“Xi Guan Ni, Jiu Ba Wo Dang Zuo Ni, Rang Wo Men Zai Yi Qi Hu Xi…”
Fang Qi carefully took off the apron on her and hung it back onto the clothes hook. She smiled with a hint of reluctance at the white apron she has been donning for the past few months. Today is her last day at work. As the day closes in, with the crowd gradually dispersing, her heart fell heavy with tinkering pain.
Six months. Finally, her probation has come to an end. But she has decided to leave the job. She thought, smirking to herself, “Why am I leaving such a carefree job with such a high pay? Fang Qi, you really got nothing better to do. What you want to do now? Go traveling? Go visit Ah Ma? Go…..” Back to Singapore? She fell silent and stared at the locker’s room floor. There is only her in the locker’s room.
It has been months since she left the country. All these while, she has actually been in the States but she dared not look for Ah Ma. She doesn’t want Ah Ma to worry for her. And she doesn’t want Ah Ma to nag at her too. But she knew in her heart that the bottom line is that she doesn’t know how she is going to face Ah Ma if she asks about Wei Lian. Each time she thought of how much Ah Ma loves and dotes on her, her conscience pricked her and guilt sets in. How? She repeatedly asked herself. How is she going to tell Ah Ma that she had actually asked Wei Lian to act as her boyfriend, just to make her happy?
Wei Lian --- just the thought of this name, her heart ached awfully and her eyes brimmed with tears. She did not want Ah Ma to see her like that. She had too much pride in her. She couldn’t bear to see Ah Ma’s disappointed face. She saw it once when Jake left. And she wasn’t prepared to see it once again. Fang Qi knew all at once that she would never be able to handle Ah Ma’s disappointment.
Wei Lian’s last words pricked her constantly. “What are you doing here?! Just go la! Don’t stand here and look at me la!....I tell you ah, you better don’t follow me ah! Don’t come and irritate me!” Wei Lian’s harsh words tore her heart apart. She had never seen him like this before. So despaired…so disappointed…..so
She knew he was just venting his anger, venting all the disappointment he felt inside him. She became his punching bag. Her tears had fallen more furiously as he continued to hurl all his disappointment. She doesn’t want to leave him alone.
“I already said, don’t follow me! You don’t understand issit?” Wei Lian flared up, his voice as loud as anything, shrieking and trembling with immense anger in the middle of the silent cold night.
“I….I just want to see if you are ok….” She had replied meekly. His sudden anger frightens her.
“What’s there to see? Hah? What do you know? You think you who ah? You know what I’m thinking meh? You think you know everything issit? You don’t know ok!! Why are you following me ha? You can leave me alone or not? Why must you appear in front of us?? If you didn’t appear, everything will be just fine!!! Why? What you want!! Just go away! Go! Just go!” Wei Lian screamed.
Ya. Perhaps he is right. I don’t know anything…I shouldn’t have appeared in front of him. I shouldn’t have appeared in his life at all. If only..I didn’t get him to act for Ah Ma…..
She looked longingly at wallpaper on the hand phone screen. It was a picture of Wei Lian and her. She had grabbed his hand phone from his hands when he was unaware. “Oei, what are you doing? Why take my hand phone? Give me back!” Wei Lian immediately hollered at her when she wrestled it out of his hand while he was reaching out for the soft pillow on the sofa.
“Don’t want la. I want to take picture lay. Your hand phone very advanced lay! 2.0 mega pixels one. Good stuff lay! Lend me take a picture can die ah……” She retorted. Again, again. She is at it again. Cannot ah? Can die ah? Wei Lian thought with despair. Every time this kind of reply. Nothing new!
“Hahaha! Now my picture will follow you wherever you go and haunt you! You cannot escape from my clutches liao!” She had teased him.
“Eh, come lay! We take a picture together lay! “ She put the hand phone camera in front of them and hugged him from behind. “Nah! Return you.” She bluetoothed the picture of them to her hand phone and stuff it back into his hands. His face was a gloomy black. “Oh oh, someone angry liao ah?” Her face came near his. Don’t care. Little bit already face black! She quipped quietly inside her.
That was the only photo she had of him. Her finger traced the face on the display screen. She missed that face dearly. Suddenly, a huge drop of water splattered on the hand phone screen. The photo blurred. Splat. Another drop of water splattered onto the hand phone screen yet again. Fang Qi held up her hand and felt for her face. Her cheeks were wet. Her eyes felt a stinging pain. Tears. Those drops of water on her hand phone screen were her tears. She slumped against her own locker and bent down, her face buried in her knees. Lonely. She felt so lonely without his constant scolding, his irritated voice, his soft voice, his…she missed him! A great deal…
She has been working in a small restaurant in the States to earn some money and pass time. All these while, she has been working and doing volunteer work at the same time. She really thought that if she kept herself busy and drowned herself with work, she wouldn’t have time to think of Wei Lian. She is drained out physically and mentally…..she wouldn’t have thought of him…but…apparently she was wrong! Every time she sees something that reminds her of the times she shared with him, memories of him will start flooding her head. ‘Damn it!’ she thought. How am I ever going to get him out of my mind? Her hand slapped the cold flooring, her hand phone slipped out of her hands and onto the cold unfeeling floor.
But little did she know that back in Singapore, Wei Lian is doing the same thing --- keeping himself busy so that he will not think so much of her. And failing badly too…
All these while, she had gone to Ah Ma’s house for a few times but each time she just stood at the gate, not daring to go in. She had been observing from outside quietly and watching what Ah Ma had been doing whenever she was free. Ah Ma loves to sit outside on her rocking chair and look at the beautiful sunset. She always had a longing look on her face and a photo frame in her hands. She needn’t take another look at it. She knew it’s the photograph that Ah Ma had requested to take of the three of them. Wei Lian, Ah Ma and her….
Ah ma had doted on her since young. She remembered how Ah Ma fussed over her when she was a kid and even now. Ah Ma was the closest and dearest person to her - more than anyone else.
Yes, Ah Ma always nagged at her but she knows she is truly concerned about her. She knew Ah Ma always wanted the best for her. Ah Ma had been very picky on her past boyfriends as she wanted to make sure that Fang Qi will not get bullied. When Ah Ma knew that she was together with Wei Lian, she was truly very happy about it. She noticed that Ah Ma doted on Wei Lian even more than her ever since.
But Ah Ma’s health has not been good after she came back to the States. Although Fang Qi did not want Ah Ma to know she is back, she was worried sick about her health. She had asked Ah Ma’s neighbour to help keep an eye on her as Ah Ma is alone at home most of the time. But she also pleaded with the neighbour not to mention anything about her return to Ah Ma. She will come and see Ah Ma eventually but not yet. Not now. She hadn’t sorted out her feelings properly. She just needed more time…
It had been raining the past few days. Fang Qi’s mood was as gloomy as the skies outside. Sitting at the table by the side, she was eating the bowl of chicken chowder the chef had specially made for her to bid her farewell. But instead of eating it happily, she only had a few mouthful of the chowder. No appetite. She hadn’t had much appetite since she came here. Wei Lian’s eating manner surfaced in her mind. She enjoyed seeing him eat. Somehow, whatever he ate, it seemed so good and appetizing.
She stared into space through the glass interior of the restaurant, listening to the pitter patter of the rain hitting against the glass window. There weren’t many customers as it was already after the dinner peak hour. Fang Qi looked intently at the pouring rain, her thoughts wandering again. The rain reminded her of Wei Lian. She remembered how they ran for shelter from the rain, not forgetting to bicker at the same time… As her gaze fell upon a loving couple running for shelter outside the restaurant, she fiddled with a wine glass that was laid out on the table and pondered. What could that idiot be doing now? Busking? Stoning at home? Out with Che…
Suddenly her handphone rang and broke her thoughts. Fumbling with her handphone, she answered the call. As she spoke, her face changed and a sharp breaking sound of the wine glass sounded through the quiet restaurant. Within a matter of seconds, she had dashed out of the restaurant.
Ah Ma’s neighbour had called her to tell her Ah Ma was sick and has been hospitalized. Upon reaching the hospital she dashed up to the ward and barged through the door worriedly. The moment she saw Ah Ma lying on the bed, she fell to her knees and broke into tears. “Ah Ma, you can’t leave me alone. You cant…” she sobbed. Ah Ma was sick but it wasn’t anything serious, only a bout of indigestion. It was just that Ah Ma’s neighbour panicked upon seeing Ah Ma’s face so pale, that the first reaction was to send her to hospital.
Fang Qi, thinking that Ah Ma was seriously sick, just broke down and let free her emotions. All the turmoil she had been experiencing these few months, all the heartache, everything just came pouring out. She could hold back no longer. Ah Ma lifted her weak hand to touch Fang Qi’s face, wiping off her tears and said gently, “Ok ok, Ah Girl, don’t cry already. Don’t worry, Ah Ma is ok, nothing serious la. Ah Ma still want to see you get married one leh.”
Get married? Who is she going to marry wor? Fang Qi thought sadly, her mind immediately filled with images of Wei Lian. Her tears flowed even more as Ah Ma’s words went through her thoughts. As she brushes her tears away, she caught Ah Ma looking at her questioningly. Suddenly, she was filled with guilt. She knew Ah Ma was referring to Wei Lian. She knew Ah Ma liked him a lot. But…she knew, it was impossible. And it was time she told Ah Ma…she decided.
“Ah Ma…I got something to tell you.” She paused, finding courage to continue. Just talking about it brought back the aching feeling in her heart. Moreover she didn’t want to upset Ah Ma in her condition, so she tried searching for the right words to say. “Sorry….Ah Ma. Actually, actually…..” She didn’t know how to continue. Ah Ma’s concerned face made her tear again. Constantly wiping away her tears, she tried to continue. Wei Lian is not my boyfriend. No voice came out from her mouth. Finally, “I didn’t mean to bluff you, but I didn’t want you to worry about me. Sorry…”
Ah Ma looked at her for a long while before she finally sighed, “You want to tell me Wei Lian is not your boyfriend right?” Fang Qi looked up at the frail looking elderly woman and nodded silently. She got to admit she is lying.
In between tears, Fang Qi told Ah Ma how she had begged Wei Lian to help her act as her boyfriend……
"Be my boyfriend lay."
"Ask Jake." Still no expression from him. For nothing, why ask him be her boyfriend? Err... I ya, must be up to no good lor, this woman, he thought skeptically. Don't care.
"Don't want." She refused.
"He is your boyfriend." He finally settled on a music channel.
"He is not. He dumped me!"
Oh. So he is correct. Jake and Fang Qi have got a past.
"He is jealous." The music channel was playing a messy rap song. Boring.
"I'm not bad one leh."
"I cannot see. I don't know... I ya, who keep SMS-ing me la?" He took out his handphone and retrieved the SMS-es coming in.
"So what? At least I not ugly what."
"Whatever." He lazily listened to the SMS-es and proceeds to trash them.
"Oei, be my boyfriend leh!!." She can't stand him showing his can't-be-bothered attitude.
"Don't want la." He throws his handphone onto the table.
"Help me a bit will die issit??"
"............" Damn you! She cursed. Then she softened and poked his arm gently. "Iya can la. Other than you, I don't know who to approach liao la." Her attitude changed 360 degrees.
"Scroll through your handphone lor, surely got people you can call." He flipped over on his back and "stared" at the ceiling.
"Kelvin Tan Wei Lian! Help me la, my grandma is arriving here on Saturday from the States. It's only for one week. She is staying only for one week la." She pulled at his sleeve, her voice sounded helpless.
"I ya don't want la. Tell your grandmother the truth that you broke up with your boyfriend la."
"I just told her ok. Tong told her I have a boyfriend." All along Fang Tong and her pretended that she had a boyfriend to keep their grandmother from worrying.
"Who asked you to say you have? Say you broke up la." He shifted and hugged the pillow instead.
"I don't want her to worry mah. You help me can die ah? Not as if I'm asking you to really be my boyfriend what. Not telling you to really love me what. Help la. Once she's out of sight, we don't have to pretend liao. Anyway we also hugged and kissed before liao what. You shy ah?" She was almost pleading with him.
"You very bo liao la you. You go and kick your bad habits first then we?ll talk..." He turned and slept on his front again, covering his head with the pillow.
"What bad habits?"
"Gambling, drinking, smoking, noisy, not gentle, unladylike, like to curse and swear, talk loudly, rude, bad attitude........." He began listing a long list of what he thinks are her bad habits…….
Wei Lian kicked away his blanket in frustration and sat upright. He cannot believe that she can continue bugging him even when he is asleep. Such persistence! "I ya I give up la!"
"Really??" Fang Qi's eyes sparkled when she heard him say that. Finally! But his face was darker than the sky outside. She knew she caught him in a worst possible timing. But she had no choice.
"Meet your grandma only right?!" he blasted impatiently, his fingers running through his hair in frustration.
"Ya. Act as my boyfriend." She replied gleefully.
"Ok. I help you. BUT I got conditions." He didn't even bother getting her agreement. He decided it for her. "After I help you, you got to move out. And, you cannot bug me anymore. You cannot interfere in my personal matters also!" Last resort to drive her away. Finally he gave in to her request because he really couldn't stand her constant bugging.
Sounds reasonable. "On la." Fang Qi chirped.
"Ok, let's get to work!" she jumped in front of Wei Lian and pressed him down to sit on the sofa.
"What do I like to eat?" Fang Qi asked, making Wei Lian rehearse his answers to her grandma's favourite "interrogation" questions.
"How I know?" She always eats cup noodles and whatever she found.
"Bread with peanut butter and jam la." FQ rolls her eyes. Purposely one, he definitely is doing it on purpose.
"K." He answered curtly. He cannot be too bothered with her.
"What's my favourite colour?" "Pink." "No la!!!" she shrieked. "Alamak, it's blue la!" "How I know. I thought all girls like pink what" He was all out to irritate her……
Lying on the hospital, Ah Ma was listening to the funny scenarios Fang Qi described as she begs Wei Lian to act as her boyfriend. Ah Ma studied Fang Qi for a moment, her heart ached at the sight of the granddaughter smiling at her own description. She was clearly upset but yet she was making a dig at herself by laughing out loud at herself. “How stupid la this Tan Wei Lian. He made me changed all my bad habits before he agreed to role play as my boyfriend lor. He is such a hard nut to crack…….you know how worried I am or not when he refuses to give in….” Fang Qi laughed. Yet her tone choked with sorrow.
Finally Ah Ma spoke. “I know, Ah Girl, actually Ah Ma knows you were not seeing anyone after Jake left. I forced Ah Tong to tell me. You know how heartbroken we felt when we saw you become another person after your break up with Jake?” Ah Ma gave Fang Qi’s hand a comforting squeeze.
Ah Ma and Fang Tong couldn’t bear to see her giving up on herself totally. She had put so much into the relationship with Jake that she was totally devastated when he left. But her grief had dragged on for too long and she had become a completely different person, acquiring many bad habits. She has got to let go, completely let go.
That was why when Ah Ma came back to Singapore, Fang Tong deliberately told Fang Qi that Ah Ma wanted to see her boyfriend. Knowing Fang Qi’s pattern, she is bound to ask someone to pose as her boyfriend. They knew her inside out. They knew the girl was full of pride and she wouldn’t want to explain too much. So it wasn’t surprising at all that she would get herself a pretend-boyfriend. But they didn’t expect her to get Wei Lian to help. Fang Tong thought that she will enlist the help of any of her classmates. So when he found out that his little sis had gotten to know Wei Lian and even stayed at his beach house, he was extremely surprised.
Fang Qi was taken aback when she heard that from Ah Ma. She looked down on the hospital floor quietly. So Ah Ma knew everything already and she was also playing along so as not to expose them. She wanted to kick herself. She felt stupid and small. All this while when she thought she was helping herself by getting Wei Lian to act as her boyfriend, she was also slowly killing herself. Because she had subconsciously fallen for him. And now there’s no turning back.
“Ah Girl, you know ah, Wei Lian is a very good boy. I so old already see so many people and so many of your boyfriends. I know how to judge a person whether he is good or not. You must really treasure Wei Lian okay? Wei Lian likes you one, Ah Girl, Ah Ma can’t be wrong.” Ah Ma assured Fang Qi confidently.
With this, Fang Qi only sobbed more uncontrollably. She couldn’t help it. The words came surging through in her confused mind again.
You can leave me alone or not? Why must you appear in front of us?? If you didn’t appear, everything will be just fine!!! Why? What you want!! Just go away! Go! Just go!”
She bit her lower lip. “No, Ah Ma, he doesn’t like me one. What I feel for him is only one-sided. The one he likes is Cherie. But Cherie likes another guy.” She hated herself for sounding so bitter.
“Oh yah, I saw him once on the streets with a girl, it should be the Cherie you’re talking about. I can tell that Wei Lian likes her a lot too. But hor, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t like you lor.”
“You think so easy to act as someone’s boyfriend and act till so real meh? For a moment, I thought it was real because he could answer all my questions and they are just the answers I want. He gives me the feeling that I can really entrust you to him. I don’t believe if he doesn’t have any feelings for you at all. Can’t you see he understands your character very well? Ah Ma can see lor. All these not easy to act one you know?”
"Yalor! She takes about one and a half hours in the bathroom and always sings loudly inside too!" Wei Lian chipped in.
"Ah Ma, to me, love doesn't need a reason. Happiness is not whether a person loves me or not, what matters is that I love her. She is my happiness."
All memories came flooding back in an instant. She remembered. Remembered Wei Lian’s words to her and Ah Ma.
Ah Ma went on with her must-fight-for-your-own-happiness theory while Fang Qi’s tears dried up.
“Tell me, do you like Wei Lian?” Fang Qi nodded. She knew she couldn’t hide from Ah Ma.
“Ah Girl, listen to Ah Ma. You must fight for your own happiness, cannot just sit there and wait for things to happen la! So what if he now likes that don’t know what Cherry or Strawberry? There is no guarantee that he won’t fall for you mah. Who knows what will happen right? Go, go fight for it, go fight it out with that Cherry and tell Wei Lian that you like him. If not you want to wait until they get married then regret all your life issit?”
Ah Ma’s words woke Fang Qi up like a loud gong sounding in her brain. Ah Ma is right, she should fight for her own happiness. Why should she be suffering in silence until like that just because that Tan Wei Lian likes Cherie? Why should she be hiding her feelings when she so much wanted to say out? After all she has always been the straightforward kind. Since when has she become so wishy-washy? She slumbered into deep thoughts. Since knowing Tan Wei Lian lor, she thought grudgingly.
A voice broke the silence of the hospital room, “Ah Ma, how are you feeling? Better or not?”
It was Jake, in US for a holiday. He had gone to look for Ah Ma at her home but was informed by her neighbour that she had just been hospitalized. He had rushed to the hospital, harbouring hopes that he would see Fang Qi there. He cannot deny to himself that he still had feelings for her. As he stood outside the ward, he overheard Ah Ma and Fang Qi’s conversation. Looking at Fang Qi’s despondent state, he saw the desire in her eyes to go back to Singapore immediately. As he looked at Fang Qi’s swollen eyes, his heart ached. The girl he onced loved so much was actually crying for another man. What an irony, he thought bitterly.
“Come on, Kerry, go pack your bags, we will return to Singapore tonight. I’ll go back with you, okay.” Jake said as she slumped against the bed railing of the bed behind her. He had given up completely. He knew he did not stand a chance anymore. “Go and find your happiness, Kerry.”
“Jake, drag her to the airport now. Now!” Ah Ma beckoned to Jake, joining in to persuade her.
Fang Qi opened her mouth to deny. She wanted to shout at Jake and tell him it was none of his business. That she didn’t need him to tell her what to do. But she swallowed her pride. But she knew Jake and Ah Ma were right. She straightened herself up, her heart brimming with newfound confidence and optimism. She was ready to face up to her feelings. I’m going to tell that idiot I like him. Even if he doesn’t reciprocate, she also had to tell him. Idiot Wei Lian! The most I turn and leave again. But…will he ask her to stay or not……