Bitter Sweet Harvest

Bitter Sweet Harvest by Chan Ling Yap Read Free Book Online Page B

Book: Bitter Sweet Harvest by Chan Ling Yap Read Free Book Online
Authors: Chan Ling Yap
saw them talk and laugh without a care and felt completely apart from them. He had rushed back from Oxford in response to his father’s plea and the crisis his homeland was facing. But it appeared that the crisis did not bother his family. He had forgotten just how many family members he had. He felt stifled by their presence — their eyes following his every movement. The only respite came from speaking to his friend Ahmad. Yet even there he was disappointed. Ahmad had explained to him gently, but in no uncertain terms, that his parents would cut him off if he continued his relationship with An Mei in the brash manner he had done so far. He would not get a penny and would have to make his own way in the world. He had answered defiantly that this was precisely his intention and what his education had prepared him for, but Ahmad had brusquely pushed his bravado aside.
    “How naïve you are and how out of touch. You might have the qualifications and of course that helps, but no doors will be open to you without the support of your parents. This is how things work here. Who would dare risk their displeasure by taking you on?” Ahmad placed his arm around Hussein’s shoulders and, in a conciliatory tone, continued. “Let me speak to An Mei. Don’t try to contact her. It will only upset your parents. Trust me. I will see what I can do.”
    “Can you tell her what is happening here? I have been trying to call her every day, but no one seems to know where she is. She must be frightened.” Hussein was tortured by his inability to keep the promise he had made to her. “I don’t want her to think that I have abandoned her. I wanted to go back to Kuala Lumpur but have been thwarted each time. You know my parents have taken away all my cash and even my cheque book?” When he protested, they said he had no need of them because everything was provided for. And at that point, as never before in his life, he understood the true meaning of independence. To be independent, you needed to have money and he had none. All that he possessed, or thought was his, had been taken away in a single swoop. He felt trapped and completely powerless.
    Ahmad laughed. “Yes! Of course! Don’t worry. Just go and sit over there with your parents and try to win their favour. Whatever you might think, they want the best for you. I’ll see how I can bring both of you together without upsetting them.”
    Hussein looked over to where the party was congregated and caught his mother’s eyes.
    “Come, come over and join us. We are planning what to do tomorrow. Tomorrow is Shalimar’s nineteenth birthday.” Faridah patted the seat next to her. “Sit by me, my son. And stop looking so glum.
Apa ini?
What is this? I have had enough of your requests to leave us for Kuala Lumpur. We have only just arrived back home and you want to go away.”
    With the other hand, she waved to Shalimar to come forward. “Sit here, next to me.” Taking Hussein’s hand from one side of her and Shalimar’s hand on the other side of her, she joined them together holding both on her lap. “We shall have to make plans for your engagement soon. Give it some thought. Make use of the time to get to know each other. Understand?” she said looking from one to the other.
    Shalimar, her eyes firmly cast down, refused to look up. Her headscarf slipped forward, shielding her from view. Hussein looked desperately for Ahmad. He struggled to remove the hand that his mother had placed firmly on Shalimar’s.
Ibu, jangan!
Mother, don’t! Don’t force me!” He could feel Shalimar’s hand limp below his.
    “What do you mean? Have you forgotten that you were already informally betrothed to Shalimar when you were children and until now you have never shown any objections.”
    “But mother, we were just children, playing — it was never meant to be serious. Anyway I have not seen her since she was twelve. And since that time, you have never really brought it up. Isn’t that so

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