Bitter Sweet Harvest

Bitter Sweet Harvest by Chan Ling Yap Read Free Book Online

Book: Bitter Sweet Harvest by Chan Ling Yap Read Free Book Online
Authors: Chan Ling Yap
although he saw his father nod in agreement.
    “Alright,” his mother conceded with a great show of reluctance, “she can stay in the guest house here in Kuala Lumpur. But tomorrow, you are coming home with us to the east coast, to Kemun. Don’t say no. The whole family, aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces, are all waiting. A feast has been prepared to welcome you back. You have a duty to the family. This is what we want in return for letting her stay here.

Chapter 5
    A n Mei made her way to the French window. She slid the glass panel open and stepped outside onto a terrace. Within minutes, the panel was covered with condensation and she closed it hastily behind her. She padded barefoot to the rattan armchair and sat down. Not more than ten steps away from her was a pond. Groves of bamboos cast a dappled shade over the glistening water. Their sturdy straight stems sprouting straight out of the white pearly pebbles strewn around the edge of the pond. Brightly coloured iridescent dragonflies flitted hither and thither, their wings lightly skimming the water surface.
    She looked at her watch and then at the garden. “A picture of peace and tranquillity,” she whispered to herself, “but I can draw no peace from it. Where is he? When is he coming back?”
    It had been five days since she was taken to the guesthouse and four days since she had last seen Hussein. He told her he would be back soon. “We’ll talk then,” he had promised. But each day dragged by and still there was no word. Where was he, she fretted, drawing her loose shift dress tightly about her body. The steady drone of insects and the unaccustomed heat made her feel light-headed. She was cut off from everybody. She had no money to go anywhere. Food and garments magically appear in her quarters, brought in by silent unobtrusive servants who, while taking good care of her, said little in reply to her questions. Her request for access to a phone fell on deaf ears. She had tried to look out of the fenced compound, peeping through the gaps in the panelling. She succeeded to some extent. The streets were empty and recalling the car journey here and the devastation of the recent riots, she did not dare venture out. She longed for the hustle and bustle of Oxford, the noise, the smell, even the rain and dampness. “Anywhere but this utter stillness and loneliness.”
    “You can have all of it,” a voice said. She turned. A man was standing behind her. He bowed, his traditional headgear, an egg-shaped dark velvet cylindrical hat, the
, in hand. “
Selamat petang
, good evening,” he said. “I am
Ahmad and I bring you word from Hussein. May I?” he asked pointing to the empty rattan chair. Without waiting for a reply, he sat down and carefully crossed his leg, arranging the short, beautiful silver woven sarong that he wore over his pale green loose trousers.
    An Mei, alarmed and taken aback by the unexpected intrusion and the stranger’s familiarity, stared at him.
    “I have just come from the mosque,” he said, “hence my clothes. Don’t you remember our Malaysian dress code anymore?” he asked, a sardonic smile on his lips. “Two years away from your motherland and you forget!
? How could you?” His voice was teasing, but the accusation behind it was clear.
    “Who are you?”
    “I am, as I said before,
Ahmad. Hussein’s mother,
Faridah, asked me to see you.”
    “Not Hussein? I thought you just said you brought word from Hussein. Where is he? When will he be back?”
    “One thing at a time,
! Slowly! Can we pursue this conversation in
Malay or have you also forgotten your national language?” His tone of voice was unmistakeably sarcastic.
    An Mei, stung by his tone, shrank in her seat. His presence, manners, and his undisguised insolence both upset her and made her feel uncomfortable. “Of course I remember,” she said. Her guard was up. She recalled Jenny’s recounting of

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