A friend once told me that one of the ways to get better in writing is to write frequently. Write about anything that we know or the things that we are fascinated to know more. If you're into fiction, then try the ever-sellable topics such as boy-meets-girl stories. I have never tried that before. This is going to be my first ever effort to write one. My story is purely fictitious, all the characters are not based on anybody I know.So, here goes nothing...
The journey back home from the tuition center was never a pleasant one. Emy always walked at her fastest speed to reach the nearest bus stop. When the twins, Sherry and Nita were with her, she'll feel relieved as they'll walk together and chatted. As the girls stayed just a few blocks from the tuition center, they'd bid good night about 50 meters from the bus stop. From there Emy will be on her own. Tonight both girls were away visiting their grandfather who had fallen ill, so Emy had to walk alone.
It was only a 250 meters walk, yet it felt like 4 kilometers for Emy. It was not a busy street. Only 2 cars passed her ever since she left her class. There were 4 blocks of low cost apartments on her right, and 5 lots of shophouses on her left, but all the shops were already closed for the night. Most of the apartments were still lit up and she could hear human activities still, even though it was almost 11.30 p.m. She just kept walking while humming one of her favorite tunes.
She almost stopped walking and her heart froze about 100 meters from the bus stop when she saw a male figure looking her way while smoking his cigarette. He made circles of smoke from his mouth directing towards Emy. She didn't recognize the guy and his shabby jeans and shirt scared her a little. She continued walking, now slowly. She braved herself to look more carefully, and she saw them. Those cheekbones. The street lights showed her a clearer profile of the male's face. The familiarity of that face somehow made her stopped walking completely.'This can't be true,' she whispered. She felt weak and disoriented as the male figure started walking towards her.
'Emy!' he said, raising his right hand as if signalling her to wait or maybe to stay calm.
'Steve!' she suddenly remembered his name and it came out of her mouth like a cool September breeze. Then in a flash, everything was coming back to her.
It all happened almost 15 years ago. She just completed her SPM and was working temporarily as a hardware store clerk in her hometown. The store owner was a stout Chinese man with piercing eyes. He looked stern and at times nerdy once he put on his spectacles inspecting the accounts. He shouted a lot. He shouted at everybody except the customers. Emy was always meticulous and hardly made mistakes with the figures. She could do complicated Maths at the back of her head. So, most of the times she was spared. But not Steve.
Steve was the owners' step son. He was two years older than Emy. Steve was in charge of the inventory and store room while Emy did most of the accounting part. Perhaps it was jealousy or hatred that made the owner shouted at Steve whenever there's opportunity. Most of the times because of little things. Emy could see Steve was getting the worst treatment there. Although the store was a joint-venture business between the owner and Steve's grandfather, he was never given any face.
Back to the present:
'I thought we'll never see each other again,' Steve was half panting when he was finally in front of Emy.
'You never said goodbye to me,' that was all she could answer.
'I'm so sorry. I never got the chance to explain,' Steve looked deep into her eyes. She noticed the scar right above his left brow and she remembered how it got there.
'You are wasting my money and your grandfather's money, useless!' the owner was furious when he found out that 3 cans of expensive paint had been missing from the store. Steve was blamed as it was his job to keep track of inventory as well as physical items. He just stood in from of his stepdad, staring at the floor as he continued shouting.
'Who you sold them too? Answer me!' his stepdad accused him stealing the paints and sold it outside. Steve didn't answer to that. He kept staring down, his sweaty hands were hanging loosely by his sides.
Then suddenly his stepdad lost it, he grabbed a metal ruler from Emy's table and made a stabbing motion towards Steve.
'I'm going to kill you, ungrateful bastard!!' he shouted at the top of his lungs.
Steve tried to defend himself by grabbing his arms, the metal ruler flew and hit Steve's forehead and left a cut there. The cut was long and deep, fresh dark-red blood started oozing from it. The sight of blood silenced the stepdad who moved away from Steve.
'Go get yourself cleaned, and then find those paints before I really kill you.' the stepdad turned and left mercilessly. Emy could see Steve's white shirt started to turn red on the collar and pocket, she ran to fetch the First Aid kit.
They became close after that ruler incident. He brought her lunch. She helped him double check his inventory listing. Sometimes she cooked for him. They learned a lot about each other. She began to pity him more after knowing about his parent's divorce, his mother being cheated by so many boyfriends, his paralyzed grandfather and of course his current stepdad who according to Steve has been misusing the family money for his own needs.
'What happened to those missing paints?' one day she asked him during lunch.
'I stole them, and sold the paints to my friend's cousin.' Steve answered. She looked at him in awe.
'Why did you do it?' she asked, still couldn't believe he actually did it.
'My stepdad has been stealing from my family for so many years. It won't hurt if I steal from him. It's also my family business, anyway.' he carelessly answered.
She was speechless as she couldn't put herself in his shoes, having that family and being treated that way. She just watched him finishing his lunch.
She watched him then, as she watched him now. In that shabby jeans and shirt. His breath still smelled of cigarrete. He suddenly smiled, maybe remembering one of those happy days.
'I never forget you Emy,' he finally said.
'Where have you been?' she asked as she's been wondering about it for so long, for almost 15 years.
'So many places..' he paused. '.. but everywhere I went, your face was always there.' He paused again, waiting for Emy to say something, and when she didn't he continued, 'I went to work in other countries, saved enough money and now I'm back here.'
'What are you doing now?' by then she realized they have been standing there for almost 10 minutes, with not much information exchanged. The night breeze was almost at a stand still, the last bus has left me not 2 minutes ago.
'I have a workshop not far from here. I saw you waiting for the bus every weeknight. Before this I was afraid that you'd not remember me. That's why I never approached you.' He explained and she was relieved, now she understood the shabby jeans and shirt.
She always wondered where he went when he suddenly disappeared years ago. At times she had dreams where Steve was involved in gang fights, and he got injured, then she'd woke up with a shudder.
'I missed my bus.' Suddenly she realised.
'No problem. Come, I drive you home.' the two of them started walking towards one of the closed shophouses.
'It's been so long,' he said, then hesitated for a while before asking, 'are you with someone now?' he didn't look at her but stared at the pavement. Emy noticed the nervousness and gave away a chuckle.
'I'm a miserable 33 year old, teaching night classes and now going back to an empty rented house. Please don't ask me that question,' Steve looked up upon hearing my answer. Another smile cracked on his face.
'Hey, I'm here. You'll be miserable no more.' he laughed, grabbed Emy's hands and opened the door of a shiny brand new Mercedes (and of course Emy assumed it was his). Emy was feeling proud and happy then, but didn't forget to make a mental note to ask him whether the luxurious car was stolen.... someday. Meanwhile, she thought, 'let me just try to absorb all these.'