Make your own free website on

Angelina dashed to the gate as her mother slipped out and slid her hand in to lock it. Her mother, frowning with disapproval and irritation, jerked the back of her hand forward, muttered, "Go back into the house. You should be in bed as you have school tomorrow morning."

"Mummy, mummy, don't leave. Sleep here tonight. You can leave in the morning," pleaded the nine year old girl in her sun-bleached pyjamas.

"I have to get up early in the morning to slaughter a chicken for the lady and the earliest bus will not take me there on time. Now, you go to sleep and I will come back again next Sunday. Go on, be a good girl," the woman coached soothingly.

As the girl backed into the house, Ailing hastened her footsteps towards the bus-stop a block down the dark lane, catching the last bus back to town. The night was clear and twinkling stars could be sighted, if only she bothered to look up. But her thoughts then were not on the beautiful stars. She had to rush back to the apartment when she worked as a confinement lady for a mother with a newborn baby boy.

Babies. She had two children of her own, both girls. Angelina, being her elder child is also the prettier too. She had always been the more sensitive between the two sisters. She was also quite bright, scoring perfect marks in her Bahasa Malaysia in her tests last year although she had not been doing all that well recently. Perhaps Ailing could ask her to study harder the next weekend when she returned to see her children again.

Bright lights glared at Ailing's eyes as the bus approached and came to a halt. She waited till an elderly man and a child close to Angelina's age alighted before she herself boarded it. Immediately, the bus jerked forward, almost making her lose balance. Ailing grasped onto the rail and moved forward until she finally found an empty seat. A few rural womenfolk with their farm produce to be taken to town to sell were at the back of the bus, exchanging gossips loudly. They wore simple T-shirts with faded sarongs. Every once in a while, they would guffaw. A man who seemed like a few years her senior, sitting a few seats behind her was smiling at Ailing as she glanced back to search for the bus conductor. He was quite well-groomed with a long-sleeved white shirt and hair combed back neatly.

Not able to discern the conductor among the passengers, she directed her eyes out of the window, watching the traffic outside. Her thoughts once again returned to her children. Molly, her second child had come two years after Angelina. Although Molly did not inherit her mother's good looks, she had always been her mother's favourite. Being the younger child, Ailing feels a compulsion to protect her. Molly had worry wrinkles on her forehead, a genetic inheritance from her father and she was a quieter and more obedient child than Angelina. Molly had always been by Ailing's side until last month when Ailing left the family to work as a confinement lady in town, caring for the newborn, cooking for the mother and preparing her bath water by boiling a large pot of hot water with crushed ginger roots. Why had she run away to work outside to work in another home? From the day she got married to Mike, she had been a housewife, cooking and cleaning and caring for the family, including Mike's old parents, his unmarried elder brother and also helping to run the family business, a corner sundry shop. The funny thing was she enjoyed her life then. She enjoyed being the good and filial daughter-in-law. Mike's mother had actually treated her quite well, and serving her was the only way she knew how to repay her mother-in-law for taking her in when she ran away from home after her boyfriend had impregnated her and left her, returning to his own wife. She found haven under the protection of Mike's mother whom had taken her in to help with the store, providing her a shelter while she awaited the birth of her child. As soon as the child arrived, she gave it up for adoption. In the following year, she had established her ground in the family by marrying Mike. It was more of a marriage of convenience than of love. She felt obligated and it was a way for her to show her gratitude. It also served as a mode for her to prove her virtue and merit. Not that she complained. She had been quite contented with her situation until Mike's eldest brother returned from England, bringing with him a wife and two young children a year ago. Things had been blissful to the extent that it seemed like they were the ideal one big family Chinese Malaysian family. When Daryl came back to set up his law firm in town, everything in the family changed.

No longer was she the good daughter-in-law of Mike's parents. She was then labelled as the impure woman because of her background and because of her lack of sophisticaton.
Daryl sneered at Mike for his choice of woman and he puts her down as an ignorant and callous female. Mike, being a highly educated person despise the inclusion of such a poorly educated woman with such a background in the Chin family. He regarded her as a disgrace to the Chin regardless of her contribution in the family, and everything she did, he somehow was able to find some fault in it. He had criticized her weekly purchase of fruit for her father-in-law, her cooking, her house-keeping skills, her lack of intelligence and knowledge and even her way of bringing up her own children . She had tried her best to tolerate these criticism until one day, she overheard Daryl labelling her as a second-
handed wife. Mike had acted non-chalantly, as he was a poorly educated man. With that last straw, Ailing decided then that she and Mike must either move out to live on their own or be separated. Upon Mike's refusal to leave the nest that he can been so accustomed to, Ailing then seeked employment outside and landed on a temporary job as a confinement lady, caring mothers with newborns. Not surprisingly, this move had gladdened Daryl, for then he and his wife would be in his parents' favour as the ideal son and daughter-in-law. While for Ailing, she embarked on her job with uncertainty and doubt; yet, she was relieved of Daryl's constant scorning.

Her thoughts were jostled with a rude tap on her shoulder. She swung her head around and the sight of a typical Malaysian lady in her early twenties greeted her. "You don't have to pay. The gentleman over there has paid your fare for you," the bus conductor announced, pointing her index finger to the very gentleman whom had just smiled at her a few minutes ago. She glanced at him and entertained him with an obliging smile in return. Gratitude, once again.


The following Sunday afternoon found Ailing back in the Chin's resident again. She had just received the news that Mike's parents would be migrating to New Zealand to stay with their eldest daughter, a successful dentist. She was filled with pessimisim as to what life would be like under the Chinese family's hierarchy of Daryl.

This Sunday had also brought news of Molly's theft. Molly had taken five ringgit out from Mike's mother's purse the day before and Daryl was relishing on this opporutnity to scourge her with a heap of condemnation. He had taken the liberty to land a dozen strokes on Molly's derriere with an iron ruler and had haughtily informed Ailing of his effort in his guidance for the child. Daryl then scoffed Ailing's inability to hold the responsibility of a mother. He scorned her in her inabilty to play the role of a good mother. In fury at Daryl's jeering and in contempt of Molly's unacceptable behaviour, Ailing shoved her child with all her might against the wall, creating a spine-chilling thud as Molly's head pounded against the wall. The earth held his breath for a few seconds.

Molly, filled with terror and confusion as to why the adults had over-reacted to such a small crime, wailed piteously, "Mummy, Mummy, please forgive me. I won't dare to stead again. Mummy, my head hurts. Please don't throw me again. I'm sorry, Mummy. I won't steal again."

Her eyes widened with horror, shock and fury as Ailing glared at her piteous child whom had not known better. The poor child had wanted to be like the other children in her school whom had some pocket money to buy snacks in the school canteen. While Ailing was still living there, Daryl had
powered by lycos
SEARCH: Tripod The Web