Gazing at falling leaves

Short Stories & Poems

A glimpse of hope (Part 1)

I thought I saw her. It was quite a distance so I couldn’t run up to ascertain.

Even if I did, it would have been awkward. After all, I had not seen mommy in the last fourteen years or so. My memory of her face was largely from the photos of my childhood. In every photo, mommy was holding me and we were both smiling or laughing. Some of them were taken with daddy. I had a very happy childhood except that I missed mommy very much since the day she left.

As she turned left into the book store, I was momentarily disorientated. Should I stalk her or should I walk on ahead towards the parking lot?

I decided to walk into the bookstore. Would she recognise me? I’m no longer a boy of five. I could hear my heart thumping in my ears. What was she doing here? What had she been doing all these years? How often have I crossed her mind?

I snapped out of my reverie as I realised that I had lost her. She must be in the bookshop as there was only one door. She would have walked past me if she had left.

I looked up and I saw her again, browsing through some cook books on the second floor. So I decided to hang around the place I was at, the section on “Self Improvement”. It was a matter of time before she came down again.

 

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A coffee cup at the window

She sat there, cupping a hot cup of coffee, lost in her thoughts.

It was a chilly evening and Emma was still nursing a cold but she stubbornly went ahead to sit at the balcony. In some bizarre way, she liked shivering in the cold with a hot cup of coffee in her hands.

Emma didn’t know when she discovered comfort from that. But she did and now it’s a ritual she indulged in after a day’s work. And if you were to interrupt her thoughts now and asked what  she was thinking, she wouldn’t quite be able to tell you.

She knew that this cannot go on and yet she was allowing it. Putting off any resolution and letting mindless distractions get in between.

She had been thinking about breaking off her engagement. She’d never loved him and just went along because. She’s not even sure of the reasons now.

But what if she broke it off and lose the chance to marry forever?

Moreover, there was nothing wrong with AJ. He was a good man with a more than respectable job.Was that enough to marry a person?

Emma knew the answer, not just the answer, but all of the rest to the questions swimming in her head. She knew but she continued to sit there cupping her coffee, secure with the whiffs of caffeine ascending her nostrils. She wanted to enjoy her coffee. The answers and the actions could wait.

No turning back

She spun around and walked as briskly as she could, careful that she did not break into a run and get all flustered and sweaty and in turn, draw unnecessary attention.

The temptation to turn around and look back was so great. Just like how you would go through your photo album and reminisce those moments. The heated moments alternated with calm moments as Gail stabbed him over and over again. The heated moments were when she replayed all the hateful and hurtful things he said and did to her. The calm moments were when she knew exactly what to do annihilate this awful person, creature from her life, from her consciousness-without getting caught.

That’s Gail for you. She was a meticulous planner. She recorded his daily schedule to the point that she knew what he was doing at home at a certain time. Of course, he would let her into his home. And of course, he ridiculed her harshly when she came out of the bathroom dressed from head to toe in plastic bags. She was a good-for-nothing to him.

The killing commenced shortly afterwards as the blood spluttered all over the plastic she was wearing. Gail made sure the stabbing not only took his life but took away all her sadness and pain.

Then it was all over and she packed up.

As she walked away from the bloody scene, she told herself over and over again not to look back. Just look ahead. There was no turning back.

Indeed there wasn’t. Gail felt sick. Sick with regret and disgust. This was no way to live. The road ahead was paved with even more pain and hate than before. If only there was a turning back.

Mothers and daughters

“Why are you doing this?!” Grace shouted at her daughter. “What’s the point of practicing tennis everyday? You could have used the time to work on your Chemistry test”. Grace heaved a loud sigh.

Her daughter dropped her eyes and said quietly, “Okay, mom.”

“Don’t just say okay. You had better quit the school team. It’s taking too much of your time away from your studies. It’s not as if you are good enough to be a professional”.

The look of hurt flashed ever so briefly across her daughter’s eyes. “Mom, how can you say that? I love tennis and I don’t just play so that I can be a professional. I love being on the school team. We agreed that if I took up Chemistry and Math tuition classes, I could continue with tennis”.

“Don’t talk back to me! I find that there’s no point in you playing in the school team. Better to study and get better grades and it’s not as if your grades are near the top at all”.

“No, I won’t quit tennis. Just because your mom told you that there is no point in pursuing an art career, you ditched art and majored in accountancy. I’ll never be like you!”

 

Constant fearing

Susan let the thick book fall out of her hands, buried her face there and wept.

“Then, after an awful pause, the deep voice said, “Susan”. Susan made no answer but the others thought she was crying. “You have listened to fears, child,” said Aslan. “Come, let me breathe on you. Forget them. Are you brave again?”

“A little, Aslan,” Susan said.

Oh, how she wished she was the Susan in the book and not the Susan that she was. If only someone could breathe away her fears, made her forget them.

She was at a loss of what to do as she looked at the one-month-old baby. She was sleeping peacefully. She was a good size and in good health. There was nothing to fear. Yet, Susan felt a pang of panic in the pit of her stomach. Joy, her psychologist, said it was post-natal depression. Was it? She remembered feeling this way even before she was pregnant. And many times too.

How was she able to bring up a tiny human being? She cannot, Susan thought. What if she dropped her? A million of fearful thoughts ran through her mind till she thought she was going mad.

Then she picked up her pillow, gave it a good hug. Susan breathed in deeply and slowly, willing her fears to go away. She looked at the clock, 20 minutes before the baby’s next feed. Susan laid her head down on the pillow and closed her eyes.

She did not need to do much willing before she fell into a deep slumber.

 

Resolutions

Ahhh, the time for new year’s resolutions.

She twirled her pen, musing at the futility of it all. She flipped through the pages in her journal and stopped at 1 January 2016, then did the same until she reached 1 January 2015. She couldn’t help letting out a wry laugh. Haha, she did not keep one single resolution.

Maybe she was not doing it right? You know what they said about resolution and goals- they have to be measurable and specific. What about 1 January 2016: 1) Lose five kilograms and 1 January 2015: 2) Call mom once a month? Measurable and specific enough?

Well, I guess you cannot say the same for 1 January 2015: 7) Find a better job or 1 January 2015 and 1 January 2015: 3)Stop procrastinating.

Sarah was a chronic procrastinator.  The only thing she did not procrastinate was fearing. Fearing that something or other would go wrong. She spent hours, days and eventually years planning but never executing. “It’s got to be perfect.” She always said. She had many lovely plans but none have been put into action. She guarded her plans with the kind of fear and dread that hermit have for venturing outdoors.

If the plan was not perfect, the execution would not be perfect and then her dream will be ruined forever. She would know for sure that this path was now closed to her. This was the kind of person Sarah was.

And she liked it this way.

 

 

Burning thoughts

Reeling, tossing, turning
Troughs and crests
Crashing, burning
It burns, it burns

Over and over
The voices playing
Chewing, gnawing, burning
It burns, it burns

Awake he lays
Respite no more
It burns, it burns
Until it is no more

No more rest
It burns, it burns
The voices swirling
Consuming from within

The way these days

Through the maze she wanders
Not lost yet searching
The memories are etched
So you cannot take them away from her

Yet she walks in circles
Not lost but found
She knows that they are there
Obviously hidden

The two minds that she is in
There is no easy way
No certain path along this familiar maze
She remembers the way

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“What should I have for lunch?” SL wondered as she pounded her feet on the treadmill. Her friends have already decided to eat at McDonald’s.

“How about a Big Mac meal with upsized French fries and coke? Should she have chicken nuggets to go along? Or would a hot fudge sundae be a better way to end the meal?”

Suddenly, any impending gloom had vapourised along with some of her perspiration. She tried not to think about the people who will turn up for lunch today. It was usually five of them, including SL.

But as soon as she decided that she would have both the nuggets and hot fudge sundae with her Big Mac meal, she started wondering if Ben would be there and how she should behave.

She hoped really hard that he would not offer to queue and buy the meal for her. She was so embarrassed the last time. Everyone in Group V knows that Ben likes SL. So did she.

“What should I do? Offer to pay for his meal? Would that lead him on? Please, I hope he won’t ask me out. Should I just have McDonalds at another outlet and meet them at Minds?” SL breathed out louder than usual through her mouth. This was more exhausting than running.

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She knew that she shouldn’t be lost in these thoughts or else it would likely be a downward spiral. SL has been doing so well in the last year or so. She has managed to stave off so much of the sadness that plagued her in the last nine years since she lost her parents.

First her mother who died in the hospital and then her father who died of heartache and loneliness. They left her one after another.

In the deeper recesses of her mind, it used to be “mommy” and “daddy”. But now it’s just “mother” and “father” because it was easier to bear. Initially. But seriously, now she cannot remember when was the last time she referred to them as “mommy” and “daddy”. Perhaps when she was little.

She shook her head hard from side to side as if that would shake off those thoughts and ran to the door to put on her running shoes. She grabbed her keys and bolted out of her house.

SL broke into a brisk jog. She needed to get there as quickly as she could. She was very sure where she needed to be as she ran towards the treadmill. Aahhh yes, this was her refuge.

The gym at her condominium was flanked by four glass walls, three of them looked out into a lush landscaped garden. In the centre of the garden, was a four and a half metres water feature wall. The fourth glass wall faced the swimming pool.

As SL hopped up on the treadmill, she set its speed to one where she was running furiously, panting and perspiring. She didn’t know what speed that was. Anyway, it was always different depending on her mood. She never actually registered the speed or how much calories she burnt or her heart rate or any of those measurements on the treadmill. She just knew that she wanted to run so fast till her heart burst and maybe, it might even be a good thing if she blacked out from the run.

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