Thank you Vearynope!
Clutching her bag containing her dress and heels, Stephanie walked as fast as she could from the metro station to her flat. She had hung out with her friends at the Vivocity arcade without keeping track of the time, and it was past ten already. Why didn’t I set a reminder alarm? She scurried into the lift and jabbed the button, waiting anxiously for the lift to reach her floor.
The living room lights were on. Papa must have been waiting for her. Butterflies populating her stomach in earnest, she slowly entered her house.
The sound of their evening constitutional news bulletin was blaring a little softer than usual, Stephanie thought to herself. She kept her heels, took a deep breath, and entered the living room.
“Stop there young lady.”
Stephanie stopped in her tracks, tightly gripping her schoolbag.
“You promised me you will be back at ten. What time is it?”, Mr Choy asked softly.
“WHY SO LATE?”, he roared with fury. “DIDN’T YOU PROMISE ME?”,
“Y-yes Papa,” Stephanie offered quietly.
“You know very well that the neighbours will gossip if you stay out late. And you are seventeen, and you are still disobeying me. Don’t you feel ashamed of yourself?
“Yes Papa,” Stephanie choked, with tears welling up in her eyes.
“You don’t ‘yes Papa’ me for everything. As a girl, you shouldn’t stay out late, things can happen and society will speak bad about me. You have…”
“But Papa, David is still outside.”
“How dare you compare yourself with your brother? He is eighteen and he is out STUDYING! Not like you loitering around in the name of birthday parties,” Mr Choy snarled.
“But… But Papa, David isn’t studying”, Stephanie began.
“That’s it. First you come in late, then next you try lying about your elder brother? He even sent me a picture of him studying in his school library.”, he said, looking away in disgust.
Stephanie stood there, stunned that her brother had gone to such elaborate lengths.
But she had a picture of him laying high on the staircase. Then again, this wasn’t the best time to show it to him. It would be worth more to blackmail him with it. Moreover her dad would have become even more incensed at her for not having been where she said she was.
“If only I had a daughter, she would have been more ladylike!”, he muttered.
Those words pierced Stephanie like shards of glass.
After all, she was a helpless step-daughter, who insisted on calling him ‘papa’ instead of ‘uncle’.
“I’m sorry Papa, I’m really sorry. I got lost while taking the train, that’s why…”, Stephanie mumbled feebly as hot tears fell onto her dress.
Mr Choy glared at her for what felt like a full minute, his expression slowly softening. He sighed.
“Why are you young girls so helpless? Next time call Papa and say you will be late. If you are really lost I can come pick you up. Don’t loiter around, it is not safe. Understand?”
Stephanie nodded, hardly daring to believe that her ruse was working. But Mr Choy still felt that he had to drive the message in.
“Since you didn’t do it knowingly, I won’t ground you. But I want you to wash the taxi and vacuum the interior, for two weeks instead of one. Papa will help you. Is this fair?”, he asked.
Stephanie knew that this episode could have ended with a slap. So she mumbled a ‘yes, very sorry Papa’, before scurrying to her room.
Stephanie had just stepped out of the bathroom when she heard the sound of the front door opening. David was back. She waited, out of sight in the kitchen, as she heard him walk over to his room as he ignored Papa’s single-line greeting to him, before slamming his door shut.
She returned to her room to hang her towel to dry. Taking in a deep breath, she picked up her phone and walked out, past the living room where her stepfather was, and stopped in front of David’s room.
‘Knock knock knock’, Stephanie rapped at her brother’s door.
“Go away, I’m changing,” came a bark from within.
Stephanie sat down on the sofa in the living room, albeit at a distance from Mr Choy. Apart from the initial glance when she had entered the living room, his eyes were focused on the television. She still felt shaken from her encounter half an hour ago, but now she had more pressing matters to settle. Five minutes passed, and she went up to the door again.
‘Knock knock knock’, Stephanie went again, with Mr Choy eying her.
“What?!” replied a highly irritated voice.
“Kor kor, I want to talk to you,” Stephanie said, trying to put on a somewhat normal voice.
There were a few footsteps, then the door opened. David left the door open and shuffled back to his bed. Stephanie entered and closed the door behind her.
She never really liked entering his room. The windows were hardly ever opened, his study table was a mess of books and gaming paraphernalia, his clothes littered the floor and she was forbidden to sit on his bed on by their dad so that meant she usually had to stand as David was always seated on his chair. But this time he was already lying on his bed, with his party clothes still on. Stephanie wondered why Papa didn’t ever suspect the mismatch.
“Make it quick. And this had better not be about some school concert!”, he said, his speech still slightly slurred. She decided to heed his words.
“Oh dear Kor Kor, don’t worry. Cos all the times you make me do your laundry and your chores based on the fact that I’m the ‘woman of the house’ are coming to an end now,” she said, perhaps even cheerfully as she sat down on his study chair.
“What talking you? Did your friends put ‘ideas’ into your head during your tea party just now?”, David sneered as he gestured an open-and-close quote.
“No, but I found out your secret and that gave me ‘ideas’,” Stephanie said, mimicking his hand gesture.
The effect was immediate. David sat bolt upright on his bed.
“What rubbish? I… I don’t keep secrets! I’m very… open,” he started unconvincingly.
“Mhm. Then what about your good time at the MBS party tonight eh. Seems you were ahem… high up the staircase…”, Stephanie chuckled at her own pun.
“W-what? Nonsense. You have no proof I was high,” David spat out, before realising his mistake.
“Ah, so you admit that you were high eh? On Syabu nonetheless!” she screeched.
“Lies lies LIES. Who is telling you this kind of lies?”, David yelled, his voice very loud, knowing his expression had given it away.
From the living room, Mr Choy had overheard some raised voices.
“Dave, Steph, don’t argue at night,” he raised his voice.
Steps looked over at her brother. For the first time in as many years, she was seeing true fear manifesting in her brother’s eyes, when it would usually be the other way around. She had intended to merely blackmail him, but the temptation within her grew to out him right then to their dad.
As if he had read her mind, David shook his head violently and started thinking. There was no way she was talking about it.
“I mean, anyone can tell dad I was drunk on Samsu or something. But you don’t have proof, and if you did, you probably photoshopped it,” he spat.
“Oh yes I was at MBS alright. But don’t worry, Dad won’t be half as angry if only he knew that his goody two shoes son, his only son, was actually a drunkard who was dating some high class blue-haired bimbo.”
“Shut up! No, you don’t have proof. There’s no way you can prove this. And even if you do, dad will just punish you with Taxi chores,” David shuddered, evidently frustrated.
“Oh yeah, then what about this?”
Stephanie held out her phone, which flashed the scene from earlier in all its glory. Then she started to recoil into her seat, for she realised that she had unleashed a monster.
“FUCK YOU DELETE THAT PICTURE,” David roared as he lunged forward onto his step-sister. He trapped her in her seat and there were yells and high-pitched screams as David attempted to snatch away the phone from Stephanie.
“What is going on in here?”, came a low voice.
Both of them looked up to see the door had been opened and that Mr Choy was standing in the doorway.
David stood up and looked sheepishly at his feet, knowing that he must have looked very criminal about the way he appeared to force himself at his step-sister’s phone. Stephanie began to cry in earnest, the hard blows her step-brother had landed on her head and chest were excruciating.
“You are not children. It has been years since you two have fought this roughly. David, what is this, why are you beating your sister, a woman?”
David stood there silently, while Stephanie attempted to wipe away her tears. Mr Choy walked over and hugged Stephanie, placing a hand on her shoulder.
“I had expected better from you son. Whatever you are arguing about I’ve told you to never fight someone over it, much less hitting a helpless girl…”
“She’s not helpless Pa,” David started.
“Silence! I want to know, what exactly was it in you phone that you two were fighting for,” Mr Choy said, looking straight at Stephanie.
“It’s… it’s n-nothing Pa,” Stephanie stammered.
“Yea it’s nothing,” David croaked along.
“No, it was definitely something which I think I should know about. Show it to me this instant!”
David looked at his toes, looking ready to accept the death penalty while Stephanie silently unlocked her phone and passed it to Mr Choy.
He looked at the screen for a few moments. David collapsed onto his bed, his face as white as a ghost.
“Is this what you were fighting over, David. A silly picture?”, Mr Choy asked with a tone of incredulity.
David looked up. The phone screen flashed a picture of his WhatsApp Profile picture, which had been defaced with the words ‘Chief Irritant”.
<end of chapter>