June 1989, Sunny.
I was a 14 years old dreamy and gawky teenager waiting to take the dark blue public bus numbered 33 from my home in PJ to my high school, some 15 kilometers away, under a not so densely covered tree which had unofficially become a bus stop known only to the local residents.
Somehow I have gotten familiar with the big old tree – dressed in partly smooth and partly aged, cracked barks that had multiple lines of love notes by couples so in love with each other they declared their undying love and carved promises onto the tree and made the old tree a witness of their love story for the generations to come. If I got tired waiting for the public buses, I would sit on one of its outwardly stretched roots and stared at the fallen leaves doing what I did best – daydreaming.
That particular day, a certain boy from the same school was on board a private school bus. It was a boring hot day nonetheless. The boy sat at the last bench of the bus next to the window seat and looked out of the window and noticed this dreamy girl below the big old tree. He secretly told himself that this was THE type of girl he would marry one day.
January 1990, Cloudy.
The school bell rang and most of the Form-Twoers made a quick dash into their new classrooms, excited for the new year ahead, while having the jitters about the long school holidays that had just passed ever so quickly before joy and fun could really sink in. I made my way to the classroom, feeling happy that for the new school year I had one of my close friends in the same class with me and as we met each other while walking along the corridor towards the classroom, I told my friend that it was going to be such a blissful, fantastic year.
Indeed it was.
As we reached the classroom door and spotted the perfect window seat we were going to conquer for the rest of the year, a school bag was thrown from behind me. It flew and reached the desk I wanted to “book” ahead of me. Fuming with anger , I could barely control my annoyance at anyone who would use such “dirty tricks” to book my favourite spot. I turned back to stare at the naughty classmate who had the audacity to snatch my seat. That was when I first met him.
Peeping through the thick, wavy center-parted medium brown hair was a pair of big brown eyes that came with a boyish mischievous charm I had not seen before. At that split second, I thought the invader of my happiness was quite handsome, but nah, the point was he had TAKEN my seat! Feeling myself blushed at the thought of finding the source of my annoyance good-looking, I firmly asked this new stranger classmate, “Excuse me, whatever your name is, please remove your school bag as my friend and I meant to sit here,” I said in a dignified tone. “So…? My bag came in first,” the invader said in a joking manner of which I could not be entertained much more as the galling angst slowly built up in every being of my cell. Just before my next attempt to fight back, he promptly removed his school bag, settled at the seat directly behind me instead. He tried to suppress a smile but from the corner of his mouth, a hearty, teasing chuckle broke and from where he sat, I felt his piercing good look causing a mild stir in my heart.
That was the first of my many not-so-pleasant encounters with him during that year. From then on, there were far more mischief and pranks he had invented that were targeted at me. One time, the meddler shouted my name and asked me to look at him, of which I did. He raised up his hand to show me a few wisps of hair in his palm and announced that he had snipped some of my braided hair just for fun. I went mad at once and must have smoked like a volcano that I wanted to throw my pencil at him when he released yet another boisterous laughter that cracked through the classroom ceiling.
Despite our many warlike encounters, I did slowly discover that there was something kind in that playful disposition and a lot more difference about this guy than he had portrayed to me. The first time I noticed that was during our life skill class when we were given some carpentry works. Despite my best effort to saw the wood piece with a hand saw and going through the back and forth sawing motion, nothing cut through. As he laughed at me saying that I had only the strength of a Tofu, he swiftly moved towards my work station and effortlessly cut the wood piece into half for me. I stood there like a stone and did not know how to react to the meddler I have grown to hate over the precious few months.
God must have had a great sense of humour because I came to discover that we stayed just a few streets away from each other, which meant a trip to the local Pasar Malam created way too many chances to bump into each other. It also meant that I had to entertain his endless request to lend him my homework or sit in the same project team because we were in the same neighbourhood. Then there was the sports day or late school activities when he would offer to walk me to the public bus stop to catch the bus together as any gentleman would.
By the following year we were no longer in the same class and it was about a month after the long school holidays that I started getting frequent weekly call from him to chit-chat which I thought were intended to gather information to tackle my good friend, whom I thought he had his eyes on.
Just a few days short of Chinese New Year that year, I received his Chinese New Year greeting card which was a love pitch! Subsequently, I received a necklace and a pendant carved with his name and mine for the Valentine’s Day. I only knew then that I was his Object of Affection since two years back despite our fiery first encounter.
December 2012, Sunny.
I plonked Baby B into his car seat, got the other two happiest little people into the car, turned around and looked into the same big brown eyes and nudged Daddy Joe, “let’s head to the mall and grab some food, Hun,” to which Daddy Joe said, “Yes dear, what would you like to eat?” The kids came up with a host of suggestions, from the likes of Japanese Sushi, Pasta, Bak Kut Teh to Penang Prawn Mee and mildly protested when Daddy Joe firmly told them, “it’s not about you, kiddos, it’s about your mommy, my darling, she calls the shot, not you guys k?” I smiled warmly as we drove pass the same big old tree where Daddy Joe first set his eyes on me, grateful that I had not punch the man I was to marry when we first met in class 20 years ago.