He had it all. Big dinners and frequent travels around the globe. His home was the envy of many, particularly his kitchen. In there many good memories were made. His obliging wife worked tirelessly to please every weary traveller that paid him a visit. He would entertain these guests with his huge selection of wines and liquors. He was no wine connoisseur but he took great pride in the knowledge he knew about the finer things in life. Mind you, he couldn’t afford the more extravagant aspects of this glamorous and luxurious life but he knew about it. Simply because from a young age he was a ferocious reader. Reading was always an escape while struggling in poverty. You see he worked hard to escape the life of a labourer of which his father was. He sloughed and he excelled in school to forge a nice providing job in the government. Like all governments, their servants make up the majority of the middle class and he was contended with his life in this class.

The partnership between him and his wife was instantaneous from the beginning itself when he courted her as a very young dashing officer and she a young naive nurse. How they met would be for another time. The age was for the romantic and at that time feminism had just sprouted from its very little seed decades back. So it wasn’t atypical for the partner of a fairer sex to be the one that was more obliging. She had fierceness in her and many called her cili padi but this all wilted away as they slowly fell for one another. Her mother had always chastised her for not learning the skills required to be an obedient housewife because it was expected of her and her culture but when he proposed for her hand in marriage, she slipped into the role of an obedient housewife as easily as a silk glove into the hand of a virgin damsel. The reason for her fierceness and penchant to not turn out like her mother, who was the ever sacrificing wife and doting mother, was because her father was a chronic gambler and alcoholic. He would waste away his weekly earnings on a game of mahjong and return home only to take away all her mother’s earnings too. Leaving them hungry for days and only white rice as their supper.

And so the dashing officer and his loving housewife built a warm cozy nest in a small town not to distanced away from their families. This wasn’t hard because they both came from big families each with siblings as many as the fingers on your left hand. They rejoiced at the opportunity to start off a life borne from their imagination and his reading to live the life of a chic modern more western family. They pictured white picket fence, classical music in the background, the cling and clang of silverware and the taste of red wine at the dining table instead of the chatter of chopsticks.

They began, like every other young newly married couple, in the most frugal of manners. Life was good but they were not released off the burden of their families. The shackles of poverty were not removed entirely just yet. The western lifestyle that they had envisioned took a while to materialise but they assured themselves that they would always get a taste of it. His stature grew as the officer in the small town and his circles in society grew as well. Quite a few from these circles shared the dream, laughed at the same jokes and cried at the same misfortune of another. These, surely enough, became the clique that the officer and his housewife soon began to play host in their new warm nest. This was the lifestyle that he and his housewife forged in their partnership. The friends came and went but they played host no matter over the next four decades.

Both of their siblings soon led their own lives and charted their own futures as they matured. This certainly helped with the couple and their dream for this picket fence home. One of her sisters though, struggled to find a footing. This sister of hers didn’t have big dreams nor desires. She was not entirely distraught with the taught that her life wouldn’t amount to anything, moving slowly in life like a light pebble in a stream. May visited the white picket fence home often and always admired her sister and the life she lead. May’s admiration was entirely sincere, even ecstatic at times because she could be part of it during her visits. But over time, a longing gave rise to a pang of jealousy.

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