December 06, 2005

No Longer The Ugly Duckling

“My.. what big butt you have,” exclaimed Aunt Lucy to Mandy.

She wasn’t acting in an adult version of the story of The Little Red Riding Hood though. She was merely commenting on the size of her niece’s ever growing rear. Mandy’s face turned as red as the apple she had had for breakfast. That was the usual remark that greeted Mandy unfortunately. No wonder she dreaded family gatherings. None of “Hi sweetie. How are you?” or “I heard you scored all As in your exam! Congratulations love!” was directed at her. Only Cindy, who was born 8 minutes after Mandy, received such greetings.

Being the 8 year-old girl that she was, “I got all As too you know…” Mandy thought irritably.

That went on for years. When the twins got to high school, Cindy was famous for her good looks and slim body while Mandy, well let us just say she used to hide and avoid any attention to herself. Mandy had gotten used to most of the unkind comments by that time. Typically, she would shut them out but sometimes it just got too much for her and hot tears would well up in her eyes.

“I’ve had enough of this,” she said to herself one day. “I can’t keep on living like this. My every achievement is worth less because of my weight. I’ve got to do something about it. It’s not going away by itself now is it? I’m gonna do everything it takes to be slim. That way, i can live up to my potential and start having confidence at last.”

From then on, she stuck to her words. Nobody knew what hit her. All of a sudden, she’d have only fruits most of the time. She would have meals sometimes but like her cousin had commented, she ate like a bird. Even when her family had meals in restaurants, she would only order dessert, which of course was a bowl of fruits. If it got too hard, she’d stay at home alone while her brothers and sisters went for burgers and ice creams. On top of that, she started going for aerobics classes. The first few classes, it took all her courage to step into the room full of middle-aged women. She was barely 16 then, yet, she was the largest. It wasn’t easy for her, but giving up was not at all an option.

She kept at all of these day in and day out, checking her progress along the way. With every pound she’d lost, she was motivated to lose even more. By the time she was to go to college, she’d lost all excess weight and was not a fat girl anymore. She was finally ‘normal’ and started to experience things her girlfriends had gone through years ago.

Suddenly, boys started paying attention to her. She enjoyed the attention but she was cautious not to get too close to anyone whom she knew was only after her for how she looked. Her confidence grew. She found herself smiling more than ever before. Finally she started doing what she wanted. She started loving sports, and she tried any kind that she had the opportunity to. Nothing could stop her from living her life to the fullest. Heck, she even tried bungee jumping during a trip to New Zealand. At last, she was being the best Mandy she could be.

But was she really? At least, that’s what she’d thought initially; that she was finally free from being afraid. That was only until she met a decent guy whom she felt was sincere in getting to know her and whom she now refers to as, her boyfriend. Although she sees a future with him, she’s terrified of driving him away though. She has come to realize that she’s not completely free after all. She’s still haunted by her insecurity as a result of her self-doubting adolescence. She gets paranoid way out of line sometimes and she sees those as her ‘fat scars’. The kind which no amount of technology can help reduce.

So here goes another battle. Her only chance to slowly but surely get over her fears was to be strong, along with her boyfriend’s support and assurance. However, how much can he take? How long till she’s ‘cured’? Only time will tell..

November 28, 2005

White Daisies

“B!! It’s B, idiot! Kuala Lumpur is in Malaysia! B!!!” yelled Benjamin.

“Yes. I’m certain Kuala Lumpur’s in Tibet. D it is..” a contestant’s voice on the game show echoed in Ben’s somewhat bare living room.

Ben snatched his remote control, changed the channel and reached for his carton of kung po chicken, “Geez!”.

Chinese takeouts and game shows for dinner were the norm for Ben, a self-confessed workaholic. He hardly ever left his home other than to go to his office. In the eyes of his colleagues and friends, he was very successful. On the contrary, he saw no worth in his assets if he’s not able to share them with loved ones. And that, was exactly what he didn’t have; loved ones.

Benjamin had never fallen in love. At the age of 40, he was disappointed at not having met a life partner while his former classmates were possibly almost ready to have grandchildren.

What made him more anxious was that he didn’t see much chance of finding love. How could he when he can’t even strike up a decent conversation with a woman? He was shy and his social life was close to non-existent. He rarely meets women and those that he has talked to, he only spoke about work and nothing else. Approaching women was certainly nowhere near his ‘to do’ list. And although some have made a move on him, they seemed to scare him off somehow. His mother leaving him at the tender age of 4 perhaps explains his fear of women.

One dreary afternoon, he was feeling particularly depressed. He had just been promoted. He should’ve been over the moon. But why wasn’t he then?

The truth is, he was fully aware of the reason. Adding insult to injury, a friend, thought to be the last one to settle down, was getting married soon. He was the only one left in his circle of friends not to have gotten married or at least have found someone.

Walking out his front door, he headed for the public garden near his apartment. Just as he stepped onto the freshly cut grass, something smacked him right on the chest. He did not see the woman as he was so engaged in his thoughts. The woman seemed to be preoccupied too. She was alone.

He wasn’t sure how, but they ended up sitting on a bench nearby. At first in silence. Not the awkward kind, both just glad to have the other’s company.

A ball rolled over to Ben and the lady.

Running after it, the little boy said to Ben, “Why hello sir, there are some pretty flowers you could give your wife. It might cheer her up,” pointing to a patch of white, blooming daisies.

A smile appeared on their amused faces and they got to chatting. They both shared their fears and longings that evening, despite being complete strangers. She was divorced from her husband and simply wanted to talk to someone who wouldn’t judge her while he had no expectations and spoke his mind. He asked her out and she said yes.

With each date, they discovered that their ideals were very much the same; to be happy, contented and to experience life with another soul. They loved kids and a house full of them would simply be perfect.

2 years on, he stared at the tiny fingers of the baby in his arms. The boy was his own and he couldn’t believe it. His wishes had come true. Married to an amazing woman, blessed with a beautiful child, he has never been happier.

“Thank you,” he whispered, “Thank you……”

November 26, 2005

Tears rolled from her eyes…

Tears rolled from her eyes as she watched the couple walk away with her baby girl. Her joy. Her life. She felt numb. Yet, she dragged her feet, willing herself to walk back home.

“Home?”, Brenda thought.

A million thoughts rushed through her confused mind. The orangey brown leaves were blowing in the strong gusts of wind, brushing her cheeks, and getting tangled in her hair. But the overwhelming feeling that washed over her had nothing to do with the leaves.

“What home? There’s nothing and no one waiting there to greet me.” she sniffled.

Standing in front of it, staring, she only saw it as a white, gorgeous, 2-storey house. She didn’t see it as a home. Not anymore. It won’t be filled with the girly giggles she’s gotten so used to. No patter of little feet. No adorable smiles to start her day with. None of that. How she would dearly miss all those little things that she had grown to treasure the most.

She recalls the day Sarah had come into her life. She had called all her friends that morning, sharing with them the amazing news that a beautiful girl would arrive at her home later that day. She was ecstatic as she had been trying to adopt a child for years. Her marriage had fallen apart as a result of her not being able to conceive. They had longed for a child and the devastation had driven them away from each other. Both of them felt as though they had let the other down.

But the grief of losing her husband was replaced by her love towards Sarah. She had learnt that Sarah’s biological mother had to give her up for adoption as she saw no way of supporting Sarah. She was determined to be the best mother she knew how and she was going to care for Sarah as if Sarah was her own.

She remembers Sarah’s first steps and her first tooth. Sarah’s first word was ‘Mi’, her version of ‘mommy’. She remembers Sarah’s first day of kindergarten. Sarah wouldn’t let her out of sight even for a second.

Suddenly, the happy memories brought her back to where she was; slumped under the tree which towered over her lawn. Sarah’s birth mother, Colleen had come back for her a month ago. Colleen had just got married to a wealthy man and she could finally afford to care for Sarah.

Colleen was prepared to go to court if that was what it took to have her child back. Brenda wouldn’t have any of that. She spent a long time deciding on what to do. She loves Sarah with her whole heart and she never expected Sarah to leave her so soon. Sarah had just turned 8. She thought the soonest it’ll happen was when Sarah leaves for college.

After hours of long walks thinking of the best solution, Brenda reached an agreement with the couple. They could take Sarah home with them so long as they allow her to visit once in a while. Saying that broke her heart. She really didn’t want Sarah to leave. Sarah was her baby too. She did it anyway with the intention of giving Sarah what is best for her. She didn’t want her to grow up confused as to who her mother is. She didn’t want her to go through the pain and unpleasantness of people fighting over her.

With a heavy heart, she picked herself up and walked slowly towards her house. She would be seeing Sarah again.. real soon.

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