Updated: Nov 16, 2019
By Jayna Wu - Secondary 1 (2016) Methodist Girls School
This article was published in iTHINK magazine Issue 20-21
Nabila sat on the plush leather seats of the sleek silver automobile as it cruised down the highway. This luxury was not something she had in Indonesia. She clutched tightly onto Didi’s bag full of diapers and milk powder. The speed of the vehicle was in stark contrast to the slow-moving pace of the Angkutan Kotas (mini buses) in Sumatra, she thought to herself.
Ma’am was sitting in the front seat, one hand on the steering wheel and the other pressing her brand new smartphone onto her ear. “This. Is. Ridiculous.” Ma’am’s sudden outburst cut through the air like a knife. With every word she emphasised, her stilettos jammed on the acceleration pedal with increasing force. Nabila instinctively gripped the bag with one hand, and placed her other arm across Didi’s car seat, acting as a secondary seat belt as the car jerked forward. “This investment is crucial. Didn’t we discuss this during the meeting on Friday?” Her tone was icy and dripping with annoyance. Her perfectly manicured fingernails tapped on the steering wheel in irritation. What her colleague tried to say to plead her case obviously did not convince Ma’am because after less than a minute, Ma’am told her firmly to fix the problem and threw her phone into her handbag, ending the call.
The atmosphere turned stale and uncomfortable as the silence settled in the car. As Ma’am turned into the driveway, her flawlessly-glossed red lips curved into a fake smile as she explained, “Having problems with a big client.” Nabila nodded and tried to force a look of understanding. Didi just looked at her in confusion, his big brown eyes filled with curiosity.
She stepped out of the car, and slinging the bag over her shoulder, walked over to the opposite side and unbuckled Didi’s seatbelt. He jumped out of the car and tottered precariously into the bungalow.
“Bath time!” Didi’s voice rang with excitement.
Nabila put down the diaper-filled bag and prepared Didi’s change of clothes and his towel. Nabila smiled to herself as she began to fill the bathtub with water, gradually adding soap that foamed at the surface of the water. She chose a few of Didi’s favourite toys and placed them in the bath. As she turned around, she was shocked to see a 36-year-old standing at the door frame rather than an enthusiastic three-year old.“I would like to bathe him today.” Nabila’s eyes widened slightly but she stepped aside to make way for the poshly-dressed woman to enter the child’s bathroom. Ma’am had never wanted to bathe Didi, Nabila thought, she never had the time.
She watched as Ma’am struggled to pick the toys from the foaming mess without ruining her manicure. Didi’s laughter echoed as he ran up the stairs and straight to the bathroom. He wrapped his arms around Nabila’s right leg.
Terrified, the twinkle in his eyes was immediately extinguished, replaced with confusion, “But I want Aunty Ila to be with me!” Didi whined, now tugging at Nabila’s old faded T-shirt. Ma’am’s eyes darkened.
“No, Mummy’s bathing you today. Aunty Nabila has work to do.” “But I want Aunty Ila to be with me! She’s always with me!” Didi was persistent, stamping his feet, his face scrunching up.
Ma’am turned to face Nabila, anger and disgust written on her face. Her lips were pursed into a thin line, so thin that the red lipstick could hardly be seen. Nabila knew that a line had been crossed - one which her friends had warned her about. Her narrowed eyes bore into Nabila.
“You. I pay money for you to take care of my child, and you poison him and turn him against me.” Ma’am’s eyes gave Nabila a once over, mouth curving into a smirk as her eyes fell onto the maid’s hastily-tied hair and her old shirt. “Get out, go cook dinner!”
In the fluorescent bathroom lights, Nabila could feel the scarlet shame coursing through her body. Lowering her head, she made sure that the sound of her footsteps did not echo through the corridor as she scuttled away. The halls resounded with the firm voice of Ma’am and desperate cries and pleas from Didi, but she set her eyes on the kitchen and fought the urge to turn back. She was powerless to do anything to help the child.
As she waited for the pan to heat up, Nabila reached into the empty pockets of her trousers and grasped for the precious item. She pulled out an A6 picture of her children. She held the laminated picture between her forefinger and her thumb, gently, careful not to bend it. She placed it close to her beating heart. Nabila reluctantly replaced the picture in her pocket and forced herself back to reality. Things are so different in this big city. #AWS #iTHINK #theacademicworkshop #ilovereading