Stories That Breathe

The Perfect Story

Chapter 1

As I turned my head to check out the area, I realized there was still one red notebook left in the passenger seat. I grabbed it, reversed the car towards the rubbish chute and tossed the notebook in. Then I drove towards her house.

When I stopped near the gates of her house, I had just finished a cigarette. I flicked the cigarette butt out the window and pressed the horn.

Thank God it was still working.

My car, a Honda Civic ESI, was making weird noises throughout the whole drive. Whenever I changed gear, I made a silent prayer, hoping that the gears or any other parts of the car would not cease function. Ever since I got the car two years ago, I had gone to the workshop at least ten times to change different worn-out parts.

I smiled as I engaged the gear to neutral and pulled up the handbrake. I knew she was already awake. She always woke up at five in the morning on Wednesdays. After exactly sixty seconds, Linda, their maid, emerged from the door. She took careful steps towards me.

“Who’s that?” Linda cried out.

I poked my head out of the window. “Tell Steph it’s Furor.”

“Furor?”

“Just tell her that.” I leaned back into my seat and stared as Linda went back into the house. I imagined Linda opening the door of Stephanie’s room, telling her a name that would jolt tons of memories in her.

Stephanie looked lovely even in an oversized T-shirt and running shorts. She had a pair of glasses resting on her nose with her hair tied up like a schoolgirl. I was trying to take a closer look at her when the gates suddenly swung. I stepped on the clutch, shifted to the first gear and moved the car forward.

The car porch had three parking lots with two already taken. One was a white BMW, and the other—Stephanie’s—was a pink Nissan March. The March looked like a car from a children’s game: The fuel tank cap had a Hello Kitty face and a big Doraemon sticker was pasted on the back of the car. I drove into the remaining lot, turned off my engine and took a deep breath before opening the door.

The moment I stepped out of the car, Stephanie grinned. It gave her tired face a breath of life. Her smile could always melt the hearts of guys. If an old classmate was asked what he remembers of Stephanie, it would be her smile.

“Well, well, well.” Stephanie stepped forward. She was half-examining my car and half-examining me. “Isn’t that Furor. And a car that has been in a race. A failed one, in fact. What happened? Have you reported to Idac?”

I followed her gaze and studied the damage on my car. The front of the car had an obvious scar of an accident: The dent was the size of a large television. The windscreen had two web-shaped smashes. The bonnet folded up like a piece of paper and the Honda logo seemed to have turned into a Hyundai logo: from a straight H to an italic H.

“It won’t explode, not like in the movies,” I said. My voice was calm and flirtatious. Was she looking for a hug when she opened her arms? “And the best part? With the BMW and your cute March, no one will take a second glance at my car.”

“Yeah, right. Okay, now it’s six in the morning.” Stephanie stared into my eyes. “This is a house. Not a workshop. Is this a detour for coffee before heading to the workshop that opens at nine? You know you need to report within twenty-four hours, right? Or you’re not claiming?”

“Well.” I squeezed the car key and moved closer to Stephanie. “I hope it’s just that simple.”

* * *

Stephanie’s house looked like it could accommodate at least thirty people. The moment I stepped through the door, Linda greeted me with an awkward smile before disappearing into the kitchen. The hall was split in two: the bigger one with a large sofa and 40-inch television and the smaller one with a mini-bar stocked with bottles of alcoholic drinks. I was led to the smaller living room that I would later know as the chill-out area.

The television in the larger hall was airing Entertainment Tonight. Stephanie asked what I would like to drink. “Coffee will do,” I said as I squeezed the car key into the slit between the sofa seats. This sofa alone could cost more than all the furniture in a typical HDB living room.

“So,” Stephanie started as she sipped the tea that had already been on the table before we came in, “what brings you here?”

I glanced from the television to Stephanie. “I just did something and I need to go into hiding.”

“Yeah? And it has something to do with Frank or me?”

“Not exactly. How are you and Frank?”

“He’s on an overseas business trip. A long one; coming back next month.”

“Ah.” I kept my eyes on the table. “It must be lonely then.”

Stephanie just smiled and looked away. She was shifting uneasily. “Used to it. A man has got to do what a man has got to do, eh?”

“Well, my job doesn’t require me to go overseas every month.” As I spoke, I was examining the entire living room. Linda had a strange walking pattern: She tended to walk near the wall or furniture.

I had just found her weak point.

“What are you working as now?”

“Make a guess.” I took my Waterman pen out from my pocket and placed it on the coffee table. It was engraved with my initials: K.H. Lee. “I’ll allow you three guesses.”

“Same old Furor.” Stephanie smirked. “There’re like millions of jobs out there!”

I grabbed the newspaper on the table and scribbled the sentence, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”

“I can write this sentence in less than ten seconds. My occupation is related to words. If you can do it in less than ten seconds as well, I’ll tell you.”

“Ha.” Stephanie grabbed my pen and wrote the sentence. I timed her with my watch; she spent fourteen seconds. I stared hard at the sentence.

Old habits die hard.

“Okay, I’ll stop fooling around. I’m a freelance writer. I—” The clock was ticking six-thirty. Entertainment Tonight had just ended and next up was Prime Time Morning. “Do you know why I’m here?”

“Because the workshop is only open at nine? And you’re not going to not claim?” Stephanie laughed at her own joke.

“Because of that.” I pointed at the television. Perfect timing.

Prime Time Morning was summarizing the news for the day. “A hit-and-run accident occurred last night at Bukit Batok Crescent. The victim, a forty-seven-year-old project manager, and his wife died on the spot.”

Stephanie was staring at me from the sides of her eyes.

“I was the one who killed the couple.”

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