By Durga Radhakrishnan & Manpreet Kaur
There was an enormous explosion.
It was as though a fist of white flame had decided to punch its way out of the 17th floor. Windows shattered, smoke rushed out. Thousands of pieces of glass and steel, a deadly rainfall, showered down. A huge bite had been taken out of the side and the roof of the building and the rest of the city of Kuala Lumpur was left with a smoke of white dust. It was hard to believe it had done so much damage. People lost their abilities to see colours.
Their world was nothing but shades of grey.
Tiara and Margaret looked upon their sobbing friend and drew near her.
“God, why did you do this to us?” Dianne wept in front of her Xcite Dance Studio.
“Don’t cry, dear Dianne.” Both said at one fell swoop while patting Dianne’s back, wiping her tears and holding theirs.
“We can do nothing about it.” They continued consoling her as the trio sat on the cold dusty pavements of the once acclaimed the-most-famous-building-in-the-city, The Pinnacle; where these three beauties work.
Everything was dull and grey. Nothing excited anyone in the city anymore. Despite of the tragic incident, people continued their daily routines as usual, escorted by grievance and urged by the least emergence of hope.
It was past noon. Through the window panes, Tiara stared at something white; reminded her of the unexpected incident that took place some time ago.
She could hear the aggravating cars honking on the black tar road pavements across the street which was unbearable for her to kick start the day. She turned around to feel her store.
As majestic as its name, it was once a prominent clothing store in the city. That moment, she felt nothing but despair as darkness began to rule her world. As the store’s owner, she felt utter rage and disappointment.
Colours were not her favourite anymore. She could only see shades of grey. The incident had torn even the littlest hope away from her as customers no longer visit her store to purchase myriad clothing.
“All seemed dull and grey. Nothing fascinating. Nothing!” Tiara thought to herself and irritably kicked the wooden chair ahead of her.
The store was filled with cobwebs and drenched with unpleasant odours. It seemed grimy even though the festive seasons are nearing. Tiara sulked like a miserable lady. She sat quietly on her round wooden chair across the dusty desk.
The cobwebs hung from the rafters and billowed in the breeze that stirred the dust in the store. They hung like great sheets of hair from an ancient hag, dirty looking and tangled. They were obscuring the little light that struggled through them.
It seemed like the store had turned older than her. She was in her mid-twenties.
Tiara loved to clean and keep her store orderly. After that incident, she refused to get dirt under her fingernails. It was as though she had lost her will to live.
The unavoidable pain. The new sorrow.
That day, she ran her fingers through her wardrobe and jewellery collection. The leather pelts and jackets were her favourites. For more than two hours, she felt herself wandering aimlessly in the store until she heard a doorbell. Tiara was taken aback.
“Who could that be?” She thought to herself.
She rushed to the front door to hear nothing. She was puzzled and looked out everywhere. It was pitch silence along the shop row.
“Hi! Could you help me find a nice pair of trousers and a shirt to match with? I need them for Christmas,” the little boy broke the silence.
He was surprised to see the dull and dusty store.
“This place has turned out to be somewhat old. Miss Tiara, I believe your store looks pretty dull. Don’t you want to clean it?”
Tiara was amazed with the way the little boy spoke.
“Young boy, there are no customers in here these days,” she put her head down in dismay.
Moments later, she walked up to the boys’ clothing department and took out a few bags with clothes in them. She struggled to reach the compartment but somehow managed to open it. She took out a stunning pair of hemmed trousers and a checkered shirt that were kept in a leathered Armani bag.
“Wow, I love them! How much would they cost?”
“Only 35 after the discount for the coming festive season. Do you really like it?” Tiara doubted his remark.
“Yes, Miss Tiara! I really love it! Thank you!” The little boy exclaimed in a very excited manner.
As good luck would have it, he took out some notes from his wallet and paid for the clothes he chose without a second thought. He then bid goodbye to her.
The little boy stood by the rusty wooden door, dumbfounded and unable to picture the sadness and sorrow Tiara felt. Her silence gave him an idea. While standing there, he shouted real loud at the top of his lungs, “New clothes for Christmas! Hurry!”
Tiara was utterly startled. She thanked him and invited him back to the store to favour her with some cleaning. Her sorrow was wiped out completely.
“Amethyst looks brighter and cleaner now. I’m sure you’ll have more customers in here the next time. Real soon, you will be rich!” he whispered to her left ear.
She smiled and glanced at him. She said, “You just made my day. How can I return your favour?”
“You just did. You finally had plastered a beautiful smile on your face. Nothing more I could ask for.” The little boy tied her up in a warm embrace. They shared a moment of silence.
He then pointed at the store’s door. Tiara gazed reflectively at it.
In split seconds, customers had crowded her store. Without turning back, she rushed to welcome her customers and began entertaining them as how she used to. She was so excited on her new prospering business.
Three hours later, her eyes began searching for the little boy.
“Little boy, where are you? Did anyone see him in here? Where are you, little boy? She cried out for the kind little boy but little did he respond.
The customers stared at her pretty face. Everyone was puzzled.
A young man looked at her confusingly and asked, “I was right next to the door the whole time; there was no little boy going in or out of the store for the past three hours.”
Tiara was stunned.
Sweet-smelling rain-washed darkness, freckled only by the fewest of stars.
The occasional hoot of a hidden owl was the only sound to permeate the silence until a chorus of slapping footsteps and crunching gravel echoed angrily into the emptiness of the night. As voices quickly followed, the owl omitted a screech of protest and took flight. It was a cold rainy night.
In a small studio, photo frames and glasses were decorated on the walls. Mirrors were hung side by side. It was the nicest place Dianne owned, her Xcite Dance Studio. She seemed depressed and her face lost its glow. The tears flowed unchecked down her cheeks and dripped from her chin. She was too sad to cry out or wail, she just stood there, looking at her studio, as still as a statue and lost in the torrid vortex of the moment she lost the ability to experience colours. She was forever tormented by a past that could not be undone.
Moving like a ribbon in the wind, she was timeless. Elegance at its finest and pain in its true form; she was a daughter of passion and an admirer of agony. She would float and twist weightlessly across the room, poised and balanced like she was made of silk.
That night, she lost herself.
She did not feel the urge to dance to the flow of the wonderful music she had always admired. All that she knew was she seemed hopeless as her eyes could not see the colours of the beautiful studio she had. The glittering lights were not as attractive anymore.
Out of deep frustrations and anger, she dashed out of her studio to the garden by the lake. It was pitch dark. No lights, no sounds of humans. There, she wept religiously. Her shoulders shaking with grief, tears were streaming down her already wet cheeks. Dianne’s cries were lost beneath the thunder that rolled overhead.
In the cold and dark garden, a silhouette was seen. A man with a charming smile came walking towards Dianne. He looked attractive in his somewhat black coat and pants. He glanced at her with nothing less than adoration and decided to approach her.
They gazed into each other’s eyes for a moment before he spoke.
“Hi! I’m Peter. Are you okay? You shouldn’t sit here. It’s going to rain heavily.”
Dianne presented him a fake smile and looked away.
He sat next to her on the bench. It was grassy and muddy but he loved the cold wet cement and the breezy weather accompanied by a beautiful woman by his side.
“You have not told me your name yet.” Peter started the conversation.
Dianne thought to herself, “I wonder what this man wants from me but he seems like a nice man.”
Her eyes glazed towards the grey lake instead of the man next to her.
“I’m upset. I don’t know whether I will be able to dance again. There’s no happiness in my heart anymore. Oh! My name is Dianne, I own the Xcite Dance Studio at The Pinnacle.”
Then, a moment of silence crept in.
“Why, I can help you with that.” Peter replied and knelt before her for a dance. She pushed his hands a way, indicated her decline and left Peter with uncertainty.
The darkness began to control her urge to fall in love and dance for one more time. She ran back to her studio that was just a drive away from the garden and slammed the door shut.
As she was having the time for herself, a little boy knocked on her door.
“Who’s there?” Diana called out while walking towards the door.
The little boy entered the room and found himself a seat, without saying a single word. Dianne was bewildered.
Then, he told her in the eye, “Dianne, are you going to sit here all night long just wandering your thoughts and not practice dancing? The concert at The Esplanade is next month. Will you be ready by then?”
Diana was emotionally exhausted to investigate further about the boy so she just replied, “I really am not sure. I don’t know whether … ”
“Why not?” the little boy interrupted her before she could finish her sentence, “In fact, you are an exceptional dancer, as if the grace of the angels burst into your limbs, guiding you to the unheard music.”
The little boy’s words lingered at the back of her head. She could not answer him anything as she drifted into consciousness. The world was a blur, and random images seemed to float aimlessly in the pool of her thoughts, as though they were being blown about viciously by a hurricane.
She could feel the little boy trying to look at her, staring dead in the eye, but she could not keep focus. The whole world simply felt low resolution, a bad quality movie. Confusion blossomed in her heart and she knew that sooner or later she would need to wake up. To stare reality in the face. But for that moment, she laid down her heavy head, and retreated into wallowing blackness.
The next morning, she woke up to find a dozen of roses on her bed with a letter next to it.
If you still have the slightest spark of hope in your heart to start dancing, meet me at 3 at the garden by the lake.
Without a second thought, she got up from her bed and rushed to meet him. She walked to the garden and there Peter stood near the same bench they met the night before. They talked for hours and exchanged a few glances at each other’s lives.
Dianne began to smile again.
Whenever they meet, her heart pounded in her throat, threatening to break out. His eyes wandered around, hers stayed locked on him. How many love songs had she heard that said, “He takes my breath away”? Now that line made a lot sense. They met quite often and became really close since then.
Peter decided to join her in the concert. Soon after, they went to her dance studio and decided to practice dancing. They rehearsed every day. Dianne began to love dancing again.
“The song of our love is the melody that inspires our dance.” Dianne felt uplifted with Peter’s words.
So they continued to dance and spin towards the concert. The lights were twinkling with every step as Dianne spun in delicate circles, her dark dress billowing out. She used to love things like this, the pressure of a warm hand on her back and the feeling of her small agile feet gliding along the floor. She had always felt like a small bird learning how to fly, flailing around and finally taking off with outstretched wings and wind swept feathers.
The day of the concert finally arrived.
They brought something to the surface, an emotion, a spark of hope that was seditious in those times. Without speaking a word, they conjured what the audience felt underneath, bringing a unity of mind the politicians could only dream of. In their movements were the foundations of a rebellion the state believed it had extinguished.
Dianne moved slowly through the fog like impossible silhouettes, tumbling more like a fall leave than human forms. It was ballet, but not in traditional attire; instead each body was clad only in charcoal grey. With the music they cast a sense of unease, a tension in the audience, a craving for the faster movements to come.
She paired with Peter for three songs. The audience were mesmerized and were taken aback.
“Credits goes to the mysterious little boy and to my dance partner, who is the love of my life, for showering me with abundance of love.” Dianne said in her gratitude speech when she was crowned as The Dancing Queen at the concert.
The same evening, they continued dancing at her dance studio. Music spun around them lifting away gravity. She could not count how many times she had squished his foot under her own during the rehearsals. Still, he smiled brightly as their heels clicked over the stage floor. He watched as her hair spun out and bounced more with each move and beat. This was perfect. This was dancing and art coming to life, strong pointed moves didn’t matter here.
All that mattered was the person in front of her.
The traffic was stop-start, cars were hopping down the road like hog-tied frogs toward yet another set of roadworks. The roads at the city centre remained noisy all day through.
The roads in the city were built in the days of wealth and grandeur. They were wide enough for several lanes of cars in each direction. They were flat and glossy black back then with neat lines of white and yellow like in the old movies. After the incident, they were just grey, cracked, pot-holed.
Margaret gazed across the street ahead of her in a cold morning. She worked as a teacher at Cradle to Crayon; a learning centre for the less disabled and children aged 6 to 15 years old for the past 6 years. There, she was known as the most friendliest, prettiest and punctual teacher.
That day, Margaret lost the track of time.
She silently crept into her office as she was late for work. The clock struck 1:00 p.m. She was supposed to be in an hour prior and she did not realize it. To be honest, she did not care about it anymore.
Margaret had lost her motivation to teach as she was unable to witness colours, only the shades of grey in her classroom. She was unable to connect to her students by relating their world with colours. Even her students seemed like little monsters in grey. She used to turn up to her class in beautiful dresses and miniskirts. After the incident, she only wore plain unattractive attires. Neither did she smile to anyone nor talk to any of the teachers.
Margaret was in the state of ignorance.
As soon as she walked into her classroom, looking as inspired as a used tea bag, just a few of her students sat still but did not stood up to greet her.
Silence took place for a second.
Without further ado, she spoke, “Students, take out your exercise books. Let’s discuss yesterday’s questions. Margaret did not care too look at any new students. She was merely staring at her book.
Some of her students giggled. She felt as if her heart was being stabbed with a knife. Slowly, the pain grew worse. She groaned desperately. She was on her nerves already. That very day, she raged with fire. Her eyes were swollen and looked like she was about to blew up like the volcano.
“Students!! I said, take out your notebooks and none of you replied. Is this some kind of a joke to you?” That was the first time her student witnessed the wrath of their favourite teacher.
Through the awkward moment, a little boy stood up and said, “Miss Margaret, I’ve opened my notebook and I’m waiting to tell you the answers.” He spoke for the first time in the class. He was a new student. The little boy managed to sooth Margaret at the right time before she exploded like a time bomb.
At the back of the classroom, two boys were whispering to each other and were not paying attention to her lessons. Maggie grew angrier and more upset. She immediately left the classroom and banged the door of her small office. The students were in deep shock. She sat silently on her chair and her hands trembled. She put her hands on her desk, closing her face underneath them. She was suffering from a deep wound that just grew larger with her students’ ill-behaviour.
The little boy was dumbfounded by Margaret’s unexpected reaction. She was angry and dissatisfied but no remorse towards her students. He walked out of the classroom and went to her office. The classroom was in silent mode, no movements. All students sat still. The little boy entered her office to console her. He never thought that she would be hurt by those young souls.
“Miss Margaret, you can’t be sad for other students’ faults. You can guide them to be better just like how you used to. I’m very keen in your way of teaching. You’re simply inspiring. Please don’t cry,” the young but matured little boy spoke with such wisdom and so much of love for his teacher.
Margaret wept and hugged the little boy that she had only seen for the first time. She then went to the washroom to wash her sad face away. Out of the blue, she returned to the classroom feeling enlightened to teach the students how to solve the problems. The day seemed to be more promising for the pretty Margaret.
The next few days of her life seemed better too. She regained her confidence and passion to teach her students. A week later, she stepped into the classroom with a bright floral dress. She looked stunning and the students were more eager to learn from her.
Earlier that morning, Margaret bought a bouquet of red orchids for her late mother who passed away due to an unexpected horrific incident 7 years ago.
Margaret murmured to herself, “I really miss you, mummy. I wish we could still and share heaps of belly laughs again in the evenings while sipping cups of hot chocolate. But God loves you more. Life has been a real teaching for me. I’m learning to be wiser and independent without you by my side. Nothing stops me from moving on for you are always with me. Your smile is my guidance and your happiness is my strength. I love you, mummy. I miss you dearly.”
Margaret sat on her rocking chair in the last room of her learning centre. “Click clack, click clack” She heard footsteps approaching her.
There stood Tiara and Dianne, her best friends. They hugged each other. They brought Margaret out to have some tea in the bakery shop near her house. They admired the aromatic smell of the herbal earl tea.
They have always enjoyed time together. The loud sounds of footsteps on the pavements could not beat the chattering of the 3 best friends. Sounds of birds chirping on the branches were such a melody to their ears. The ticking sounds right above their heads and their laughter were the loudest of all that afternoon.
They could connect with a new perspective of life, despite the work struggle. Hope still lit brightly in their eyes even though they were blind to colours their surroundings and all seemed grey to them. They were not blind to the true colours in their hearts. As pure as white and as good as money. Pure and happy. The city could not change the colours of their lives. It always seemed that they were the happiest.
The trio was talking about the little boy that had changed their lives for the better. They wonder if he would be the same person as he seemed to be the only normal one. By that they meant with colours. He seemed to be in full-form coloured before their eyes.
Unknowingly, the little boy stepped into the bakery.
Before they could greet him, there was a sudden blackout at the bakery. Everything turned pitch black. People began panicking and they rushed out of the place. They were terrified as they feared something worse than before would take place.
Amidst the darkness, a bright white light shone before their eyes and the little boy walked out of the light and approached the three puzzled friends. From afar, he looked like an angel sent from heaven. Tiara, Dianne and Margaret were speechless. Their jaws opened wide with utter shock. Surprisingly, no one was left in the bakery except the four of them. The little boy smiled at them and tiptoed on the mezzanine floor. Not looking back, he stood a few inches from them and snapped his finger.
Everything was completely dark again. The three women felt as though they were hypnotized to sleep. They passed out on the floor. When they opened their eyes, the little boy had already vanished from the bakery. The bakery was alive with lights again. Everything went back to normal as though nothing happened. But these three women felt a bit different.
The cups were bright colours again. The light were too bright for their eyes. The whole atmosphere turned brighter and vibrant for them. They rubbed their eyes numerous times with utter surprise. They could not believe their eyes. Were they really seeing their world in colours again?
“I can see everything in colours. What about you two?” Tiara asked her two friends.
Dianne and Margaret nodded with huge grins in reply.
They immediately left the bakery to experience the everything in shades that they have longed to see. Margaret was smiling widely while looking at the vibrant hues of the rainbow above her head. The other two joined in her happiness. They were delighted and dumbfounded at the same time.
Butterflies with striking colours flew around them and the people were wearing all sorts of colourful attires. The muddy road seemed brownish and the black tar road was clear to them. Colours finally rang the bells in their eyes instead of their dreams. Nothing could be better than this. The three of them giggled and walked back to The Pinnacle in tears of joy and headed to Dianne’s dance studio to dance their hearts out.
They were indeed the happiest of all.