What does it feel like to be a woman in Malaysia? Aiming to raise the voices of youth regarding experience of malaysian women amidst the country's patriarchal culture, Sisters in Islam, in partnership with FNF Malaysia, held a story writing competition to promote women's empowerment. From the competition, two short stories have made it as winners with a study trip to George Town Festival as the prize. This second winning short story entitled "Rain" by Sharifah Alia Syed Aliasar highlights the life of Nadia, an orphan and a rape survivor and her struggle to regain her power as a woman.
It was a busy Friday evening. There was barely any space but I managed to squeeze in the coach full of passengers. I could not even move as I stood by the automatic doors of the train. Outside, the drizzle was slowly turning into a full-fledged storm. I watched clouds move across the sky, pouring fat drops of water on the streets below. The traffic was bad. Cars lined up, moving bit by bit while the water rose on the road. The train came to a halt at Kajang, quickly passengers rushed out to the platform leaving the coach half empty. Feeling relieved, I settled in a vacant seat. Two more stations to go. I honestly wished the train would break down or something. I have been avoiding to see him. In fact, it had been almost a year since I last saw him.
"Excuse me miss, are you okay? You dropped this", said a teenage boy while he handed me my hard shell spectacles case. "Oh yes, sorry. And thank you." I replied, embarrassed by my own carelessness.
And I was genuinely thankful, the hand-made spectacles case was a gift from my late mom and dad. I kept it safely in my handbag as the train arrived at my destination. Dusk was approaching but I took my time walking down the platform. I was hoping that he would not be waiting at the station. I guess lady luck was not on my side. Standing on the pavement, I immediately saw his car parked across the wet road. I hate this already.
The rain had subside in Bangi. I crossed the street and entered the 2008 Honda Accord with my hair and clothes slightly damp. I took off my spectacles and wiped them dry. The car started moving.
"So how have you been Nadia? Now that you're all grown up you don't even visit your only uncle, huh?" Pak Long said while driving. I have never loathed anyone as much.
"I've been busy. Isn't the money I send to you monthly enough? There's no need for me to be around", I replied coldly.
"Well, it’s more than enough darling. But now that your Mak Long is gone, why don't you visit me more often?" he smirked.
"Why would I?” I asked. “Listen, I only agreed to see you because of Naqib. I hope you didn't use up all the money I've been giving on prostitutes and gambling. He better be in good shape." I was so angry, my voice cracked.
"Haha, you're still as feisty as ever. Your crippled brother is in good hands. He is a good boy, intelligent and pure nothing like his slutty sister", Pak Long said putting a hand on my thigh.
"Back off!" I shouted, swatting his hand away.
Without a care, he parked the car on the porch of his double storey terrace. He did not even flinch. I brushed him off and got out of the car as soon as I could. Unbothered, Pak Long unlocked the front door. “Assalammualaikum!” I entered the house right after him.
"Wa’alaikummusalam. Kakak! I haven't seen you in ages. Where have you been?" Naqib said with a wide grin on his face.
"Sorry sayang, I have been busy working. How's school?" I made my way to the sofa next to his wheelchair.
"Great, great. I got straight A's for my UPSR trial. Pak Long brought me to celebrate at my favourite steakhouse. He said it was your treat as always. Thank you kakak. I really missed you", Naqib said as he hugged me. Naqib has always been a happy boy, he did not change at all even after the accident that left him amputated.
"Really? Congrats kiddo. I'm so proud of you! Well, there's not much I could give. Hope you enjoyed the steak!" I replied with a smile. Naqib looked up in excitement, "Of course I did!" I spent some time talking to Naqib and catching up then went straight to the kitchen to cook a simple dinner.
By the time I finished cooking it was already nine. I served the dishes and ate quietly as Naqib and Pak Long chattered with one another. I stole nervous glimpses at my watch. Once we were done, I rushed to clean the dining table and kitchen. It was getting late, almost eleven and Naqib had gone to bed. Feeling anxious I got ready to leave. I was about to take my bag on the sofa when Pak Long's voice startled me.
"What are you doing? Stay for the night, Nadia. Tomorrow's Saturday." Even hearing his voice from far gave me goose bumps. I quickly reached for the door. "What's the rush dear?" his voice echoed from upstairs. I turned the knob but it would not budge. Frantically, I searched for the keys in the living room.
"Looking for these?" Pak Long stood at the foot of the staircase and held the bundle of keys in between his stubby fingers. "Do you think I'm that stupid?" he raised his voice as he threw the keys onto the kitchen floor. My heart pounded so loud, I could barely breathe.
"What a way to thank your uncle, who has spent the last 5 years giving you food and shelter. Is this how you repay me? You ungrateful bitch." Pak Long said with no mercy in his voice. "I shouldn’t have took in you filthy orphans after the accident. But my my, what a beautiful girl you were. I couldn't take my eyes of you." He slowly walked towards me and stopped, his face an inch away from mine. "You're still just as beautiful now. Has anybody else been sleeping with my beautiful Nadia?" he whispered in my ear.
His big clumsy hands were on my chest. Cold sweat ran down my temples. In panic, everything came back to me. After the car crash that took our parents' lives, Naqib and I lived here in this house with Mak long and Pak Long. Soon after, I started attending college and only came back during breaks. That's when Pak Long first laid his hands on me until I left the house nearly a year ago. Following Mak Long’s passing, I decided to leave for good and work in Kuala Lumpur. Even then, he kept threatening me if I ever told another soul he would hurt my one and only brother. A surge of anger and sudden courage took over me.
"Get your dirty hands off me, you piece of shit!" I pushed him with all my might and ran into the kitchen. I spotted the keys but I had a better idea. I heard Pak Long swearing, noisily making his way to me.
Entering the kitchen, he bent to pick-up the keys off the tiles saying, "You stupid girl! You can't even grab the bloody k-". I stabbed him in the shoulder just as he stood up, thick red blood gushed out and stained his shirt. "You dumb fuck!" he tried to grab the knife away but managed to avoid and stabbed him, again and again until he collapsed. He cried in pain cursing me while I stood there trembling, overwhelmed by the sight of blood everywhere.
"Pak Long? Is everything alright?" Naqib yelled from his room. Pak Long's grunts slowly fades, everything was abruptly still.
I gathered myself and replied, "Yes sweetie, stay in your room." "Kakak? You're still here?" he questioned. "Close the door!" I yelled impatiently.
I could not let him see all this mess, to me Pak Long was nothing more than an opportunist with ill intentions but to him, he is a hero. With all the strength I have left, I scrambled to the living room and snatched my handbag. Quickly I emptied the bag, all its content swiftly tumbled down. I found my smartphone in the pile of things and dialled 999 in a hurry. My bloody, sweaty hands left red prints all over the screen. Once the line was connected, I barely managed to blurt whatever comes to mind.
"We'll send help immediately, please calm down miss", the operator told me. I sat by the window as my body shook uncontrollably. Stray strands of matted hair stuck to my spectacles. I took them off, sobbed and sobbed until the sound of sirens broke the unbearable silence.
When they took me and Naqib out of the house it was still raining. Since the accident 5 years ago, I have always dreaded this kind of weather. It reminds me of the night God took our parents away. To me rain means sadness and pain but not tonight, this rainy night marks glory.