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Chapter 15 – 2nd Chance

“Do you know the fright that you gave us?”

“Sorry la bro… Kena langgar by truck, what to do…..”

Jack had heaved a sigh of relieve. He had come to visit Eng Tat before his flight later in the morning. When he got to the ward, he saw Eng Tat’s and Jolene’s family together, some of them wiping tears away from their eyes.

Fearing the worst, he quickened his pace to them.  Eng Tat’ mother saw him first and smiled at him. She told him that Eng Tat had woke up and was now allowed to have people in his ward, but only for short moments.

As he was walking into the ward, Jolene walked out. Her eyes widened in surprise.

“What are you still doing here?” she asked softly.

“I couldn’t get an earlier flight. But I’m be going, later.”

She smiled and nodded. He smiled at her as well. He knew all was going to be alright between her and Eng Tat.

“So, how are you feeling now?”

“Like that lo…. Pain….” answered Eng Tat with a grimace.

“Don’t worry bro, we’re all with you in this,” comforted Jack. He knew how Eng Tat must be feeling.

“Anyway, you have another thing to worry about now,” said Jack with a cheeky grin on his face, tilting his head outside.

Confused, Eng Tat looked out of the glass panel and saw Alex talking to his sister, Ping Hui. He was sitting close to her. Too close, in his opinion. She was smiling sweetly as she listened to him.

“Shit…”

****

Shun Yee sat on the plane with her parents. They were initially worried that she would have a phobia of some sort of sitting on an airplane again, but she assured them she was fine. It was the truth, she was not as scared as she expected herself to be when they boarded the plane.

She looked out of the window by her seat.

Her thoughts were a whirlpool of emotions. Before they boarded the plane, they received news from Malaysia saying that Melvin had died falling off his apartment balcony in a drunken state. She and her parents had been stunned into disbelief. Melvin? Dead?

And then there was Jack. And his letter.

Dear Shun Yee,

I’m sorry for not writing or calling for all this time. I thought going away from you to somewhere far to pursue my dreams would dim my feelings for you. I thought not writing, not calling, not having any contact with you would make me forget what I feel for you.

How wrong I am.

I still remember the first time we met, the things we said to each other, the endless messages we sent to keep each other awake in class, the laughter we shared, the mamak sessions together with our gang, the photographs we took, the places we went.

How I wish I could tell you how I feel about you. How I wish that I had been braver in the past. How I wished that I had the courage to tell you back when I had the chance. I don’t really know what are your feelings towards me, but for myself, I have been very happy to meet a person such as you. There have been times where I’ve thought of competing with Melvin.

But today, something happened. Something that made me thank God that we are not together. I was involved in a  rescue operation for 2 prisoners of war. Seeing the soldiers who became my friends dying in front of my eyes proved to me how fragile life can be. Who knows, the next one to die might be me. I could be hit by a stray bullet, shot down on purpose, or caught as a prisoner of war. I live the kind of life that no woman would ever want her partner to live in. 

I can’t let you spend the rest of your life with a guy whose life hangs by a thread. You have Melvin, who is the kind of guy that every girl dreams of; handsome, smart and rich. He is able to provide everything that you want for. You will have the kind of life that is well-provided for, safe and secure. There is no better life that I could wish for you, and I am not the guy who can give you that.

Shun Yee, my letter to you is to ask you to treasure your life with him. Treasure the fact that two of you can have a happily ever after together. As for me, I’ll always remain as your friend. Nothing can change that, I promise you.

With love,                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Jack

Shun Yee closed her eyes. You idiot, she thought, do you know how much I wanted you to say those three words to me? How long I waited for you to prove to me that your feelings to me were not my own illusions? How much I suffered torn between my feelings for you and my guilt to Melvin?

The plane continued its flight back to Malaysia.

****

“Oh shit! I’m going to be late for my flight!”

Talking with Eng Tat’s and Jolene’s family, spying on Alex and Ping Hui (he had promised Eng Tat that he would try to snoop more about their “status”) and joining them for breakfast at the hospital cafeteria, Jack almost lost count time. The relieve of finding out Eng Tat was out of danger put the 2 families in a happy mood and Jack was part of it.

“Bye guys! Tell Eng Tat that I’ll come back to see him as soon as I can!” said Jack as he rushed off to the airport.

****

Shun Yee’s plane touched down safely in KLIA in the morning. She and her parents gathered their luggage and headed out of the arrival hall to the taxi counter.

****

Jack jumped out of the taxi and sprinted through the large hallways of the airport.

Please let me be on time!

Looking at his watch and running, he didn’t see clearly where he was heading.

*crash!*

“Owh!”

“Ohmygosh! Sorry sorry! ! Are you ok?”

Time seemed to stand still around them.

“Jack?”

“Shun Yee?”

-The End-

Chapter 14 – Redemption

Beep… Beep… Beep…

The beeping of the ECG machine cut through the stillness of the night in the ICU ward the Eng Tat lay.  All was quiet as his visitors were gently chased out by the nurses. He was not to be disturbed and the hospital promised to alert his family the moment he awoke.

They were still in the common area, his parents, and sister. Pale and ashen faced, they were praying together, hoping that their loved one inside fighting for his life would win the battle. His parents were tired from spending the whole day in the hospital, but refused to go home and rest. Eng Tat’s sister had rushed to the hospital the moment she was out of school. Her eyes were still slightly puffy from crying.

Jolene had been with him the whole day, and was exhausted. The events of the day proved too much for her to bear. She had staggered out of the ward and nearly fainted after a few hours of sitting and talking to Eng Tat. The suicide, the lost of her child, Eng Tat’s accident, learning that Melvin had died and now Shun Yee’s plane crash came crashing down upon her and her body refused to stay up anymore. Her family bundled her back to her own ward, after promising to let her know of any improvement in Eng Tat’s condition.

She did not feel his fingers giving the smallest of movement, when her tears fell on them. Drugged and exhausted, Jolene’s senses were dulled. When Eng Tat’s parents and sister came into the ward to talk to him, he could sense them, but not draw enough energy to open his eyes. He was fighting with all his might to wake up to the people he loved again.

****

So this is what you want?

Shun Yee had read the letter, crumpled it into a tight ball and flung it against the wall of her ward. Then, horrified at what she had done, she got out of bed and picked it up again, opening the ball and smoothing out the paper the best she could. If this was going to be the last words she see from Jack, she was going to keep it, no matter how much hurt it would cause her if she were to read the letter again.

She had started tearing up when she saw the letter, reaching a full-blown cry when she read till the end. But now, tears all dry, she was cool and composed. She made up her mind on what to do.

“Mom?” she called when her mother came into the ward, “can we check out of hospital now? The doctor says I’m more or less recovered already. I want to go back to Malaysia.” 

Her mother stared at her long and hard.

“Yes dear. If that is what you want.”

****

Jack was still stuck in Malaysia. Unable to get the flight on the same day to Bandung, he had to wait until the next day for the earliest flight there.

As he was pacing round the house, waiting for the moment to board the plane, his thoughts were a whir.

Eng Tat, his best friend was now fighting for his life in the hospital. Jolene, his friend, was recovering from a suicide attempt. Melvin, his “enemy” was now dead. And Shun Yee…

Please don’t leave me before I get to say all that I want to say to you… Please tell me that I will get there in time to see you… Please tell me that you’ll forgive me for all the things that I should have said to you but did not… Please, Shun Yee….

I love you….

A tear trickled down his cheek. He wiped it off, sighed and looked at his watch.

There was still time before his flight. Prehaps he should go to the hospital to see Eng Tat.

****

“Jo, wake up…”

Jolene opened her eyes blurily from her uneasy sleep. The happenings of the day still haunted her.

“Eng Tat just woke up.”

Without a word, Jolene sprang from her bed, wincing in pain as she clutched her mid-section, and ran as fast as she could up to Eng Tat’s ward, her mother trailing her.

When she reached his floor, the doctor was in the ward, checking on the progress of Eng Tat. His family were outside, weeping with relieve that he had lived through the night. Jolene and her family wept as well, thankful for God’s grace.

As they were still peering into the ward through the glass panel, the doctor came out. He was greeted by a torrent of questions. He help up his hand.

“The patient is lucky, very lucky to have lived through tonight. But there is one concern which you have to know. Some of his brain cells are dead from lack of blood. He will be partially paralysed on his left side of the body. It is not very serious, just a numbing feeling on his left side, but he would have to live with it throughout the rest of his life. He might not be able to do things like strongly grasp a glass with his left hand or kick strongly with his left leg. He will need all of your encouragements.”

They all sighed. Jolene’s already swollen eyes smarted again when she heard what the doctor said.

“Can I go in to see him?”

The doctor nodded.

Jolene went in, and Eng Tat looked at her. They both didn’t say anything. They knew they were both forgiven.

Dr. Wong tore open the green ER curtains, walking out in a morose expression. He looked at Mr. and Mrs. Yeoh in the worried eyes and said,

“I’m sorry Mr. and Mrs.Lim.”

Dr. Wong took a pause, feeling his failure to achieve a perfect ending for Jolene and her baby.

“We’ve tried out best to save both of them, but I’m afraid only the mother survived. The ultrasound shows that the baby’s heart is dead, we’ll need to take it out when she’s ready to”

“What?!! You must be joking doc, you say that my Jolene’s pregnant?” replied Mrs.Yeoh frantically.

She sat down on the waiting bench, eyes wide open in disbelief, she took a deep breath and let out a deep sigh. Thinking, what could have Eng Tat done to her daughter.

Mr.Yeoh was there, patting the back of his wife, consoling her and told her to calm down before everything is being sorted out.

“At this point of time, our daughter needs our support, let’s not give her another hard time.”

Running into the ER entrance, was Jack, trying to find out his buddy’s condition after the accident. He took a glance at the floor, he saw nurses, he saw … two familiar faces. His eyes locked down to the familiar face, trying to recall form his memory. Mr. and Mrs.Yeoh saw Jack, they both exchanged the few seconds of staring each other.

*It’s Jolene’s parents!*

Jack started walking towards them.

“Hi uncle auntie, you all came after getting the call from Auntie Chai?”

Mr. and Mrs.Yeoh did not appear to be friendly at that time. Jack sensed it. Too late for him to back out form the conversation. Mrs.Wong took a breath and raised her hands pointing at Jack.

“What are you talking about? What Auntie Chai? Why don’t you tell that woman that her son caused my daughter to commit suicide? We don’t need your sympathy. Ask your good friend what has he done to my daughter! Now, go far away from me!”

Jack stood there, stoned and struck with a moment of confusion.

“Err… I think you got it wrong, I’m here for Eng Tat. He met an accident just now.”

“Who cares about him?! My Jolene committed suicide because your Eng Tat raped her or whatever and she was forced to end her life! What else do you want?!”

The common area of the ER room was silent for a few seconds. Eyes are set on the two parties that appeared to be quarreling, using sensitive words that captured the attention of the public. Both felt the awkwardness of the situation, Mrs.Yeoh sat down and pretend as if nothing happened.

“Auntie Yeoh, I believe that there are certain things that you cannot draw a conclusion by yourself. I’ll leave the explanations to Eng Tat. If he survives the goddamn crash. As for now, if you could, excuse me.”

Jack’s temper started rising, he withdrew himself from the heated situation. Walking to the nurse and to find out Eng Tat’s condition. The nurses guided him to the operation theater at the third floor. Jack couldn’t sit still, feeling the restlessness within, he walked to and fro in front of the operation room. The red light was still on. Jack has seen many deaths, sufferings in the wards of the hospitals in Iraq, but he had never felt this sorrow within him, so deeply ever. Eng Tat was like a brother to him, they gone through lots together, but now, he’s lying on the operation theater, with all the tubes stuck in his throat and veins, fighting for his life. He thought for a moment, that it’s ironic that he survived Baghdad without sleeping in the ward for once, but his friends ended up in the ER back in Malaysia. How ironic. He smiled to himself, trying to suppress his fear of losing his best friend, kissing his cross and he sat on the bench.

At the ground floor, Jolene is now stable to talk to the police constable on duty at the hospital. It is a crime to commit suicide, which makes every single person that commits suicide, a criminal. It is impossible to charge a dead person, hence, they get away scot-free. It’s a different situation for those who failed to die, they will get charged in the courts, for committing suicide. The right to life doesn’t apply vice versa, the right to die. Of course, hiring the best defence lawyer will definitely help.

After the constable left the ward, Jolene’s parents stepped into the room. She burst into tears, kept on saying sorry to her parents. It was a painful experience, to be overdosed by sleeping pills – Valium, and the worst part of all, to get a gastric lavage or the ‘cleansing ritual’. The pharynx will be bruised when the tube is forced into the esophagus. There’s nothing more painful than a failed attempt to commit suicide. Jolene tried to calm herself. Her parents can’t wait to ask her why, but they kept it within, trying not to hurt her again.

“mum, pa… I think you should have known that I’m pregnant”

Her parents kept quiet, they just looked at her, with forgiveness in their eyes, and Jolene continued.

“Eng Tat did not mistreat me. It was my own fault, I got tipsy one day and settled for a one night stand with a friend from the same uni.”

Jolene started sobbing again when she said this. Her parents were struck with a disbelief. They sat on the ward bed, stunned and couldn’t react to the situation. They had blamed the wrong person.

“Jo ah, I think I have something to tell you, Jack was here just now. He told us that Eng Tat ……. met an accident. He’s in this hospital now”

Jolene’s sobbing suddenly stopped. She looked at her mum as if saying, “tell me that it’s a lie“. With her mental condition, that had been relying on Valium to sleep for the past few months, it is impossible to take such a psychiatric blow. With adrenaline pumped up, she sprang up from her bed. Her parents tried to stop her. She got out from the ward and hunching down with her hands tucked to her tummy, she walked to the nearest reception area, and asked to check for a person named Eng Tat.

“Yes miss, Mr.Chai is now in OP 303 on the third floor”

She braced herself, held on to her aching tummy and fatigue after a cleansing, walked towards the elevator and went to the third floor. It’s a heart wrenching scenario for her parents, knowing how much their daughter loved Eng Tat, but decided to end her life rather than to hold on to the guilt for the rest of her lives. It was indeed black for death of the baby in her womb, but, was it rather a choice of the God in control, to disallow a child to be born out of wedlock and ruin a relationship that was once pure and happy. Her parents wanted to support her, no matter what her decisions may be.

The elevator reached the third floor. A few seconds felt like a few hours for an anxious heart. The hospital elevator with a rectangular shape has a door which opens from only one side. She peeked out while the elevator door slide open from the left side. Corridor was empty at the first glance, the emptiness was emphasised by the hollow sound of the air conditioning system, stepping out and started looking for signs that directs to Operation Theater 3. In a distance, there was a man, familiar to her was on the phone. Jolene recognised that it was Jack. Holding on the the walls to gain support, Jolene called out to Jack.

Jack turned around, with tears running down his cheeks, looked at Jolene and returned with a smile. He signaled Jolene to give him a minute. She slowly walked towards Jack. The call ended, Jack with his back facing Jolene put his phone back into his pockets, wiped his face with his palms and turned around, he said :

“Jolene, Eng Tat still loves you, very much.”

Jolene’s eyes started to be filled with tears. Jack continued.

“…….. Shun Yee’s plane crash landed in Bandung.”

Both of them looked at each other, a sight that tells each other that everything will be alright.

“Jack, go. Don’t wait until it is too late! Just go”

Jack stood up and said, “I know Eng Tat’s gonna be fine, he’s a fighter.” Immediately after the line, he started running to the elevator. Jolene looked at him, entering into the elevator, and both smiled at each other until the elevator door hid Jack from her sight.

Shun Yee sorted out her stack of documentation of her previous medical records and her photocopy of the identification card. Her parents were back to the hotel to rest after making sure that their beloved daughter was fine. She saw something odd. A letter with an ugly stamp, printed with Arabic words on it. She looked at the letter, at the address written in a beautiful and familiar handwriting, and gasped. *It is Jack!*

She couldn’t wait to hear from Jack. It is not the usual nervousness that she faced. She trembled, reluctant but anxious to read the content of the letter. She tore the letter openings, retrieved the letter from the envelope, and started reading it.

Her tears were imminent, rolling within her eyes. A tear dripped unto the letter, causing the words to smear, the words of Jack, to Shun Yee, words that had been waited for so long.

The clicking sound of the ECG machine, showing every single beat of Eng Tat’s heart in graphical lines made every heart beside him to beat accordingly. Lactated Ringer’s solution is given via IV. The doctor stood at the bed, jotting down the readings of his blood pressure, heart rate, and SpO2 of Eng Tat, and walked out of the room to meet his family members. His parents, Mr. and Mrs.Chai was there with Jolene and her parents. Dr.Cheng closed the ICU door behind him.

“He has lost a lot of blood in the accident. His braincells are affected when the blood supply couldn’t reach.  This night is crucial for him, he has to fight through the night. We can allow one person at a time into the ICU. He needs encouragements. Just pray.”

Dr.Cheng walked down the corridor while the family of Eng Tat held on their tears, trying not to cry and to be strong. Auntie Chai, Eng Tat’s mum knew what happened to Jolene and Eng Tat, she knew that Jolene has lots to talk to Eng Tat. She knew that Eng Tat would want to hear her voice, she knew what her boy wants and how much her boy loved Jolene. She knew that she cannot penalise Jolene for a wrong step that she had took. Jolene also knew that she did the wrong thing to betray Eng Tat, however, she took the wrong step to the remission of her guilt.

“Go Jo, we know that he needs you now.”

Auntie Chai told Jolene in a very motherly voice and smiled gracefully at her. Jolene went in with the sterile protective robe, with a cap that looked like a shower cap. She sat down by Eng Tat’s bed.

“Darling, I’m sorry, there’s nothing that I can say other than sorry. Please wake up darling. Please wake up. I’ll learn how to be good. I’ll never break your heart anymore, but please come back to me.”

Jolene cried. Eng Tat and Jolene’s parents couldn’t resist their tears while seeing Jolene through the glass panel of the ICU. Jolene’s tears fell on the back of Eng Tat’s palm. His fingers responded to the stimuli, unnoticed by Jolene.

Chapter 12Hospital

” Dr. Wong, you’re wanted in the ER room 3 now. There’s a suicide victim who is under critical condition.”

Dr. Wong sighed, grabbed his stethoscope and sprinted after the nurse. In his young life as a doctor, he had seen more than enough tragedies happening.

When he saw the victim, his heart sank.  

It was a young women. Too young to want to die, he thought.

One look at her, and he knew she had tried to kill herself on an overdose of pills. She was foaming at the mouth and convulsing as they moved her from the stretcher. 

He set to work to perform an emergency gastric lavage to pump out the unabsorbed remains of the drugs in her body.

****

“Mom? Dad?”

Shun Yee had a shocked when she opened her eyes and saw her parents standing beside her.

“Dear, you’re finally awake! We have been so worried about you!”

Shun Yee’s mom and dad, Mr. and Mrs. Lim had taken the earliest flight that they could to Bandung and had just reached a couple of hours ago to the hospital. Along the way, their hearts said a thousand prayers for their daughter to be ok. They had been anxiously pacing the ward, waiting for her to wake up.

“How do you feel?”

“I think I’m ok… Just a little dizzy, I guess…”

Shun Yee was still in a little disoriented mode. Her parents? Here? Now? How long had she been knocked out? Or was she  just sleeping just now?

“It’s ok… The doctor said that you had a minor concussion. So you’ll be a bit blur this few days,” said her dad, reaching out to hold his daughter’s hand.

“Don’t worry… Daddy and I will be here all the time k?” smiled her mom. Words could not describe her relieve to find that her daughter was still alive, save for the minor injury.

Shun Yee sank back into the pillows, happy that her parents were here.

****

“Dr Cheng! ER room 1! Now!!”

“What happened?”

“Accident. Truck and car”

Dr. Cheng ran a quick check over the accident victim.

He was bleeding from his nose, mouth and ears. A deep gnash ran across the right side of his forehead, sending blood pouring down his face. His right leg was twisted at an odd angle, confirming that it was broken. There were 3 broken ribs, one had pierced his lungs, sending blood flooding into them and drowning him from inside. A piece of glass had struck him through his side, giving him a cut dangerously close to his kidney.

This young chap was lucky to be still alive. Very lucky.

“Nurse! Prepare operation theater 2 now!”

****

Jack was still trying to figure out the foreign number on his phone when he heard the afternoon news over the television.

” A young man fell from the 24th floor of Condominium Palm Oasis, Tropicana Heights to his death this morning. Melvin Ian Lee, 25, was found….”

WHAT??!! Melvin?!

Jack spun around at the television. True enough, the profile photograph on the television screen showed the photo of the Melvin he knew.  

“… the police has categorized it as an accidental death with no foul play until further investigations are made.”

Barely had he time to think of anything when his phone rang again.

“Eng Tat just got into an accident!” Aunty Chai, Eng Tat’s mother, wailed into the phone.

Shit…. 

Grabbing his things and rushing out of the house, Jack hailed the nearest taxi and asked the driver to drive to Metrolink Hospital as fast as he could .

****

Jolene’s parents and brother were frantic in the waiting room. They could hear her gagging and coughing from where they were sitting.

Jolene’s mom, Mrs Yeoh was still crying as she thought of her daughter. Her husband, his expression grim, had his arms around her as they sat on the sofa. Jolene’s brother, Alex, was pacing around, occasionally grunting in frustration.

They had gone to Jolene’s house that morning to discuss some final marriage details. Her mother was especially worried about her as she had a bad feeling that something had happened. When all the knocking and ringing of the housebell didn’t work, Mr Yeoh and Alex had broken down the door to find Jolene on the bed, surrounded by the remains of her pills.

Suddenly, her father’s head snapped up. He turned to Alex.

“Call Eng Tat. Tell him we’re at Metrolink Hospital. I want to know what the hell did he do to my daughter!”

****

Shun Yee’s mom was sorting out the things that she had brought from the house.  In the frantic rush, the identification documents and Shun Yee’s previous  medical records were hurriedly crammed  into a file.

Among the papers, was the letter.

Chapter 11 – Death

A scream was heard in the air.

Security guard runs to the direction of the loud scream that alerted some residents at the lower floors. Carrying the torchlight and baton, thinking that it was a snatch thief, the guard sprints.

“Some… someone jumped”, said in a trembling voice. Pointing to a body near the fountain that marks the entrance to the apartment main lobby.

The security guard walked towards the body that was sprawled in a pool of blood. Bits of brains splashed around the body, like smashed pumpkins on the floor. The face was no longer recognisable, the jawbone of the body was thrown about 15 feet away from the body. The femur of the leg was broken, protruding out from the thigh of the dead body, almost severed, fat deposits yellowish in colour soaked with fresh blood in pinkish stain glowed under the bright light from the torch of the security guard. He almost puked, his dinner was at his throat looking at the gory scene.

He ran towards the guard post, alerting his fellow guards and picked up the phone and called the police. Sweaty hands and shivering hands made dialing a few numbers tougher than ever. In his shivery tone, he replied to the police.

“Ada orang bunuh diri, ini call dari Condominium Palm Oasis, Tropicana Heights”

He rushed back to the scene after an emergency call to the police. People surrounded the dead body, pointing and looking at it as if it was a circus show which entertains people. It started a commotion where more residents came to the lobby and joined the circus show. It was a gruesome death. Everyone started to guess the reason of the death, either it was a suicidal case, or a pure accident which should not happen to anyone in this world.

10 minutes later, the sirens of the police was heard. Blue flashing lights are then seen illuminating the area. People gave way to the officer in charge. Police constables immediately made a perimeter line using a yellow tape, making space for the forensic team that stepped into the scene after the officer. The officer later summoned the lady who was the witness to the incident. Pulling out it notepad, ready to jot down every detail of the incident, he started questioning.

“I was walking towards the lobby after I parked my car, thinking that I can head home after a busy day. I hear a loud thud behind me when i was about to enter the lobby. I turned around, I saw a man sprawled on the ground…. dead”, the lady dressed in power suit hugging her Prada bag expressed in a trembling voice, almost breaking down into tears, after witnessing such an incident.

Forensic team went into the secured perimeter, trying to discover evidence that will lead them to the untold mystery of the dead person. The leader of the team started taking pictures of the dead person and surroundings. He reached into his pocket, pulled out an ID Recorder, and started speaking into the mic of the findings that he made.

“Male, a young male. Hair black, dressed in long black slacks and blue shirt. Wears a metal watch on his left hand. The cranium is totally cracked, jaw is found 17.6 feet away, femur broke into 3 parts is visible to us. No stab wounds on the chest and abdomens, no visible weapon wounds. The body sustained a massive blow when it hit the ground. Most possibly from the height of more than 20 floors. No identification was found on the body. Suspected at the time being for committing suicide.”

The leader clicked off his recorder and puts on his latex gloves, ready to get his hands dirty.

Shun Yee’s mum received a call from Santosa Bandung International Hospital, that her daughter’s flight crash landed in Bandung International Airport. She was terrified by the news. Her dad calmed her mother down and drove to her house to get Shun Yee’s identification documents. Her mum opened the gate with her spare keys and found that there was a letter in the mailbox. She took it with her and went into the house to gather the needs. They sped off to KLIA, hoping to catch the next possible flight to Bandung. She prayed in her heart that Shun Yee will be alright.

“Sir, the body identification is out. It is identified by the thumbprint as Melvin Ian Lee. We also found traces of alcohol in his blood. Referring to the last known address, which led us to his apartment in Palm Oasis, where the incident took place, we found a broken bottle of wine, an empty bottle of Cognac and a bottle of spilled whiskey at the balcony. No signs of break in, the lock still intact, the alarm was armed.”

The officer in charge thought for a moment.

“We shall categorise it as an accidental death with no foul play until further investigations are made. Release this to the irritating reporters”

Chapter 10 – Regrets

“WHAT?!”

“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!” sobbed Jolene into the phone, her tears streaming down her face, dripping onto the floor of the balcony. Her hands still gripped the cold steel railings, until her knuckles turned white.

“Please… Please say something….” she pleaded with Eng Tat, when the person she loved most at the other side of the line went silent.

All she heard was a click as the phone line went dead.

****

“I’m sorry, the number you have dialed is currently unavailable. Please try again later.”

Jack scrunched up his face in confusion. Where could she be? He had tried calling her since morning, to no avail. He knew that Shun Yee woke up quite early, and it was now already 11.45am. Had something happened to her?

Jack sighed, and got up from his bed in the guestroom in Eng Tat’s house. Probably he was just thinking too much. What could happen to her? As far as he knew, she had planned to continue her Masters, which he knew she would do well. And she had Melvin to look after her. Melvin, who could provide her with all the things that she wanted. Melvin, who was so rich that he once single-handedly sponsored a whole activity of their Photography Society. Melvin, who was always around to be with her. Melvin, who could give her what he couldn’t give.

Security.

Sometimes Jack regretted that he wanted to be a warzone photojournalist. He was always at risk of having a bullet put through his head or captured as a POW. Financially, he was not very sound as well. What if he had just got the average job as a local reporter? Or a job as a photographer in one of the studios nearby? Or even open a bridal studio himself? Then he could live a normal life, with the woman he loved, safe and secure in a country that was not ravaged by war. They could have kids, and the type of ideal family that he always saw on television. He knew that was the type of life that Shun Yee wanted.

What if….?

He shook himself out of his thoughts and realised with a start that he was a guest in Eng Tat’s house. It would not be nice to wake up too late. He headed to the bathroom to wash up and brush his teeth.

When he was in the bathroom, he did not see nor hear his handphone ringing.

It was not a local number.

****

Shun Yee opened her eyes, but the whiteness blinded her for a moment.

Am I dead?

“Patient on bed number 14 is awake”, she heard a woman’s voice call out.

****

Eng Tat had headed to work after leaving a note on the dining table telling Jack that his breakfast was under the food cover.

His thoughts were still on what Jolene told him last night. How could she? After all that he had done for her? After loving her even more than his own life? After agreeing to marry her even when he knew that the child was not his? How could she?

Engrossed in his thoughts, he did not see the oncoming truck.

****

My darling Eng Tat,

When you read this letter, I won’t be here anymore. I’m sorry I’m doing this, but it’s the only way I can deal with my guilt. I can’t go on living knowing what I’ve done to you.

I have made a mistake, a big one. But it was nothing compared to lying to you. I can’t think of anyway or anything that I could do to erase the pain that I have caused nor the regrets that I have.

The four years that we’ve been together have been the best in my life. Given a chance, I wouldn’t change what we had, what we went through together and what we feel for each other. I have learnt so much from being with you. Thank you for being such a great guy to me.

I’m sorry.

Your Jolene.

P.S. I love you.

Chapter 9 – Tragedy

Jack and Eng Tat spent the whole day talking to each other, spilling out everything that they had both been through. Catching up what they have lost of each other since Jack left for his epic journey. A journey to tell the untold stories, a journey to see the unseen and above all, a journey to escape from the truth, Shun Yee did not choose him.

“Will you decide to go to Baghdad if you’re with Shun Yee last time?”

“I’m not sure, it’s a hard question, it depends on the circumstances. Anyway, I respect your love to Jolene, unconditional”

“It’s not easy to be able to raise a child which doesn’t belong to you. My parents should not know about this”

The conversation went on. Both of them felt that they are back in the varsity days, where they go out for ‘mamak’ food until late night and spend the weekends going around together. They missed those times, where there’s nothing to worry other than the final exams of every semester. Things do change over time. Responsibilities are heavier now for Eng Tat, a soon-to-be wife and a legal child that will be named after his surname, but fertilised by a sperm which doesn’t belong to him.

Eng Tat grew tired, retired to sleep for he needed to work the next day. Jack suffered from a jet lag of a minor gravity. He was still pretty awake for Iraq’s time is still dinner time. He switched on the TV set. It was the late night news.

“All passengers of Malaysian Airlines flight MH1033 managed to escape the burning aircraft after the crash landing in Bandung International Airport, but the co-pilot, Ahmad Shahzari failed to evacuate himself. 15 passengers suffered injuries but the conditions are not confirmed. The surviving pilot, Captain Jeffrey Sharawant said that the airplane hydraulics failed and eventually the brakes failed. That’s all the details we have now about the crash, back to you Lynette”

Jack was frustrated. Helicopters crash in Baghdad, and Malaysian planes crash in Indonesia. He switched off the TV. Leaned back to the couch, sipping his Long Black, thinking whether he should try calling Shun Yee the next day.

“Hold on miss, please do not move yourself too much. You are on the way to the hospital”

Shun Yee felt uncomfortable being strapped unto the stretcher during the transfer to the hospital.

Hydraulics of the plane failed and brakes did not manage to deploy and ended up with a crash landing into the woods adjacent to the runway. The Airbus A340 caught fire at the right wing but she was being carried out by another passenger. Her head bumped against the wall of the aircraft, which rendered her unconscious due to the minor concussion.

“Miss, can you hear me? Should we contact Jack? Is he your husband? You are calling out to his name just now. What is his number? Can you hear me miss?”

Shun Yee is still in a semi-conscious mode.

Jolene stays in Kerning Hill Apartments in Kelana Jaya. She stays there alone, decided that she will move in with Eng Tat after their marriage.

She woke up, startled as usual, breathing heavily, cold sweats drained her forehead and eyes wide open like a goldfish. She put her feet on the cold marble floor, and stood up. Picked up her cellphone and walked out of her room. Walked past her living room and in the darkness of the night, she opened her balcony sliding glass door. She held firm to the ice cold steel railings of her balcony and looked at her phone.

*Calling … Eng Tat* appeared on the screen.

“…. Hel… Hello, Jolene, is that you?”

“Yes. It’s me”

“Why dear? You can’t sleep again?”

“I lied to you. I did not get raped in the parking lot of my workplace. I … I really thought that he was our friend”

“What are you talking about dear? What happened?”

Jolene started sobbing violently, she could not hold her tears back. The image of the whole tragedy came back to haunt her, the person that she thought that she could trust betrayed her, Eng Tat, Jack, Shun Yee and the whole world. She could no longer forgive herself from lying to Eng Tat that loves her so much. She squeezed the cold balcony railings, gathering courage, and shouted out.

“It was Melvin!”

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