Category Archives: Fiction

The warm embrace that no one knows

He said he’d pick her up and was his punctual self. What she didn’t expect was his mode of transportation, a brand new superbike.

“Nice ride. Not something I’d expect you to have, though.” He smiled at the comment.

“Thanks. I’m still getting used to it myself,” he admitted and then produced a second helmet for her.

“I hope you know what you’re doing, dude,” the nervous laugh gave her away and made him grin wider.

“Everyone keeps telling me that!”

– – –

While they were on the road, she kept wondering if he could hear her heart pounding, feeling alive and glad to see him again. She felt the wind on her face, partly hidden by his warm back. The journey was no more than 15 minutes and she wished it could go on for much longer.

– – –

“I didn’t say it earlier, but you look really good with your hair like that.  It suits you.”

“Thanks, but I’m actually in the phase where I’m starting to miss wearing it long.”

“Try it out for a while lah. I really like it,” he looked like he wanted to say something else, but stopped himself.

She forced her eyes to look at the menu instead of his face, but not seeing any words written on the piece of laminated cardboard she was holding and stuck to her usual order. Which led her back to the problem of not looking at his face.

“Is there someone joining us?” he asked.

“No, why do you think that?”

“You’ve been staring at the door for a while now.” She smiled and apologised.

He must have sensed her uneasiness and started telling her about his latest sea adventure, a month of patrol duty.

“I’ve made the ship 90 per cent rust-free,” he said proudly. She could only imagine the ‘happy hour’ sessions his crew have had.

“The sailors must be really happy that you’re on leave for a week.”

His laughing face slowly dissolved the tension she felt. “Almost like old times,” she thought.

– – –

Another bike ride and they were at the marina. She thought they were headed for his sailboat, but instead he led her to a bench facing the pontoons.

“I’m selling the boat.”

Her eyes went wide and searched his face, unable to believe what she had just heard. He sat and tugged at her sleeve to do the same.

“I know that I was wrong for wanting to start something with you, not like that,” he spoke softly, eyes looking ahead at the nearby boats.

“After your last letter, I realised that I had hurt you and I’m really sorry. I’m also grateful that you kept pushing me away, even when I felt that you didn’t want to.”

Tears. They came unbidden as always.

“You were an asshole, I’d give you that.” Her shaky laugh was at odds with the emotion he had heard in her voice.

“But what does it have to do with The Duchess?”

He turned to her then, a sad smile.

“Too many memories.”

They had competed in three races on the boat and had won twice. He said she was his lucky charm. Oh how she fell, swift and hard. As fast as she had pulled away, when he told her the truth. She left the team soon after, and it has been almost a year since she last sailed on any boat.

– – –

The rest of the afternoon was a blur to her. She remembered the ride home but not much of the details. The only clear memory was walking away from him without turning back. She knew then that she will be fine. Eventually.

Nothing more to give

I was halfway through my walk when it started raining. Mid-spring, the wind was still freezing cold for me, a creature from the Equator. I got back before you did and was all bundled up, drying my hair in front of the tv when you returned.

“Give me that.” A soft shove and I was on the floor, somewhat shocked. But you just went ahead and sat down, the damp towel back on my head with your hands on it.

I don’t remember the last time anyone had dried my hair like you did. Not even my parents. I made a half-hearted attempt to stop you but it felt good to just sit back and enjoy the treatment. Never have I thought of having a guy dry my hair being one of the reasons to keep it long.

“I bet you do this to all the girls who came here.”


That’s how we’ve always been, dancing on the edges of emotional entanglement and yet keeping a safe distance. Being in different time zones was another reason I tell myself why it wouldn’t work, despite the attraction and affection I feel for him.

“All done, princess,” his words brought me back to the apartment.

“I’m hungry, what’s for dinner?” was all I could reply without making a fool of myself.

Another evening walk, my last before I leave for home the next day. I kept thinking of the letter I’ve been carrying in my bag the whole time I’ve been here, never having the courage to hand it over to the intended receiver. The pessimist in me believes that I will not have my some kind of wonderful with you. That has always been my ending. Friendzoned is a term I have come to accept when it comes to the guys in my life, no matter how genuine the connection I thought we had.

Despite all my misgivings, I felt that I had to take the risk of losing you entirely. It might have been the Irises I found at the market on the corner near your place. In another country, quite a while back, I got to know the spring flower and came to love it. In Greek mythology, Iris is said to be the goddess of the rainbow, who acted as a messenger of the gods. Yeah, it was probably the flowers that made me do it.

You brought work home, a rare occasion for Mr. Efficient. I didn’t want to interrupt, I finished packing and was staring at the letter for a good while before I made my decision.

“This is for you. I’m going for a walk,” I said quickly before turning to leave. You were much quicker, taking my right wrist as I turned. “Shit.” That was my brain. My heart went on a roller coaster and I just froze.

“Sit with me, please,” the soft request sounded like a booming thunder. Freaking out was an option I didn’t want to choose so I just sat.

You kept my right hand in yours and I focussed on them while you read, a kaleidoscope of my week with you going through my mind. The walks, the conversations, you with a 24-hour bug making me breakfast when I wanted to do it for you and then insisting I keep my appointments while you sleep for the rest of the day. Our flea market Sunday, when the sun was out and the park was beautiful instead of gloomy and grey.

A tug on my right hand but I still couldn’t look up.

“Thank you for this,” those four words and the hint of a smile gave me a bit of courage, although I was still dreading what to come after.

“You are a great friend and I do care for you. But friendship is all I have to give.”

I might have nodded or responded in some other way, I don’t remember. I was suddenly enveloped in a warm hug and I wished I could stay wrapped in that warmth forever. Because I finally understood the meaning of your words.

The world of me and you

The horizon was streaked with shades of orange and grey. It was wet on deck, the third day of racing, and we should approach Penang in a couple of hours. The rain had stopped and wind was light, but the waves were fairly high still, making us give up on trying to cook and broke out the dry rations for dinner.

“Are you trying to stare that biscuit to death?” He came to sit next to me near the cockpit where a few others were also taking a short break.

“I was looking at the water, silly,” I replied. Actually, I was thinking of another sailing trip with him some ten months earlier. A week of pure happiness it was for me.

“Do you remember that time I fell on the boat during that final match race?” Of course I did. I was on the media boat when he texted me about it.

“I was really worried you’d cracked a rib or something. And your voice took a long time to recover.” It was seven months ago and I have not forgotten the feeling.

“I was worried too. And it made me realise how painful it was for you when you had the accident in January.” I fell on the boat we had sailed together and the pain near my right ribs took a couple of months to fully disappear.

“I was glad that you were okay, although I do miss that sexy voice you had sometimes,” I said. He laughed at that.

I didn’t mention it before we went on board, but I knew that this would be our last race together. Our situation has not changed and I doubt that it will, despite his new assignment. He took my hand and held it in his while I kept my eyes closed listening to the waves.

“Break is over, comms officer.” He stood and went back to the charts down below. I saw the skipper looking at me and went to him. He’s been a great source of knowledge as usual, and I wanted to hear more about the race he had entered last summer from California to Hawaii. It was partly to distract myself from thinking too much and partly to learn more from the skipper’s 40-odd years of experience.

– – –

From Penang, we moved on to Langkawi. It would be my third visit to the island this year, I haven’t even gone back to the kampung that often. We managed to get onto the podium for the passage race to Penang and were hoping for a repeat performance for the next leg. The navigator’s excited, even when I reminded him we’re in the cruising class, not the IRC 1.

“What happened to fun sailing and enjoying the moment?”

“I can’t help myself, it felt great to win the other day,” he said. Competitive as always.

– – –

I made coffee and went up on deck. It was almost dawn and most of the crew who opted to stay on the boat for the last time were still asleep. He was at the bow pulpit, his sleeping bag wrapped around him. I handed a cup to him and sat down. He wrapped me in as well, warm and safe. I kept quiet, sipping my drink while looking out. After a while, I put my cup down and held him close.

“Thank you for being here,” was all I said. I felt him nod and pulled me closer.

“I think you need a shower.” Romantic, aren’t we?

If you want, read this first.
And this last.

The night we had until the morning

“I still remember that Friday evening, the last time we were here,” she finally said after recovering from the unexpected pit stop.

He continued looking at the stars but she noticed his smile.

“It was my birthday and you got hurt falling on the boat. Tomorrow is yours and since we’re back on this island, I wanted to bring you here before we leave in the morning.”

She thought it was the best birthday gift and said so. He stood up from the deck chair and walked the two steps to where she was sitting and hugged her. Her arms snaked across his back and stayed there for a while, wishing she did not have to let go. But she did, eventually. She felt tears at the back of her eyes and couldn’t stop them. He was surprised when she stood and walked to the edge of the water but didn’t immidiately follow her there.

“I left my heart here ten months ago and I think it will be here for a while longer,” she told him, wiping away her tears.

He took her hand and led her back to the car. That moment was all they had and she knew better than to ask for more.

Didn’t we almost have it all

We got to the party late, but many were still around, chilling. I headed straight to the water, felt the sand making its way into my shoes. He followed me there.

I love the sound of the waves,” I said. I could hear laughter and the soft music just a few metres away but where we were there was just the sound of lapping water onto sand.

I glanced sideways to him and then upwards to the star-filled sky. It was a beautiful evening and there was no other place I would rather be.

Moving towards an empty chair, I fixed my gazed onto his unreadable face as he sat next to me.

I’m sorry for the trouble I caused today.”

It wasn’t your fault,” he finally said. “Well, you could’ve watch more carefully where you were going but accidents do happen.” I knew it.

I’m just glad you weren’t hurt badly.”

I dropped my gaze then, afraid to show any emotion which he could easily read on my face.

The team and I had wanted to surprise you here, but I had to go to the hospital so that didn’t work out,” I confessed. He smiled then.

Thanks for the thought. But I’m not seventeen, you know.”

It’s still your birthday,” I countered, half laughing at the thought of him being a teenager. He wouldn’t be much different, surely, except for the few strands of grey in his hair.

He finally laughed, and I felt a rush of affection for this young man who made this happen for me. I turned to see one of the crew started walking towards us but then stopped when he saw me. He just smiled and turned to the opposite direction.

– – –

Mingling is something I am not very good at. Although I am better at it now, I would prefer to sit quietly at a corner and let the merry makers take the floor without me.

He was next to me at the table, and was in a chatty mood. It was the final evening and I again felt as if we were the only ones there, despite the throng of people around us.

A guy came up to us and upon seeing me, commented on the latest article written by the organiser.

You’re the female tactician, right?” the guy asked excitedly, much to my embarrassment and explained to his girlfriend about the article, aware that I was right in front of them.

He laughed at my predicament but was serious when he spoke.

People took notice, and there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. You should be proud.”

We were sitting so close that I could just reach for his hand and held it in mine. But I didn’t. Instead, I just stared at the table, still embarrassed. He gave me a pat on the back.

You did good. Just focus on improving.”

That made me feel better.  Just a little bit.