Just The Everyday Stuff

KC Chan Wing Haw

© Copyright 2020 by KC Chan Wing Haw

Photo of Wilber and Charlotte from movie.

Sitting on a round Chinese stool in the garden, Alice Cheng meditated upon the manners of some unobtrusive tree barks, along with other parts of the tree, staring right into some mixture of coral flowers, phlox, stalking ivy and privet, some threads of conversation arose. Yesterday afternoon, her auntie Madam Kursk came over and had some coffee in similar spot with her, claimed they would be missing out a yearly event. Close to the end of their talk, early dusk made a friendly gesture to the healthy ambience before dinner, she recalled her words before she retreated into kitchen - ‘remember Justin will return’.

Justin Cheng, her elder brother, never returned home since the last tiff he had with mom. His name still resonating in their household for his immaturity perhaps. It was merely about a marriage her mother had disagreed upon - an inter-racial one. “How could you be marrying a White lady? Where is your Chinese dignity? What language am I going to speak? English? No way and I will never agree to that!” Seven years passed by only one wedding congratulation letter saw its way through into her diary.

Sometimes, older generation in this region, or even the younger ones, everything not parallel for whatever reasons, let it roam. The young and old had been confused. What was the idea of argument, thought Alice. Though Alice had not been on either fence earlier, she felt she lean closer to Justin now. For most time, she remembered his jokes in the house, sometimes, crossing over to the garden she used to play duck and drakes by the river nearby, there he joked about Alice marrying to a soldier. It could come true. That one day, it really did. Alice did want to marry to a solider after reading War And Peace.

What have gotten into you lately, Justin?”

Me, nothing so far. Nothing to worry about. But it is going to college the right time I might be struggling a little.”

You’ve got that planned out, didn’t you?”

It ….. it is …..about Angeline I am worrying about.”

The side of privet well trimmed and green lush leaves put almost every sight the way most gardeners wanted to see. Dun the cut branches and the mess spread around quite like a childhood play area. Alice removed herself from the chair, time had flown just as wind had done upon her dry skin, stood wondering what needed to be done. Near the willow tree, a pair of broom and pan caught her attention. This was her part as a faithful and loyal gardener to her household duty.

Under the cascade of umbrella silhouette of the willow tree, Alice swept the ground and removed its remains. Sometimes it was not the disorganization, however, what remained wasn’t a chore she was required to do. Like a punishment she ought to bear for the rest of her life.

Well, she is just another friend, isn’t she?”

The leaves and dun went into the right places, and that was when she realized tomorrow her brother’s birthday hit thirty years of age. Time had brought some of these together at least. Perhaps they should remain in the huts of old town, so she wouldn’t have to remember this particular event. Or else, even sweeping with such slow motion had been awfully rummaging her emotions so distance she had thought the game played by the river bank was merely an afternoon memory.

She will soon return back to her homeland Poland and never come back and that’s the worrying part.”

Left alone under the sacrosanct silhouette, she had wondered if Madam Kursk’s remark yesterday was indeed true. She didn’t hope it was true. Far across and amid the mess on this very land, she knew something for sure. Checking on every raw branch on top and side of the earth, images around her husband Daniel made her squirm somehow, she thought the ghost of Justin was about to return. Did Daniel not make a good husband these days since after War and Peace?

Oh come on, are you telling me you’re falling in love with her?”

Alice walked down with the broom and pan, moving swiftly, shying her light tone skin away from the sun, her naked feet stepped onto the moist green lawn occasionally on broken brown sticks fallen from above. It must be coincidence otherwise it had to be Justin’s prophecy on what mattered most in life assimilated into this land or a punishment he had cursed the garden. Love he had mistaken for academics over forlorn relationship he used to bond at home, now it existed somewhere else.

Don’t make me laugh Alice, how could that be? Do you think I’m not hopeful?”

Giggling away under her soft mood integrating into history and present, on one hand, thinking that Daniel would also be returning this Summer. Would brother be home too? Could Madam Kursk have been meeting him in her dreams? Her auntie and father’s brother a marriage so contemporary to inter-racial marriage, another classic example, forbidden on this land. She wondered away alone indelible to the mystery left behind once Justin told her - be hopeful, someday your shoes once loose and lace-less would find its way to mend a better pair.

Now what do you mean by that?”

Pain could be something else now, she thought, slow her movement, the trimmed pollarded branches, fallen yellow leaves and loosen earth gently emigrated from ground to pan. It was hope Justin had on for a time unexplained: a white girl, an abroad study and his disagreed marriage plan. Years passed by so quickly, she had not forgotten how far Justin had planned out his life, now disappeared under the earth of this landscape.

Maybe on the other side of his world, he had conquered his life and moved into something bigger than she had believed. At the time when she was getting married to Daniel after his departure of two years, she received a letter from him. That was the first and last she ever got this far. It was a simple letter, still remained with her in between her diary, it wrote:

Dear beloved sister Alice Cheng,

How have you been? Life must be treating you good these days. I am happy that you have made progress and meet someone in your life. Whoever he is, he is a lucky man. You must have believed in your faith and shortcoming. Is your wedding in the Chinese or English tradition? I hope anything will work out just fine for you. I am abroad doing my studies in Archeology. Let’s just say I have got all planned out for my life. This may be short but my brotherly care and concern remains with you just as how you have taken good care of the garden.

I wish you a happy wedding and may you and your future blessed in whatever your new family hopes to attain.

Best wishes and love,

Justin Cheng


The broom fell off from her hand, she turned around, her eyes met a matured chap looking taller, more masculine and a fuller chest. Down her throat earlier she thought it was the wind and sun, his voice sounded so clear like those in the letter and by the river bank, tears submerged and fell so naturally, like the ones on her wedding day.

Justin? You’re back?”

His smile, first tear dropped like winter snow flakes hinting the next episode, nodding towards her direction. Bags settled by his sides and stood so stolidly, holding out his arms to embrace a long lost bond.

Happy Birthday Justin!”

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