congratulations!” We are thrilled to hear such good news and congratulate them. Dinner has never been so great and amazing since Pa left. One year, and how things have changed.
“ Pa’s garden is well kept and many people have rented it for their wedding. The profit is given to Ma,” Jen announces. Jen came up with an idea of making the garden an ideal spot for wedding and her idea paid off. The garden is generating more money that I thought. We did not know how Hane cleared his debts, and we did not bother to ask. But he did clear it and we are happy. I reach out for the chicken curry and pour some over my plate. Ma’s chicken curry is the best in the world.

After dinner, we play charade. Hane, Jen and I in a team against Max, May and Ma. I, obviously, am the best player. We enjoy the game and laugh at each other’s actions until 11 at night. Max and May have decided to stay overnight here but Hane insists on leaving. I follow him to his car and he leave near midnight. After he left, I turn to my porch and leisurely walk and enjoy the cool night breeze. I was instantly mesmerized by the night when the breeze brushes through my skin. There are stars in the sky. I notice one twinkling brighter than the rest. I am pretty sure that is Pa, looking down at us from above, and I could see his broad smile. It is one radiant smile. I could not help but to smile back at it. Thank you for your will, Pa, I whisper aloud.