فصل 09

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فصل 09

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Breaking out

I woke up with a splitting headache. My mouth was as dry as the desert sands. I felt ill, as if I might be sick at any moment. My eyes couldn’t focus properly - everything looked unclear and things kept changing their shape - they wouldn’t stay still. I didn’t recognise the room from the night before. How had I got there? There was no sign of Jessica. I was alone but someone had folded my clothes neatly and put them on a chair by the bed. There was a large glass of water too, which I drank down quickly, though it didn’t seem to make me less thirsty.

I almost fell out of bed and made my way unsteadily to the bathroom, my knees as weak as water. Somehow I managed to have a shower, get dressed and make my way downstairs to the kitchen. The clock said eleven. How long had I slept? I didn’t know because I still couldn’t clearly remember when I’d fallen asleep. Outside it was raining.

I was relieved when Jane came in, looking fresh and cheerful. ‘Good morning!’ she said brightly. ‘I hope you enjoyed the party. Jessica’s already gone out for her tennis lesson. She asked me to give you this.’

She passed me a folded sheet of paper. I read it -

Dear Chee Seng,

I hope you slept well. It was great last night. And you were great too! I won’t be back till this afternoon. Jane will look

after you. Please call me when you get home - 012-567891. It’s my mobile. I’ve got so much to say to you, I can hardly wait. See you tomorrow.



I couldn’t face any breakfast, so Jane drove me back home in her red sports car. It was just like the one Dad had been driving in my dream. We didn’t talk much but I felt quite at home with Jane. She was another one of those adults who doesn’t make a fuss - just treated you like a normal human being, like Auntie Swee Eng. Just before she dropped me outside the house and drove off, she said, ‘I’m glad Jessica seems to like you so much. She needs a good friend. I hope you can come again soon.’

Auntie Swee Eng was waiting for me at the front door. She looked as neat and tidy as always, with her usual warm smile on her face. ‘Here comes the party hero,’ she joked. ‘Now, have you had any breakfast?’

I shook my head. ‘I see. Not feeling like eating, is that it? All right, Chee Seng, I think you’d better take a rest for a while. You look as if you need it.’ I looked at myself in the hall mirror and I could see what she meant.

I spent the afternoon asleep in my room. There seemed to be something wrong with my mind. I felt as if I was dreaming, but it was more like a weird series of pictures flashing through my head. It was as if I was re-experiencing the events of the previous night and more…

I got up around five in the afternoon, still feeling a bit confused. Auntie Swee Eng was waiting downstairs. Mum was still not back.

‘So, you had a good time last night?’ she asked. I nodded. ‘Good. Well, I don’t think we need to go into the details with your mum. But, for the future, just remember that your old Auntie Swee Eng may not always be there to protect you. So, be careful!’

‘Thanks,’ I said, feeling a bit uncomfortable. ‘I’ll remember that.’

‘When I see you like this,’ she said, ‘it reminds me of when I was young myself. Maybe I’ll tell you about that some day. By the way, a young lady called. Said her name was Jessica. She asked if you were all right.’

I suddenly realised that I had completely forgotten about phoning Jessica. I went to my room and called her number on my mobile. But when I heard her voice, I suddenly felt tongue-tied. I didn’t know what to say.

‘Hi, Jessica.’

‘Hi, Chee Seng. Are you OK? Jane said you looked a bit unwell when she dropped you off today.’

‘Erm, I, er, slept a bit. I feel better now. How about you?’

‘Oh, I’m fine.’ Jessica replied. ‘I was a bit sleepy this morning but the tennis helped…’ There was a silence, as if neither of us knew what to say next.

‘So, erm, I’ll see you tomorrow then,’ I said, rather obviously.

‘Yes, of course. How about next weekend? Will you be free on Saturday again? I think Ka Ting is planning something special.’ There was another silence. ‘So what do you think, Chee Seng? You know, it was good to be with you last night…’

‘Erm, yes. It was good, Jessica. I’ll try to get permission from Mum but she’s kind of difficult sometimes.’ I felt stupid telling her this. It made me feel like a little boy in short trousers! I felt my anger rising against Mum again.

‘Oh, I see,’ said Jessica in a disappointed voice. ‘Well, let me know, OK? So… I guess I’d better say bye for now. I still have some things to do before I go to bed.’

And before I had time to say ‘bye’ she’d put the phone down. Obviously she thought I was acting like a baby. I’d messed up everything with her. I felt angry with myself… and with Mum. Why hadn’t I told Jessica how wonderful she was, how much I’d loved being with her and what we’d done together? But my tongue had turned to wood in my mouth. Now I felt I’d lost her.

The next day when we met in school, Jessica didn’t make any special effort to talk to me or be alone with me. She acted quite cold and distant. I felt that I really had lost her. She was too grown up for a kid who had to ask his mum for permission to do the smallest thing.

At least Ka Ting was still very friendly. ‘Hey, Chee Seng, that was some party, eh? And I told you Jessica likes you. Now you can see how much, right?’ And he grinned. ‘I’m having a party at my place next Saturday. You’ll come again, won’t you? I’ll make sure Jessica comes too, don’t worry. And we’ll have plenty of good stuff like last time. It’s going to be really cool. You can sleep over too, so no need to worry about time.’

I thought about being with Jessica again, and then the trouble I would have with Mum. ‘Sounds great,’ I said. ‘I’ll let you know, OK?’

‘Sure,’ he said, and walked over to talk to his friends.

That week I kept on thinking about the party over and over again. How could I get away again? I was sure Mum would refuse to let me go. But I had to see Jessica again, and show her she was wrong about me - show her I really wanted to be with her. The word ‘love’ kept passing through my mind, but I felt a bit uneasy with that word after what Dad had done to us. Anyway, by Wednesday, I’d made up my mind. I would ask Mum, and, if she refused, I would go to the party anyway!

As I expected, it was not an easy conversation. ‘Mum, I was wondering about Saturday…’ I began hesitantly.

‘Wondering what?’ she asked suspiciously, as if she already knew what was coming next.

‘Well, er, there’s this friend of mine from school, Ka Ting, and he’s invited me to a party at his place on Saturday. He says I can sleep over, so no need for you to pick me up…’

‘You went to a party last Saturday too. You can’t expect to go to parties every weekend, you know. What about your schoolwork? How do you expect to get it all done if you’re out at parties all the time? And anyway, who is this Ka Ting? It’s the first time you’ve mentioned him. What do we know about him? What about his family? What sort of people are they? How do I know what you’re getting up to at these parties?’

‘But it’s not fair, Mum,’ I protested. ‘All the other kids get to go to parties.’

‘You’re not all the other kids. You’re my son. And believe me, I know what’s best for you. So, if I say you’re not going to the party, you’re not going, and that’s that!’

I stormed off to my bedroom, boiling with anger at the injustice, the unfairness of it. But now I was determined to go to the party, never mind the consequences.

The next day, I finally managed to talk to Jessica alone, for the first time that week. ‘Jessica, I’m coming on Saturday. I really want to be with you again. I’m sorry about the other day. I was feeling a bit strange, I don’t know why.’

‘That’s OK. I’m glad you can come.’ And she smiled at me warmly, the way she had before, and I felt my heart miss a beat. ‘How are you getting there?’ she asked me. ‘Jane will be taking me, so we could pick you up if you like.’

‘That would be great,’ I said, ‘but maybe you could pick me up outside Holiday Stores, not from my place?’

‘Fine, why not? Say around eight thirty?’

‘Great,’ I said. But my mind was racing on, thinking how I was going to get out of the house under the nose of my watchful mother.

The rest of the week seemed to last for ever. I went through the routine of classes, homework and meals as if I was sleepwalking. All I could think of was how to get away on Saturday. Friday night came, and Saturday morning. The moment of truth was almost there. But once again, luck was on my side. Mum had a call from one of her cousins, who was over from the United States, inviting her for dinner. Before she left, she warned me again.

‘I want you to finish your homework and have an early night. Don’t forget! I’ll be back by ten thirty at the latest.’ I wished she would stop trying to push me around like that, but I didn’t say anything.

As soon as she’d gone, I got ready for the party. I wanted to look my best for Jessica. I put oil on my hair and wore my tightest jeans, with my Italian shoes and an open-necked shirt. Then I left a note for Mum to tell her not to worry. I said I’d call her later. The maid was off duty. I walked up to Holiday Stores shortly before eight thirty.

Right on time the sports car pulled up, with Jane at the wheel and Jessica sitting next to her. Jessica looked great again with her long black hair and a tight green dress. I climbed into the back seat and we drove off.

This time I thought Jane was a bit tense, and the two sisters didn’t talk on the way to Ka Ting’s. As we got out, she said to Jessica, ‘Don’t forget what I told you. I’ll pick you up soon after midnight. Just call me. You know Mum wants you home tonight. No sleeping over, especially at that Ka Ting’s place. You know why. I’m trusting you with her, Chee Seng. Make sure she calls, OK? Don’t let me down. Anyway, have a good time, the two of you.’

For a moment she sounded almost like my own mum, and I wondered what she meant by ‘that Ka Ting’. But I was so happy to be left with Jessica that I thought no more about it.

The party was even better than the week before. Ka Ting’s father was away. In fact, he always seemed to be away, so Ka Ting had the house to himself. And what a house it was! Even bigger than Jessica’s, with a huge games room and an enormous swimming pool surrounded by palm trees and flowering bushes and even a fully-equipped gym. There were about thirty people there, some of them quite a bit older than me. The party started on the terrace with some dancing and a few drinks. Again, there were things I’d never tasted before - they were brightly coloured, sweet and left a strange aftertaste in the mouth. Every time I drank one it made me want another. I danced with Jessica, of course, and soon we were sitting together in a dark corner, kissing just like the week before. It was magical. There was a wonderful buffet laid out, and we were soon piling our plates high, Malaysian style. As we sat enjoying our food, Ka Ting came round again.

‘How is it, you two? Having a good time, right? But it’s time to really party now. Come on. Here’s something to give you an extra lift.’

He slipped two of the little white pills into my hand. I remembered how wonderful I’d felt at the disco after taking the pills, but then I thought about how sick I’d felt the next day. I decided that the pills weren’t good for me, so I put them in my pocket. But Jessica must have taken hers. Soon she became all dreamy and soft as we began to dance to a slow record just like before. Jessica felt like liquid honey melting in my arms. The time just slipped away but I suddenly remembered what Jane had said. ‘Jessica, I think you’d better call Jane. Don’t forget what she told you. I don’t want to get you into trouble.’

‘Oh, Chee Seng. I want to stay here with you. I’m sure Ka Ting won’t mind if we sleep over at his place. Come on…’ I have to admit I was really tempted, but I insisted that she should call Jane. Jessica really didn’t want to but in the end she called her sister, who said she’d be there in half an hour. As soon as she rang off, Jessica grabbed my hand and pulled me into the house. We found a quiet corner to be alone together for the few moments we had left.

As we were leaving, Ka Ting took me aside and whispered, ‘There’s no need for you to go! We’re just starting to have some real fun, you know. Some of those big guys have brought some really special stuff. You should stay on and try it. It’ll give you the biggest high you’ve ever felt. Don’t worry, you can stay here till tomorrow. Let Jessica go if you like, but there are plenty of other girls here tonight. Later we’ll all get in the pool together, you know… How about it?’

‘Sorry, Ka Ting, but I promised Jessica I’d go with her. Maybe another time… ‘

‘That’s right,’ Ka Ting said in strange, empty-sounding voice. ‘That’s right, my friend. Anyway, you take these for later. Maybe you can take them tomorrow when you need a pick-me-up.’ And he pressed a few of the little white pills into my hand. I put them in my pocket. ‘And don’t forget, you can always come over here. No problem. Drinks and stuff and plenty of fun, right?’

Jane dropped me off at my gate, and I squeezed Jessica’s hand as I got out. When I looked round, the car had already gone, leaving me alone to face the full force of Mum’s fury. My hands were sweaty and shaking and I nearly dropped the keys. Sure enough, there she was, waiting for me, like a dragon breathing fire. She looked as if she might explode. It was payback time!

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