I wrote this in 2008. Found it in one of my backup DVD. Can't remember how it's supposed to end. I didn't complete it. Anyway, enjoy the half completed story... hihihi.
Saleha’s hands were still icy cold as she shook Mak’s hands. Mak looked at her eldest daughter with disappointment written all over her tired face. Saleha knew she must have said the wrong things over the phone that morning. She knew she had to make things right as soon as possible and that was why she drove all the way from Johor Bahru to Kajang to see Mak: face to face.
Mak didn’t say a thing as she ushered Saleha into Ayah’s room. Saleha braved herself for what she was about to see. Familiar smell of antiseptics greeted her as she stepped into the room and immediately, her eyes were locked on the pale, familiar face. Ayah was too weak to utter a word but collected all the energy he had to signal Saleha to come closer.
Saleha kissed Ayah’s forehead and then rested her face on his bony chest just like how she used to do it years ago, whenever she’s too sad or frustrated, especially when she didn’t do too well in school. Ayah was always there to comfort and whispered encouraging words. ‘You will do better in the next tests; I know how clever you are.’ Those were his magical words and Saleha held on to them throughout her teenage years. And today, after graduating with a Degree in Business Administration and securing a decent job with a construction company in Johor Bahru she still clung to those words dearly.
Mak prepared coffee and fried tapioca while Saleha spent 10 minutes of silence lying next to Ayah on his bed. She didn’t know what to say; they held hands while listening to each other’s breath. When she finally found her words, Saleha realized Ayah had turned his head and was staring at her face. ‘You get better Ayah and don’t worry about a thing. I will help to get things settled. You just rest, take your medicine and get better.’
Ayah remained silent as how he had been for the past week. Mak told her over the phone that Ayah hadn’t spoken for almost 7 days. He didn’t lose his voice; perhaps all words were stuck in his throat. And then Saleha saw his pearly tears trickling down his dry cheek; she just smiled, wiped it and decided it was about time to discuss matters with Mak in the kitchen.
The wooden kitchen floor creaked as Saleha stepped nearer to Mak. Mak turned, aware of her presence but her face was expressionless.
‘Have some coffee Leha, I’ve poured some in your favorite mug on the table. The tapioca on that plate is still very hot. Be careful, dear.’ Mak pointed to the dining table and signaled to Saleha to sit.
Saleha remained standing a few feet behind Mak who was still frying the rest of the tapioca. Mak was such a strong and courageous woman, Saleha thought. Despite being almost 60, she’s handling almost everything singlehandedly. Taking care of Ayah was not an easy task. He couldn’t walk by himself, so Mak would bring a pail of water in the morning to bathe him in the room. There was a small opening on the floor in Ayah’s room made especially for times like this. It was usually covered with a piece of plywood and a brick was put on top as the weight. Like any normal Malay wooden house where at least one of the rooms will have that small opening, whenever there was death, the bathing will be performed by family members in that room. The small opening was mainly for convenience as well as privacy. Saleha still remembered, after Mak gave birth to Amir, her younger brother, Mak didn’t have to go to the well behind the house to bathe. She stayed in the room while Ayah will bring pails of water for her to wash herself and bathe baby Amir. Now Mak was playing Ayah’s role.
Mak would brush Ayah’s teeth and then washed his body with a piece of clean towel before preparing his special meal in the morning. Ayah was diabetic and Mak had to make sure he followed the doctor’s recommended diet. Not only that, Mak had to change the dressing on Ayah’s left leg twice a day. Saleha noticed the neat dressing when she was lying next to ayah. She didn’t check the condition of Ayah’s wound beneath the dressing but hoped that it’s recovering. It’s been more than 3 weeks now but as the doctor explained; recovery process will be slower for a diabetic patient like Ayah.
Mak and Ayah were plucking bananas when Ayah had the fall. Unfortunately Ayah’s left leg was trapped in the broken and old wooden door he was standing on. When Mak tried to free Ayah’s leg, she noticed a rusty old nail was already halfway inside Ayah’s flesh causing the wound.
Ayah was rushed by the neighbours to the hospital together with half of the broken door and the half buried rusty nail. Life was never the same again for Ayah and Mak after that accident. Saleha drove all the way from Johor Bahru upon hearing the news; she drove fast, just like how she did this morning. Worries heaving her chest while tears streaming down her cheeks throughout the journey.
‘Come Leha,’ Mak ushered her to the table holding another plate of fried tapioca – fresh from the wok.
‘Mak, I’m sorry for the things I said this morning,’ Saleha knew the discussion must start with an apology and she really meant it. Mak poured the steaming coffee into her mug and pretended not to hear a word. She continued munching the fried tapioca, thinly sliced just like how Saleha used to like it. Now Mak was not sure whether Saleha still liked it, or she preferred having English muffins for tea.
‘Mak, I’m willing to help you and Ayah with whatever I have….’ Her sentence hang midway as Mak shot her a sharp stare.
‘This morning you told me you have no money. You’ve used all of it. Now, how are you going to help us?’ Mak put a stern face, expressionless and sounded rather unforgiving which left Saleha speechless; she inhaled the coffee aroma deeper to help her find better words.
‘Mak, please understand. Currently I don’t have a lump sum of money but I think I might be able to help if we could pay Pak Su Medan with installment over a period of time. I’ve used my savings to buy that house in JB, Mak. I couldn’t provide 22 thousand ringgit by end of this weekend, but I might be able to settle the debt by end of next year…. That is, if Pak Su Medan decided not to charge me any interest,’ Mak stopped chewing, sipped her coffee and later took a long breath. A few seconds later she asked,
‘What happened to the rest of your money?’ Saleha sensed Mak hadn’t quite understood it. She knew it’s not easy to explain everything to her. All the while Mak only knew that Saleha was working as a manager and earned thousands of ringgit every month. Thousands, even two thousand ringgit was a lot of money to Mak. Mak had always been a housewife, never worked outside her home and never held more money than what’s enough for her daily groceries. How was Saleha going to explain to her about income tax and EPF deduction? She might be able to understand her having to pay for car and house installments but she might be surprised to learn that by middle of every month, Saleha only survived with less than a thousand ringgit for her daily expenses. Luckily she worked in JB where the cost of living was a lot lower than
. However, during the past few
months, it had been more pressing as she had started paying for the bank interest
of her newly bought house and at the same time having to pay for her monthly
rental. It might take another year before the new house was completed and she
could move in. Kuala Lumpur