“Family” is one of the outstanding stories of the first biannual Short Story Contest 2016 written by Aiman Dania binti Haji Johari from Brunei Darussalam.
The cold wind blew through his hair, sending the black strands into a tumble of mess. The wind sent a cold spine-chilling feeling down his spine as her he stared into the water of the river. Bobby stood on a dainty yet sturdy wooden bridge with a thick coat put on and a woolly scarf wrapped around his neck. The water below was partially frozen, half in its liquid and the other in the solid state. The top part had frozen into a thin sheet of ice but the water below was visibly liquid. He saw a school of fish swim by, all of them sticking together; like family.
Bobby puffed out a breath he didn’t realise he was holding, his cheeks rosy because of the pressure, and the cold. The air he exhaled warped into a cloud of vapour before his very eyes. He thought about how something can change its state in a fraction of a secondin the fraction of a second in a blink of an eye. Before he realised it, a tear rolled down his cheek. He quickly wiped it away before beginning to walk. He closed his eyes as his feet navigated the way blindly, him being a phlegmatic mess. The cold winter weather reminded him of that one night with his grandmother. He tightened the scarf around his neck.
“Grandmother,” his wide eyes opened upgazed at the older lady who gazed down at her grandson lovingly. “What are you knitting?”
“It’s a scarf, one for you, one for me, and one for Shinsa,” the older woman answered before handing the ten year old Bobby a woolly mint green scarf that the young boy immediately wrapped around his neck. She wrapped another identical one around herself before smiling.
“Thanks,” Bobby said. “One for Shinsa the cat as well?” he questioned. “Why?”
“Bobby,” his grandmother began. “It’s because Shinsa is family.”
“But Shinsa doesn’t look like us,” Bobby said, voice laced with naivety.naively.
His grandmother chuckled. “Bobby, for us to be family, it need not mean that we must look the same. It doesn’t matter what the other looks like, we are still family. As long as we have a strong bond of trust and affection in between us, we are family. Colour, race, religion, does not matter. As long as we are always there for each other, we are family.
Speaking about this, Shinsa has been my pet for a decade now, that’s ten years Bobby...Shinsa’s one of the most loyal men in my life,” she laughed.
“Mmm-hmm,” the young boy nodded. He then beckoned to Shinsa, the ginger tabby, to come over and before sitting on his lapand sit on his lap. Bobby removed his scarf from his neck and placed half of it on top of Shinsa’s furry body, and the other half laying on his thigh. “So Shinsa won’t feel cold.”
The older woman smiled before rubbing Bobby’s shoulder lovingly. “I love you Bobby.”
“What about Shinsa?”
“Yes, Bobby and Shinsa,” she said before stroking Shinsa behind his ears.
“Love you grandmother,” Bobby replied. “Love you Shinsa,” right on cue, the tabby purred, as if to say he loved them too. it seemed as if that Shinsa too, wanted to say he loved them.
A sudden collision shook Bobby back to reality as his eyes shot wide open and his body jolted. He had hit a tree face forward. Immediately, his hands flew up to his forehead and he began to rub the sore spot, twisting around to make sure no one had witnessed the embarrassing scenario.
Then, he began to sink back into reality and his facial expression visibly drooped as his head hung low. He had run away from his house the moment he heard that his grandmother had been hospitalised due to a sudden health paroxysm. To be honest, Bobby didn’t know why he had run away instead of visiting her at the local hospital. Is it because he was afraid of needles? No, he got over that fear when he was twelve. He was just running, trying to avoid reality and pretend pretending like everything was normal when it was not. He was afraid to come face to face with the truth. He was afraid. Afraid to lose the only parental figure he hads in his life.
Involuntarily, Bobby broke down into tears as his thoughts ran a thousand kilometres per hour at great speed, unable to excogitate the situation. His mind was overpopulated with different feelings like fear and anger. His head throbbed as his mouth dried. He hads to go. Bobby whipped around, now able to focus and think rationally as he ran and ran for the hospital, never looking back. He knew now what to do. The truth, was, he always did.
He entered the white building, the smell of disinfectant stinging his nose immediately. “Kim Han Byul?” He asked the receptionist. After finding out the t. After informed which room she was in, Bobby rushed frantically as he navigated through the white corridors. He finally found room 86. He regained some composure and opened the door, revealing the womanto find a woman, as pallor asas pallid as a ghost, lips dry and hair a ghostly yet serene white. His lips trembled as he sat on the stool beside the bed.
“Grandmother, I haven’t been the best grandson lately but I want you to know that I am sorry and I was just afraid, I was afraid of loosing youlosing you and I just didn’t know what I’d do if I ever loste you. But I’m here now,” he took off his scarf and wrapped it around his grandmother’s hand. “Remember the day you gave me this scarf and you told me what it’s like to be a family?” Bobby smiled softly, a tear rolled down. He waited for a reply that never seemed to come as he blankly stared at her face.
“Of course I do,” his grandmother said, her lips twitching into a smile. and Bobby cried tears of joy.