فصل 15

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فصل 15

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CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Auntie Swee Eng takes charge

In the taxi on the way to the hospital, Auntie Swee Eng told me what had happened. It seemed Mum had come back late on Saturday night. She’d been so tired that she’d gone to bed without checking if I’d been asleep or not. It was only on Sunday morning that she’d discovered I was gone. She’d called Auntie Swee Eng to check if I’d stayed with her on Saturday night. Auntie Swee Eng had come over straight away. Together they’d discovered that my things were missing. It was obvious that I’d run away. It was even more obvious when Mum discovered that some of her money was missing too!

‘Your mother was so upset, Chee Seng. I’m not blaming you, but you really should know how badly it affected her. She was crying all the time. She couldn’t stop. We even called your father in case you’d gone to him. Then he came over, which didn’t improve things! They just started blaming each other for everything. Then we got a call from Jane, that nice sister of Jessica. She told us about Jessica’s accident and the police raid and everything. You can imagine the effect that had on your mum. And then we read the report in The Star about Jessica’s accident and the arrest of a lot of young drug users and some of the drug pushers. The headlines screamed about it: TEENAGE DRUG PARTY TRAGEDY.

The Straits Times ran the story too:

TRAGEDY AT TEENAGE POOL PARTY.

They didn’t mention your name but we both knew you were up to your neck in trouble.’

I began to realise just how stupid and selfish I’d been. Auntie Swee Eng went on with her story. ‘I started ringing around to see what I could find out. When I was younger, I had a good friend in the police. I soon found out where they were holding you. But I couldn’t get to you before Monday. It was then that I found out it was Inspector Sunderam, my old friend, who was on the case. That’s when I came over and got you out. Sunderam always had a soft heart. I only had to remind him of something he’d been involved in when he was young for him to let you go with a warning.’

I realised just how lucky I’d been. If it hadn’t been for Auntie Swee Eng, I might still have been locked up in that police cell, with no hope of a quick release.

‘But I’m sorry, Chee Seng, there’s something awful I have to tell you. Your mum is in the central hospital, in the intensive care unit. She took a whole bottle of sleeping pills last night. Luckily, she called me when she had second thoughts about what she’d done and I managed to get her to hospital. She’s unconscious now and we don’t know whether she’ll recover.’

I suddenly felt the earth collapse under me. I’d run away, and Mum had tried to take her own life! I couldn’t think straight. What had I done? How could I ever forgive myself?

Auntie Swee Eng took my hand. ‘I’m sorry, Chee Seng. I know it’s hard for you. But please don’t think it’s only your fault. Things like this happen when someone gets hit by one thing after another. Your mother has been suffering from what your father did when he left you. She’s had the worry of trying to bring you up all by herself. And all sorts of problems at work. I didn’t know, and neither did you, but last Friday they dismissed her. It was all about office politics but her job was gone. That meant she didn’t know how she would manage for money in future. She was desperate. Then, yesterday, she found out you’d run away and got into trouble with the police, and she cracked. Sometimes, people crack up when the pressure gets too much for them. You’re not to blame, your mum’s not to blame - it’s life that’s to blame - if “blame” is the right word for it. It’s the way things sometimes are. Things happen.’

The taxi was entering the gates of the central hospital as she spoke, and I knew that something terrifying was going to happen to me again. I hated hospitals. I hated their smell and the atmosphere of fear.

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