“I was actually clenching my fists as I walked away. I was trying to keep myself from trembling too obviously.”
They share a laugh while picturing that scene in their mind.
“You were very brave.”
“You know this is the first time I realized that there are so many magpies in Kuching.”
She looks at the direction his finger is pointing . True enough, nearly a dozen of them are lining up on the tree branch above them.
“Since the tutoring incident was staged, were you really bad at studies?”
He had been pacing nervously in circles around the front door of the library for a good five minutes when he saw her head peeking out from inside the library door.
“I’m already here,” she said.
He was taken aback. He expected her to be late, so accustomed he was to the unwritten Malaysian law that the actual time of meeting is always half an hour later than the time agreed. He followed her to a white square table at the very end of the library, where she pulled a chair for him and invited him to sit.
“Thank you again for agreeing to teach me. Gamsa-hanmida.”
She remained quiet, which just a hint of a faint smile on her lips. She was waiting for him to make the next move. He squirmed in his seat.
“What’s your results like?” he blurted, trying to break the uncomfortable silence.
“Here, I had prepared it for you,” she said, opening her pink file and handing a sheet of paper to him with both hands.
He read the paper. Her results were a mixture of Cs and Ds and Es, which with a little stretch of imagination, can be the C major piano score for the song “Mary have a little lamb”. His did a quick mental graph of her exams marks; it looked like a descending slope of Mount Kinabalu. This is going to be hard work, he realized. What’s more, it can adversely affect his own results if he didn’t juggle his time properly.
“I tried my best, but the exams got harder and harder,” she said matter-of-factly, looking at him with the almond shaped hopeful eyes of hers. He noticed that she only had single eyelids, and pimples dotted the edges of her forehead. She was not perfect, but yet, there was this indescribable allure emanating from her. He got a sudden impulse to hug her and assure her everything is not her fault. Not a single iota of it.
“What score did you expect to get for Chemistry this semester?”
“I just want to pass!”
He wondered what would happen to him if he said that to his mum. Even though she never voiced it, it was expected for every one of her child to get at least half a dozen As in the exams every semester. A picture of his mum, rotan in one hand and the offending test paper in the other, chasing him round and round around the circular kitchen table immediately sprang to his mind. He tried to stifle a smile.
“I will make sure you get a B, or you have no need to pay me,” he regretted the very moment the words leaped out from his mouth. He blamed it on her magic.
But the resulting radiant smile on her lips more than compensate for it.