Mr. Johari was a man with few words. He seldom talked unless it’s important and his hobby was reading newspaper every morning during breakfast. His breakfast meal was the same; toasted bread and coffee. Blessed with three children, he tended to work harder than before. He owned a timber company, inherited by his father. He’s one of the richest man in this small village and everyone respected him.
He married Rohaya when they met at the university and his first gaze locked to Rohaya when they were in the same class in the second year. He loved Rohaya so much until now and always did whatever she said. He was strict towards his children, especially to Kalsom, but he never been strict to Rohaya. He sometimes neglected his youngest child and let her being scolded by his wife even though he knew that Kalsom didn’t do anything wrong.
Rohaya was scolding Kalsom because she didn’t get all A’s in her Standard 6 Exam and this made Rohaya very frustrated. She screamed and yelled at Kalsom, telling her that she’s too stupid to get all A’s.
“I told you for umpteenth time that you shouldn’t be friend with that brat, Asiah! Now look at your result!” she banged on the dining table where Kalsom was sitting.
Kalsom looked at the result than to her mother. This time, she didn’t cry liked she used to.
“That poor girl affecting your brain!” scolded Rohaya, her hands on her hips.
“That poor girl is my best friend!” Kalsom talked back. She stood up from her seat.
“How dare you talk back to me, you insolent child!” Rohaya was enraged. She was in the verge of her anger. “This is that poor brat’s fault. She told you to do this, didn’t she? Didn’t she?”
Kalsom left her mother and went to her room. She was totally annoyed of the screaming and yelling. And the thing that she hated most was her mother insulting her best friend. Asiah didn’t do anything to her. She got good grades and she’s better than her. Asiah will further her study to the boarding school, just like her brother, Marwan. Kalsom will be left alone in the new school.
She sighed heavily and sat on her bed. She has gone into overdrive two months before the exam. She studied with Nazatul, especially Mathematics – the subject that she weak the most. Asiah always helped her in doing revisions and she even gave her spirit not to give up. She mostly spent her time in the library until late evening – and still she got an earful from her mother because coming home late.
She crumpled her result paper. She wanted to throw that thing away. She wanted to scream and shouted to everyone in this house that she had worked so hard and yet she didn’t get what she had hoped for. Sometimes, she got this ominous feeling that she should ran away from this horrible house. She had had enough with this miserable life where nobody cared about her feelings, except for Nazatul. She knew that Nazatul was the one that she believe in.
It was end-of-the-year school break. Everyone was very happy for the school break, including Kalsom and Asiah. Both of them were looking forward where to spend their holidays. Kalsom told Asiah that she’ll be staying at her paternal grandfather’s house in the other district and she’ll come back few days before the end of the school break. But Kalsom never told her that her family will be going for a vacation to Singapore.
“Before we going back, can you accompany me to the main hall?” asked Kalsom as they walked along the corridor.
“Sure. I know you want to say goodbye to the piano there, am I right?” Asiah smiled. She knew that her best friend loved that piano in the main hall.
Kalsom nodded and both of them walked to the main hall. Kalsom was a little bit sad because that day was the last day of school and she won’t be able to see that grand piano that caught her heart anymore.
They heard the sound of piano when they nearly reached the hall. Kalsom and Asiah looked at each other and guessed who was playing it. They slowly took a peek inside the piano and saw a boy was playing it smoothly. The melody was flawless and mesmerized both Kalsom and Asiah. They walked further in silence for they didn’t want to disturb the boy.
“Ah, it’s you, Kalsom, Asiah,” the boy noticed their appearance. “What are you doing here?” he asked and stopped playing.
“Ah Ken? You can play the piano?” asked Kalsom with shining eyes.
The boy, Ah Ken, nodded. Ah Ken was one of Kalsom’s classmates. He’s smart and friendly, and good in sport too. This was the first time Kalsom saw Ah Ken played the piano.
“That’s great. I haven’t seen you play before,” praised Asiah.
“I learned with a foreigner teacher. He always comes to my house every weekend,” Ah Ken smiled.
“Can you play something nice for us? Today is the last day we’re here. I really like piano but I don’t know how to play,” asked Kalsom eagerly.
“Sure, Som,” Ah Ken nodded and started to play ‘Auld Lang Sine’. Kalsom and Asiah were fascinated to see Ah Ken fingers touched smoothly on the keys.
They listened to the melody until Ah Ken finished playing the piece. It was sad but Kalsom was satisfied and happy because she could hear the music produced by the grand piano. They said goodbye to Ah Ken and walked home.
Before they departed, Kalsom hugged Asiah as they wouldn’t e able to spend much time like usual. She knew that Asiah will go to boarding school after the school break. They had been friends for 6 years.
I am so sad today because I won’t be seeing Asiah like I used to be. Mama and Papa didn’t talk to me after the result came out last week, even during the meal time. They ignored me like I don’t even exist in this house. Only Kak Naz is talking to me.
I know that I’ll be spending my time at Tok Wan’s house soon. I can’t wait! I miss Tok Wan and other cousins. We’ll be having a lot of adventures there.
Oh, by the way, Ah Ken played the piano before we left the school. I never thought that he can play the piano. He said that a foreigner teacher taught him. I wish I could go to his house and learn with that foreigner teacher. Then I’ll do a performance and my family will be proud of me and accept me as who I am. But I think that won’t work since Mama doesn’t like anything that I can do.
I don’t mind. As long as I have Kak Naz and Mak Mah with me, everything should be fine. I know they won’t be deceitful like those three.
It was midnight. Nazatul suddenly woke up and looked around, rubbing her sleepy eyes. She saw Kalsom sleeping soundly beside her. She wanted to go to the toilet. She gently placed her hand on Kalsom’s shoulder, trying to wake her up but Kalsom didn’t budge. Kalsom might be tired since she had been scolded by her mother. She sighed heavily and reached across the desk beside the bed to get the torchlight.
She slowly tiptoed to the kitchen, holding the torchlight nervously. She’s kind of afraid of the apparitions that she heard from her friends but she never encountered one. And she didn’t want to encounter the apparitions in this kind of situation. The toilet was situated at the kitchen.
She went back to her room after having a pee. As she walked to her room, she saw a dim light in the living room. She tiptoed silently and heard noises. She peeped to the living room and saw her parents were talking to each other. They didn’t go to sleep yet at this time. Nazatul was curious. She hid behind the wall, trying to hear what her parents were talking about.
“We must do something, dear. That girl is being so difficult lately!” Rohaya grumbled. “Look at her. She now dares to talk back to me. It’s all because of that poor brat!”
“Now, now, honey. You must stay calm,” consoled Johari. “We can’t blame that poor girl because she got the good result, better than Kalsom. I think the problem is from Kalsom herself.”
“Yes, yes. You’re right, my dear,” Rohaya was calmed a little bit and sat beside her husband. “I think we should put her in your father’s care. Your father loves her very much and I don’t know why he loves Kalsom. She’s not as smart as our two other children yet he cares Kalsom more than anything.
“I have enough bringing up that insolent child! We must get rid of her from this house at once, before she influenced Naz. You see, Naz is very close to her and I don’t want Naz being not smart as her,” said Rohaya.
Nazatul gasped. She never thought her mother would do that to Kalsom.