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He watches her silently from across the average-sized classroom. His eyes as if have been charmed at every single movement of hers as she wanders about the crowd inside the noisy classroom—gracefully, to his captivated sight. At the bottom of his desk, he is secretly scribbling in his own tiny, serif handwriting on his worn notepad while his longing eyes never take off her: Moonlight Sonata The way she goes Amid the sea of those Such mesmerising beauty Like a white swan Moving through the surface glassy Of the calm river Her air of sweet elegance Carries with her such splendour A colour dazzling Enliven every greyish scenery And those doe-brown eyes…. At this, he stops as he struggles for a word. And those doe-brown eyes… what? He asks himself in frustration as he stares down upon the yellowish paper. “Norman?” At the sound of her sweet yet firm voice, he jerks as he accidentally kicks the leg of his desk in extreme shock. “Ouch!” He lets out a cry. “Hey, you’re okay?” That voice again—softer this time. Somehow, he just cannot bring himself to look at her in the eye—not right now when he is being like a complete fool in front of her. She must have thought him the clumsiest guy she has ever met. Come to think of it, he is the clumsiest guy in the entire school and everyone in school knows that—well not that he is popular or anything… maybe he is but for all the wrong reasons…. “Moonlight sonata!” She says out loud in a cheery voice as she leans closer to take a peek of the old notepad that he has been trying to hide inside his desk. “Nice title.” She smiles. On impulse, he hurriedly crushes the paper inside his desk as he forces himself to look at her. And those doe-brown eyes… Glimmering jubilantly… Like the rippling surface of the sea… Reflected by the brilliant sunlight… that never dies…. Miraculously, the words flash through his mind smoothly as he stares into her astonishing almond-shaped eyes. “Whoa there… calm down. I’m not going to eat you or anything.” He can see a twinkle of amusement in her eyes at seeing the panicked expression upon his face. “I’m just going to collect the essay homework that Mrs. Khoo has asked us to do last week. Is this your essay book?” She touches a brown exercise book on his desk questioningly. He nods his head timidly without having the courage to speak a word to her. “Hey Deanna! What took you so long to collect that shy boy’s book?” Eddie’s voice suddenly echoes through the room along with a loud roar of laughter coming from the other guys in the class. She turns around spontaneously, sighing as she walks away to Eddie who is sitting at the back with the other playful guys among the popular crowd. “I’m coming, Eddie!” She replies without even a backward glance at Norman. Norman still keeps his despairing eyes on her as she mingles with the popular crowd. She observes the cheerfulness of her face as she laughs with her popular friends. She can see her cheek flushing pink of laughing hard at Eddie’s every joke. He can hear his heart breaking at the sight of her sitting closely by Eddie’s side as their fingers intertwined romantically together. He wish he could make her laugh like that. He wish she could sit beside him like that. He wish he could hold her hands like that. He wish she could whisper words of love to him like what she is doing now to Eddie while Eddie just listen with a playful smile on his handsome face. And all of a sudden, as much as he hates the popular crowd, he wish he was Eddie… but of course, fantasies are always better than realities. And that is one of the reasons he has always loved poetry. Poetry, to him, is a way for him to breakaway from the cruel reality to the little idealistic world of his own, where he can let his wild, vivid imagination runs free. He sighs again as he tries to look away from Deanna. He knows only too well that he can never have her. He knows who he is in her eyes. He is just some clumsy, quiet, shy guy who is forever clueless at her presence. He is just going to make a fool of himself if she were to talk to him again like what has happened just now. Besides, she is popular; she has a fun-loving boyfriend like Eddie; she has loads of friends—she seems to live a perfect life so why should he try to get close to her and interfere? He stares down again at the crumpled paper that he just tore off from his notepad. Moonlight sonata… He almost smiles to himself. She may not be with him in reality but she will always live in his imagination… and in his poetry. The afternoon sun is still shining brightly in the cloudless blue sky as soon as Norman reaches his house from school. Before he unlocks his gate, he takes a glimpse of the quiet house next to his. I guess she is not home yet…. He says to himself. “Meow!” His face goes aglow at the sight of an orange-furred cat running after him, mewing gaily again and again at the arrival of his owner. “Garfield!” Norman cries happily as he hugs the feline affectionately. “Miss me, eh, little buddy?” He buries his cheek in the softness of Garfield’s sleek coat of fur before letting it go again. Garfield keeps on mewing as he brushes against Norman’s feet fondly. Just then, the silence of the neighbourhood is suddenly broken at the sound of soft giggles coming from next door. He twirls his head to the direction only to find his heart breaking again at the sight of Eddie kissing Deanna teasingly at her gate. “So, will you go to the party with me?” Norman hears him asking. “What party?” Deanna giggles. “Oh, you know Danny’s party this Friday night? Another date?” Deanna seems to stop giggling at once. She begins staring solemnly at Eddie who has his arms around her. She looks away that makes Norman spontaneously hides from behind the pillar of his house. “You know I’ve never liked that kind of parties, Eddie.” She finally blurts out. “What kind?” “You know, with the loud music, people getting drunk, the noise… I don’t think it’s…romantic—for a date.” “Romantic?” Eddie looks at her incredulously. “Come on, Deanna. Don’t be such a bore! Isn’t dancing at the party romantic enough?” “I don’t think that kind of disco dancing is what you called romantic.” Deanna states firmly as she cross-folds her slim arms onto her chest. “You know I prefer that we have a long walk at the beach? We can even slow-dance there? How about that?” She begins to hold him closer with a hopeful smile. “You know that’s ridiculous, Deanna.” Eddie shakes his head. “Okay, okay, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean.” He apologises after seeing the hurt look upon his girlfriend’s face. He motions her closer to him, saying comfortingly, “Okay, okay, whatever you want. We’ll do all that after we go to Danny’s party this Friday night.” “Promise?” Her eyes are all lit up again. “Promise. You know I’ll do anything for you.” Eddie says sweetly before he leans toward her and leaves her the longest, most passionate kiss—only to be interrupted at Garfield’s presence. “God—what the heck…?” Eddie exclaims in extreme irritability to find Garfield mewing and brushing his feline body against his feet dotingly. Uh-oh… Norman can only look at them with an alarmed expression. “Garfield! Garfield, come here!” He whispers desperately, staring hard at his only cat. “Whatever this cat is doing here?” Eddie frowns at the gracious cat. “Whose cat is it? Go away! Go away!” Norman is about to stop Eddie from trying to kick Garfield away but he pauses on his track when Deanna bends down and begins holding the poor cat with both arms. “Why can’t you be gentle to it, Eddie? It’s just a cat.” Deanna strokes Garfield’s furry body lovingly with a smile. Garfield responds with a soft mew. “A very sweet cat, I should say.” She comments smilingly. “Sweet, my foot! That cat almost bites me, you know!” Eddie complains. “That’s because you don’t know how to treat animals nicely.” Deanna rolls her eyes. “Whatever. I think I better get going now. I have a basketball tournament after this. Bye! See you this Friday night.” Norman just watches tenderly at Deanna holding the cat fondly from afar until Garfield suddenly tries to break free from her hold at the sight of him. “Oh. What’s wrong, dear?” Deanna looks concerned as the cat begins to be restless in her arms. A moment or two later, she finally let go of the cat. “No—no, oh no, Garfield… don’t come here. Please, don’t come here.” He almost begs deep inside as if to send a mental note to his cat. However, Garfield just runs straight to his owner’s arms before Norman can walk away from there. “So that’s your cat?” Deanna asks, looking at him straight in the eye that makes more and more butterflies hatching in his stomach. Say something! Don’t just stand there, you idiot! Say something! He hears a voice deep inside scolding him. “Uh, um, well… yeah, it—it’s my cat.” Deep inside, he is cursing himself for stammering. “It’s a cute cat.” She finally smiles that makes him more breathless. “Looks like it’s very fond of you.” She comments as she watches Garfield snuggling comfortably in Norman’s arms. Norman just nods. “Funny, we’ve been neighbours practically all our lives but I still didn’t know you keep a cat at home.” She laughs. “Well… now you know.” He finally says with a smile. She smiles back. “Yes… now I know.” Silence fills the air as they just stand there a few metres apart from each other, staring and trying to figure out what to say. Although they have been neighbours as well as classmates for the longest time, they hardly ever talk to each other except for a seldom ‘hi’ or ‘hello’ by Deanna most of the time—no, always. Norman knows that Deanna has always been a friendly girl who always tries to strike a conversation with everyone she meets and he feels bad that his shyness has made it a lot harder for her to get friendly with him. He knows he has to overcome the fear eventually. “You—you want to stroke Garfield?” He finally gathers the courage to break the silence. “Yes, sure... that will be nice.” She smiles pleasantly. “Garfield seems to like you, too.” He comments as he watches her fair, dainty hand stroking Garfield’s fur while Garfield just purrs softly, loving the attention of the two teenagers bending down upon him with affectionate eyes. Her delicate hand Caressing the feline With such touch so divine A touch as divine Leaving a lad with a torn heart behind. He does not know why but the words just pop up in his head as he observes her quietly. It is as if she has cast a magical spell on him to awaken such rosy inspiration within him. It is beyond words, yet so real… how can it be? “I wish I had a cat myself.” She says that instantly breaks his reverie. “Sadly, I can’t have it.” “Oh. Why not?” “My parents—especially my mom, they don’t really approve of the idea of keeping a cat at home. She said it’d be mess to have a cat running around the house.” “Not necessarily.” She looks up at him. There is an aura of tenderness in her eyes. “Yes, I think so too.” Silence again. Both try to focus their utmost attention on Garfield alone. “I—I think taking a walk and slow-dancing at the beach is a very romantic idea….” Norman finally forces himself to speak. Deanna just stares at him, surprised. “I—I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop on your conversation with Eddie. I’m sorry.” He is faltering again and is about to walk away to curse himself again for having said such a stupid thing. “No. Don’t go.” Deanna calls out that makes him pause. “You really think so?” “Huh?” He looks at her, totally clueless. “I mean, about the walk and the slow-dance at the beach. You really think it’s romantic?” She asks curiously. “Well, uh, yes….” He answers truthfully. Her shoulder-length dark, wavy hair dangles merrily as she nods her head. “Yes, I think so too. Too bad Eddie doesn’t think that way.” She sighs. “Eddie thinks it only happens in the movies—and maybe he’s right. I dream of fairytales too much.” She is bowing her head the whole time. “Well, I….” Deep inside, Norman is searching for any courage left in him to reply, “… I—I think we can actually make fairytales come true if you only believe and make an effort to make them come true… they may not come very often in life… but I believe it does happen—right at this moment perhaps to some lovers all around the world, you never know. A sincere effort is all that is needed if you really love that person. I—I think it’s because of love, that fairytales exist… don’t you think so?” The words just slide off smoothly from his lips that he cannot believe for an intriguing moment that he has just spoken his mind to Deanna without having to think about the consequences or even to figure out appropriate words to say to this girl of her dream who is standing there, enthralled at his little speech. She is staring at him and everything seems like an eternity. He does not know what to say or do next. The anxiety that is starting to overwhelm him must have had shown upon his clueless face for Deanna suddenly breaks into the sweetest smile he has ever seen. “Yes… I think so, too.” She nods, still staring at him in awe. “Anyway…,” She finally says after a momentary silence, “… Glad that at least we have something in common.” “Y—yeah.” He nods with his heart beating faster than he has ever imagined after the stare. “I think I better go inside now. See you around.” He gazes at her as she walks away and disappears into her house. He cannot help smiling, thinking that he just had his first real, best conversation with Deanna. He does not curse himself anymore like he usually does after facing Deanna. Instead, he is proud of himself. It certainly boosts his confidence and thanks to Deanna, he is striving to shove his shyness aside… and be a better person. “Moonlight sonata….” Norman whispers to himself smilingly as he begins to write a few more lines for the unfinished poem upon his usual worn notepad by his window that night. He cannot help smiling after what has taken place today—the conversation with Deanna really does brighten his day. The pen in his hand dancing upon the yellowish paper to the rhythm of his inspiring mind that never tired of pouring inspirations through beautiful, poetic phrases written in blue on the patient paper. He stops all of a sudden when the sound of a romantic love ballad played on the piano mellows into his eardrum. He lifts up his eyes from the paper and out through the ajar window as he listens attentively to the piano singing melodiously in the silence of the night. The full moon is shining its watery beam from the starry night sky. He can feel the slow rush of the night wind stroking his face gently now and then. And there is the piano serenading the lonely night with such serene melody. Everything tastes perfect at that very moment to his idealistic heart—more perfect still at the thought of the pianist who is none other than Deanna herself. He knows that Deanna has always had a musical talent at playing piano although they have never been close to each other. He knows that it has always been habitual for Diana to play the piano during nightfall when there is no sound but pure silence. Silence is always beautiful to him but he does not mind to hear the romantic voice of Deanna’s piano shattering it. It is simply worth it to hear her playing the piano. In fact, he looks forward to let Deanna lullaby him to sleep through her piano-playing every night. And he loves nightfall simply because it makes him feel close to her in a way he cannot describe each time he hears her playing the piano. He can tell whether she is feeling blue, or gay just by the tune of the piano. He knows that she will play an upbeat melody if she were in a sanguine mood, a slow tragic song whenever she is feeling sad. And now, she is playing a romantic ballad and his guess is she is in a sentimental mood at the moment. And he is feeling the same too. He cannot help thinking what is probably running on her mind right now while playing the piano—whether she is dedicating the song to someone in particular—Eddie, perhaps…? He dares not think further for it will break his heart even more. He has seen Deanna with a lot of guys almost all through his life since they were neighbours at a tender age. It is not surprising, however for Deanna has always been popular in school. Her beauty, grace and charm can melt any heart. He has seen numerous guys flirting with her but he—he can only watch her with a secret yearning in his eyes from afar, never daring to make a move although their houses are just next to each others’ for who is he? He is nothing but a nobody, a loner who does not have many friends and who people like Eddie call ‘the shy boy’—nothing more. He has nothing more to give to such a wonderful girl as Deanna than his heart…. How can we have been so near to each other yet it still feels so far? He cannot help questioning himself over and over again. Just then, with the silvery moon still adorning the dark sky and the piano still singing romantically to the night, he begins to write again: Day by day The ivory cloud inches slowly Gradually To that cherished, brilliant sun Shines with thousands of rosy hopes Yearning dreams waiting to be fulfilled Night by night The dark mist moves little by little Gradually To that adored, pearly moon Beams with its sheens of despairing hopes Similar dreams waiting and waiting Waiting till the night curtain unveils The sunrise Beautiful Yet the pale beam So colourless So plain So empty To the swollen, teary eyes This moment A craving heart is stepping closer and closer And later The distance will be farther and farther Like the sun The moon No matter how close they may seem The dark, lonely mist shall stay The pale, meaningless cloud shall remain Stay always beyond reach Emerging and fading Night and day Embraced by unfulfilled devotion And an eternal-like delay.... He sighs when the cordless phone ahead of him gives a loud cry. “Hello?” “Hello, Norman!” “Hey, Dave. What’s up?” “You know your poem that you lent to me for my English project?” “Which one?” Norman creases his forehead. “You know the unfinished one that you wrote for Deanna.” Dave pauses, “… The ‘Moonlight Sonata’?” Norman almost drops the phone. Since when did he let anyone borrow his poem that he dedicated for Deanna? All his poems for Deanna are private property to him, of which he will never exhibit to the world—especially not to Deanna or even to Dave although he is a good friend. Perhaps he did give the poem to Dave accidentally. He must have had mistaken it for another poem. Uh-oh. And there is one more thing…. “How—how did you know it’s dedicated to Deanna?” He holds the phone tighter in his grasp. “You wrote it at the bottom of the poem—duh! You really do have such a bad memory. Anyway, whoa… that poem is really romantic! I can’t believe you wrote that! I didn’t know you could write such an awesome poem! Man, it should get published! And I didn’t know that you had a crush on Deanna, too!” Norman tries to calm the panicky feeling that is taking over him. “Hey, listen, Dave… can you give back the poem to me first thing in school tomorrow?” “No, sorry, I can’t. That’s why I call you. I can’t return it to you just yet. Perhaps the day after tomorrow? I promise.” “But, Dave…!” “Hey, I have to go now. Bye!” Before Norman can speak another word, Dave has already hung up the phone. He sighs. There is nothing he can do now but to try to reassure himself that Dave will not spread the word to everyone about it. Of course he will not. Dave is a good friend of his. He will never betray him—at least, that is what Norman hopes for. He sighs again. As he is about to continue writing, he hears the sound of his door opening slowly. A tall lady with long dark curly hair emerges from the doorway smiling fondly at him. “You haven’t slept yet, Norman? What are you doing?” “Oh. H—hi, Mom. I was just… I was just….” Before Norman can even have the time to slide the notepad under his desk, his Mom is already there standing behind him and staring sharply at the old notepad. “What is that?” She gestures at the notepad. Her motherly tone voice now alters into a firmer one. “It—It’s nothing, Mom.” Norman keeps on stammering. “If it’s nothing then why are you hiding it from me?” As fast as lightning the woman snatches the notepad away from his hold, “Don’t tell me it’s…!” Her words trail away aimlessly as soon as her sharp eyes are upon the lines of poetry that are written neatly in Norman’s small handwriting, “It really is…!” His mom looks angrily at him, wide-eyed. “What’s all this, huh, Norman? What’s all this?” Her voice is dangerously low. “It’s just a poem, Mom….” “A poem!” His mom suddenly burst into a mocking laugh before her face turns deadly serious again. “And does it give you any benefit? NO! Does it give you a living? NO! Does it bring you profit? NO! Is it going to make your life more comfortable by bringing in more wealth? NO! Because you know why, it’s pointless! It’s a waste of time! I told you to quit writing! It won’t get you anywhere! Why don’t you quit? Why? WHY?” She begins to raise her voice in extreme frustration. “You think you’re going to make a living out of it? You think you can live just by working with your imagination and write all those rubbish?” She spontaneously tears off the paper as quickly as she can. “It’s not rubbish, Mom!” Norman stares at his Mom in wild disbelief as he watches the torn pieces of paper pouring onto the floor. “Mom…!” “Oh yeah? Tell me what it is! Tell me why it’d do you good when it can’t even give you a good future! Tell me why this is better than being a doctor when a doctor can bring more wealth—more respect—for your own good, for your bright future while this thing…!” She lets out the loudest groan. “… This thing doesn’t get you anywhere, Norman! Open your eyes! Just look at your father—he made a living out of painting and where it got him? NOWHERE! Nowhere, I tell you! And I don’t want you to end up being like your useless father…!” “Father is not useless!” He finally succeeds in silencing his mom. “Why can’t you stop criticising him? It’s because of you, he left us! And why can’t you try to understand me? I never want to be a doctor. Why can’t you understand?” “Norman, wait! Where are you going?” His mom calls out but he pays no heed. Instead he races down the stairs and finally out of the house—to the sweet company of nature outside. He breathes in the cold, damp night air peacefully. The silence of the night fulfils the hunger of serenity within him. The full moon is still there in the sky, only that it is veiled by dark wispy clouds now. The leaves of the bushes at his house compound waves back and forth to the breeze that is murmuring vaguely in the background of the night. He wants to forget about what has just happened just now. All he wants now is tranquillity to put his mind at rest away from the hectic reality. “Norman!” He jerks at the sweet familiar voice. He turns spontaneously ahead of him and almost wants to enter the house again when he sees Deanna sitting in front of her house, smiling at him. He thinks that she almost looks like an angel sitting there in her white night dress, beaming underneath the yellowish moonlight with her dark, wavy, waist-length hair dancing to the lazy wind. If he were an artist, he could have drawn her right there and then. She looks divinely beautiful and for a moment or two, he just stares at her without saying anything as if he is under a spell. Her graceful silhouette In the soft moonlight Her velvety hair The colour of midnight Waving to the whispering wind Her moonlit visage Embellished by such rosy beam So dazzling Like jewels in the darkness Such heavenly beauty Do remedy A love-filled heart In sweet secrecy…. “Out to breathe in the fresh night air too?” She smiles. He blinks at her before nodding quickly, out of nervousness. The sound of piano is heard no more. Now only he realises that she has long stopped playing the piano. “Come sit here.” She suddenly says as she taps on the empty space beside her on the stoned-bench. “Accompany me.” Norman does not realise that he has been standing there, just staring at her for a really long time until she finally says, “I’m sorry. I guess I just need someone to talk to, that’s all. It’s okay if you don’t want to. I mean…!” She pauses in surprise to find Norman already sitting awkwardly beside her on the bench. Norman tries to brace himself to break the awkward silence, “You play the piano beautifully….” He compliments honestly. “You think so?” Deanna smiles at him but he just bows his head. Deep inside, she knows that Norman has always been a shy person and perhaps that is why he seems endearingly different from all guys she met. “You can say that I have been following your heart despite what everyone tells me….” She shoots a dreamy gaze into the darkness of the sky. “Following your heart?” Norman tries hard to sound as calm as he can although deep inside, his heart is pumping faster and faster every second just sitting next to Deanna. He can smell the sweet fragrance of her perfume and it fits her perfectly. He feels somehow relaxed at her scent. “Yes.” Deanna nods, smilingly. “I’ve always been interested in piano the first time I laid my eyes on it—that was when my aunt showed me her piano and played it for me. I fell in love with it the first time I listened to it. I can still remember the ‘Wherever You Will Go’ song that she played for me when I was seven. It was first song she played for me. And I couldn’t help being more and more interested in it. I insisted that aunt would teach me although my parents were against it….” “Your parents were against it?” She bows her head before she looks up again to the sky. “Well, they think taking a piano lesson is unnecessary for a child. Besides, they really disapprove of the probability that I might be a musician just like my aunt if I were to take piano lessons since my families have always been known to be successful people and have professional jobs like doctors, lawyers, engineers and a musician is definitely not on the list….” She sinks in silence for a while as if to give the nature a chance to fill in the silence for her before she continues, “…But of course, I certainly didn’t care. I took piano lesson secretly from my aunt. Thank God my aunt lived just around the neighbourhood so everyday after school, I would sneak out of the house and went to my aunt’s house to learn piano.” “Oh. No wonder I always saw you trying to creep out of the house quietly without trying to make a single sound each time after school in the primary school years….” Norman recalls. Deanna giggles and it makes Norman feel good. “Yes. Well, that was back then before my parents found out….” “Your parents found out?” Norman sounds very much concerned. Deanna nods. “Yes but they couldn’t stop me. They finally gave in after seeing how serious I was in taking piano lessons. I just followed my heart. I did what I wanted to do and this is where it got me. I can play the piano now—I can even compose music.” “That—that’s nice.” Norman smiles at her. “… So I guess the moral of the story is to follow your heart….” Deanna laughs again that make him laugh too. As soon as the laughter fades away, they find themselves staring at one another underneath the moonlit sky. It seems to last in sweet eternity with the sounds of nature blurry in the background. Norman has never been so close like this to Deanna—or to any girl before. It just makes her more special. It really does seem like a fairytale right at that moment to just stare into her doe-brown eyes. His heart is beating faster than he can imagine when he just watches her staring into his face as if she has just seen God’s miracle. “You know what, Norman?” She finally breaks the silence softly with her eyes intent upon his. “You will look so much better if you only take off that specs, with your hair combed back, perhaps and lose the metallic shirt… try wearing jeans or something… you’ll look more handsome, you know….” She laughs. “…No offence, Norman. Believe me you’ll look much, much, much better.” “Oh. You—you think so?” “Yeah.” She nods with a smile. “Oops… I have to go now. That’s my mom calling.” “Okay.” Deanna rises from her seat before turning back smilingly at Norman. “Anyway, thanks for the company. I really appreciate it. It’s been nice talking to you.” “It’s been nice talking to you too.” Norman replies smilingly before he tails her walking away into her house with his eloquent, dreamy gaze never taking off her…. “You’re late today!” Aaron, the perfect who has the sternest face stops Norman from rushing into the school gate the next day. Norman sighs. “I’m sorry. I woke up late this morning,” Aaron’s stony face suddenly breaks into the friendliest smile which only happens in the rarest occasion that keeps Norman wondering in astonishment. “That’s okay.” Aaron pats him on the back. “This is your first time and besides…,” He pauses before winking at the other prefects who are in charge of the school gate that morning. They just grin back at Aaron mysteriously and Norman cannot help wondering what is going on, “… I can’t really stop the future poet, can I? I mean, Norman, you’ll be famous one day if only you try to expose yourself a little bit—what with your poems and all!” Aaron laughs, followed by the other prefects. Norman blinks at them. He is totally clueless. There is no more aura of strictness in their eyes—only mockery. Without wasting any time, he walks into the school gate to find all eyes on him. Some of them just stare at him as if he is the weirdest creature they have ever set eyes upon. Some are whispering away with their cautious eyes watching his every movement. Some are laughing sneeringly at him among themselves s he passes them by. He does not know most people there yet why are they staring critically at him as if he is some kind of an unforgivable sinner? He keeps on walking as he tries his best to pay no heed to the attention. Zillions of questions are twirling silently in his head, unanswered. He feels suddenly lost amid those mysterious stares thrown specifically at him. He tries to act as casual as he can as he walks on to his class, staring blankly ahead. He has never been comfortable being in the spotlight all throughout his life. “Hey, hey, Norman, what’s the rush?” He almost crashes into Eddie who appears before him out of nowhere as soon as he reaches to an isolated corner that leads to his class. Eddie returns his surprised look with a solemn one as he pushes Norman hard on his chest that makes Norman falls to the ground on one knee. Norman spontaneously lifts up his face in shock. Behind Eddie is Eddie’s group of popular friends who are all standing there staring down at Norman with a mocking smile. “So you’re a true poet eh?” Eddie says finally. “Wow, what can I say? I didn’t know you could write such oh-so-romantic poem, Norman. I’m really impressed.” Eddie grins wickedly. “I mean, who would expect such a shy boy could have the talent at writing poetry….” There is a flame of anger blazing in his eyes now, “… for someone else’s girlfriend?” Norman finally lifts up his face to meet Eddie’s severe eyes. “I—I don’t know what you’re talking about….” Eddie laughs out loud as if Norman has just said the most foolish thing. “You don’t know what you’re talking about? How about this? Can you explain this?” Eddie throws a yellow paper right at Norman’s face fiercely. The paper floats and dances momentarily in the air before his eyes and finally falls to the cement ground. He takes a look at the paper: Moonlight Sonata….He reads and finally scans at the bottom of the paper in horror: Dedicated with love to a very special girl, Deanna…. He remembers writing the unfinished poem the other day on the same paper… and accidentally lends it to Dave—Dave! His mind can finally recall everything. No, it can’t be! How can Dave do this to me? “How do you explain that, huh, shy boy?” Eddie snaps. “I should’ve known that you’ve been crushing on Deanna since forever—since you two were neighbours, haven’t you? Well, guess what? That’s just too bad because she is my girlfriend! Do you hear me? She is mine!” “You’re saying as if she is just some thing you can own, instead of a person!” Norman warns with challenging eyes. “Oh—did you hear that? The shy boy sounds mad—so scary!” Eddie laughs sarcastically along with his other friends. “So you’re writing all this crap just to make her fall for you? Oh please—cut the crap, won’t you? She’s too popular and too good for you—you know that! Everyone in school knows that I deserve her better than anyone else! You’re just her neighbour whom she will never give a second look at—nothing more! By the way, your poem is all full of crap—just like you!” He tears off the paper and throws it right at Norman’s face. The shreds of the yellow paper come apart in the air like fireworks before they fall back again on the ground like the shreds of his broken heart raining within him. “By the way, I think poets are such weirdoes to come up with such mushy phrases and all. Oh—please! Give me a break, won’t you?” Those are Eddie’s last words before he and his arrogant friends sink into wild laughter. Norman watches them walking away silently with sharp glance and a heart burning with fury within him. He looks helplessly at the shreds of papers that are scattering upon the ground. Feebly yet with strong determination, he picks up the pieces one by one. “Norman, are you okay?” He looks up to see Dave looking at him with concerned, guilty eyes. “What have you done?” Norman gradually raises his voice. Dave bows his head. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do it. It’s just that I think your poem is really good and that you should show off your talent, you know, so that Eddie and his gang won’t look down on you again. You’re talented, Norman and so, I tried to promote your poem by asking our school deejay to read it out to the whole school this morning….” “You—what?” Norman’s brown eyes almost bulge open. “Are you crazy? What were you thinking? The whole school knows?” Norman can hardly believe what he has just heard. Everything seems to fall into place now. This is the reason as to all the odd stares that people have been throwing at him just now… including after what just happened between Eddie and him a moment ago. “I—I’m sorry. I really am. I didn’t know it would turn out this badly. I thought I was doing you a favour…!” “A favour?” Norman cannot believe his ears. “Y—yes.” Dave stammers. “You know, other than showing your talent to everyone, I can also help you to confess your feelings for Deanna. I mean, I know girls. They like it when guys write them poetry, you know. It’s romantic and maybe Deanna will fall for…!” “It’s not going to happen, okay, Dave?” Norman cuts him off with thunderous voice. “It’s a humiliation, do you know that? It’s an embarrassment—especially to Deanna! God, she’s my neighbour and what would she think of me? She’d think I purposely try to embarrass her to the whole school by writing a poem for her! How can I face her after what has happened? How can I…?” Norman groans heavily. He can face the humiliation in front of the school, in front of Eddie and his gang—but Deanna? No! He cannot be humiliated in front of Deanna—not after everything is starting to be great between Deanna and him lately. “I—I’m really sorry, Norman. I didn’t mean….” Dave’s apologetic voice sounds so far away in his ears. He bows his head in hopelessness and when he finally lifts up his face, his heart almost stops beating at the sight of Deanna standing a few metres away them. She is staring at him hard as if she can see the countless scars of misery upon his worn heart deep inside. He tries to search for any sign of resentment but he finds none upon her unfeeling expression. Beside her is Eliza, her best friend who is also staring at him but in a colder manner. Eliza begins to whisper something in Deanna’s ears as she keeps her watchful eyes on Norman. Deanna however does not seem to speak a word or even nod in reply almost like a stiff statue. After a while, without even giving him her usual neighbourly smile like she used to each time she sees him, she just walks away from there followed by Eliza with no turning back. And Norman watches his world falling apart as she walks farther…and farther… and farther away until she is lost in his blurry sight…. The downpour from a single tear rain the empty days before Watching her depart for the last With a world so dead through the dark curtain of sunset…. “Good morning, Mrs. Khoo!” The whole class booms with a musical tone that fine Monday morning before the students sink into their respective seats at Mrs. Khoo’s cue. Deanna cannot help eyeing at the back of the class particularly at Norman’s empty seat with a questioning look upon her face. “What’s the matter with you, Deanna?” Eliza who sits beside her rolls her eyes at her best friend’s behaviour. “Huh?” Deanna quickly turns her eyes toward Eliza. “What?” She blinks. “You keep on trying to look at the back of the class every five minutes since before Mrs. Khoo came in—not that Eddie is there as Eddie…!” “I wasn’t looking for Eddie.” Deanna interrupts sharply. “Then who?” Eliza looks curiously at her. “It’s just that… well…” Deanna does not know where to start, “…well, I haven’t been seeing Norman in school for a week. It’s kind of weird since he always comes to school most of the time and…?” “Norman?” Eliza raises her groomed eyebrow suspiciously. “Hey, don’t look at me like that! I was just curious, okay? Jeez!” Deanna holds up both her hands in a surrendering manner. “Oh. Don’t you know?” “Know what? “Well, he moved to another school last week.” “He moved?” Deanna almost cannot believe her ears. “Where? But—but… why?” Eliza wrinkles her forehead as if to recall her memory. “If I’m not mistaken, he’s in a boarding school now.” “Oh.” There is no wonder she has not seen him at his home lately. “Yup.” Eliza nods before she leans closer to whisper to Deanna. “People say he’s gone crazy.” “Huh?” Deanna frowns. “What do you mean he’s gone crazy?” “That’s what I mean. He’s crazy. People saw his mom took him to a psychologist last time before he moved to boarding school.” “A psychologist? What for?” “Because he’s crazy, silly!” Deanna does not speak a word for a moment or two. “How can you be sure that he’s crazy? Probably he is just having a problem or depression or something….” “In other word, he has gone crazy—end of the story!” Eliza says quickly. “God, why is it so hard for you to believe? Can’t you see what a weirdo he is when he wrote a poem dedicated to you and got it aired on the school radio last two weeks? I mean, what was he thinking—humiliating you and Eddie that way in front of the whole school? Ugh! He knew you were Eddie’s girlfriend yet he still did it! What a shameless person! Definitely not my taste! Let me tell you something. Only a crazy, desperate guy like him will dare to do something like that! And everyone thought he was a shy guy—yeah right! He definitely didn’t have any shame in himself when he dedicated the poem to you!” Eliza puffs her breath in irritation. “You know, he should know where he stands. He’s nothing but some unpopular shy-for-nothing guy whereas you… you are popular, you have everything including the handsomest guy in school that is of course none other than Eddie—Norman should know that.” Deanna looks at Eliza in shock. “Eliza, just because I’m popular, which I don’t care even if I’m not, doesn’t mean that I should treat people differently and discriminate against them just because they are less popular than me. That’s not the way it should be. And I think what you said just now is a very mean thing to say about him... about anyone. I don’t think him as a humiliation. I think he’s indeed a very talented guy.” Eliza’s jaw almost drops. “W—what? You’re not mad at him?” Eliza stares at Deanna in disbelief as if Deanna, too, has lost her mind. “Why should I be when he has done me nothing wrong?” Deanna says carelessly. “And I think his poem is… romantic….” “Romantic?” “Yeah. I mean, okay, I have to admit that I did feel a bit embarrassed and awkward at first but then come to think of it, I think what he did was really romantic… well, that is, if he really did have feelings for me….” “Do you know that you’re talking nonsense again, Deanna? Wake up from your dreams, Deanna! Wake up! Open your eyes and step back on reality! Life isn’t all about fairytales and all that romance, you know!” Eliza shakes her best friend on the shoulders as if to force her back into reality. “Well, I think I believe that we can somehow make all those fairytales come true if only we make some effort, you know….” Deanna’s brown eyes are seen glimmering in dreaminess as she recalls Norman’s words back then that have completely dazzled her: I—I think we can actually make fairytales come true if you only believe and make an effort to make them come true… they may not come very often in life… but I believe it does happen—right at this moment perhaps to some lovers all around the world, you never know. A sincere effort is all that is needed if you really love that person. I—I think it’s because of love, that fairytales exist… don’t you think so? “Oh my God… uh-oh… Deanna, don’t tell me you have feelings for this guy because Eddie…!” “No!” Deanna says firmly as she stares into her friend’s pale face. “Of course not, Eliza!” “Well, since you look so curious to know about Norman….” “Well, that’s because he’s my neighbour. Although he has moved to a boarding school, that does not erase the fact that he still lives next to my house. I just admire and agree to his point of view, that’s all… that we have something in common….” “You know what? You really shouldn’t ask me all these questions about Norman in the first place. I mean, he’s your neighbour… not mine so you should know better about what’s happening to him.” At these sarcastic words of Eliza, Deanna leans back against her chair, sighing before letting her fall into a thoughtful silence, paying no heed to Mrs. Khoo’s teaching up front. Deanna stares at the piano keys as she holds her breath. She presses a few keys to search for the right melody and as soon as the sounds combine harmoniously to her ear, she smiles before she lets her dainty fingers dance swiftly upon the black-and-white piano keys. She nods her head now and then as she internalises the slow music she has just composed with a touch of nostalgia. She finally looks out of the opened window when she becomes confident and finds that someone has been watching her the whole time from the house next door. She stops playing the piano at once to have a closer look at a guy peering through the curtain of the window from the next house. She cannot help wondering if the guy is Norman himself. However, the moment seems to last for a brief moment for not long after that, the guy quickly closes back the curtain. She sighs as she sits back. Perhaps he is Norman. Perhaps Norman just came home for holiday from his boarding school. It has been a year since she really last saw Norman which happened two days after he aired his poem on the school radio to be read out to everyone in school. It was really embarrassing to her… yet she was also touched at the romantic side of it. She sighs again. And she cannot help wondering what lies behind every word of the poem. In fact, she can still recall them: A colour dazzling…Enliven every greyish scenery… And those doe-brown eyes… Glimmering jubilantly… Like the rippling surface of the sea… Reflected by the brilliant sunlight… that never dies…Her delicate hand… caressing the feline… With such touch so divine…A touch as divine… Leaving a lad with a torn heart behind. She did not know that he could write poems so well. She sighs again. Although he is my neighbour, I have never really known him or even been friends with him. Eliza is right. I am the worst neighbour. “Meow!” At the sound of a cat’s mew, she looks down and smiles at Garfield who is brushing against her thigh fondly. “Hello there, Garfield!” She sweeps him up in her slender arms as she strokes his beautiful coat of fur gently. Garfield keeps on mewing as though to expect Deanna to understand what his voice implies yet Deanna puts her forefinger upon her cherry-red lips. “Shh… you don’t want my parents to know that I’ve sneaked you inside the house. They’ll freak out if they know you’re here. Thank God, Norman’s mom is kind enough to let me take care of you while your owner goes away for boarding school.” She whispers quietly to the feline and suddenly she laughs to herself, shaking her head at her own silliness. Just then, her phone cries out loud with a few rings before she moves away from her piano lazily to her study table. “Hello?” “Hello? Deanna?” “Yes, Eliza, what’s up?” Deanna sits upon the table as she leans against her pink-painted wall at the cheery, high-pitched voice of Eliza. “So, have you done with the song yet?” “What song?” Deana’s forehead creases. “The song for the music competition at this end-of-the-year prom, remember?” Eliza sounds clearly impatient. “Don’t tell me you haven’t finished composing and writing the song yet….” “Oh yes.” Deanna remembers. “Yes, I’ve done with the music notes. In fact, I have just played the song on the piano just now. And guess what? It turns out perfectly!” “Okay, that’s good.” Eliza however does not sound as excited as Deanna. “How about the lyric? Have you written the lyric for the song?” “The lyric, well….” Deanna heaves a sigh. “No… not yet….” “Not yet? Are you kidding? Do you know that the others have already started practicing their performance… but you—you haven’t even prepared the lyric!” “Chill out, Eliza. It’s not you who’s going to join the competition. What are you fussing about?” “You’re my very best friend, Deanna. I’m just worried, that’s all.” There is a sigh booming across the speaker. “By the way, are you performing solo?” “I’m not so sure yet….” “Well, I still think that you should perform a duet with Eddie….” All of a sudden, the imaginary image of Eddie in his hip-hop outfit with baggy trousers rapping on the microphone with his inharmonious hoarse voice flies into her mind all of a sudden. “No, I don’t think so, Eliza.” Deanna shakes her head quickly as if Eliza were to be in front of her. “But why not? He’s your boyfriend! Besides, everyone in school will be expecting you two, you know… it’ll be, uh, um, romantic?” “I don’t care what everyone expects, Eliza.” Deanna declares stubbornly. “You know very well that Eddie can’t sing… he hasn’t got that voice to fit my slow ballad. Besides, he has never really liked piano music. He thinks it makes him fall asleep.” Deanna rolls her light-brown eyes. “Whatever, Deanna. Suit yourself. You’re right. I’m not the one who joins the competition… you are.” It is a fine Saturday morning at the beach. The sky above is bare from any clouds with its hue of few light shades of blue sheltering the seaside. The morning sun is gradually soaring higher to shine its glorious beam to the world from such mighty height. Deanna strolls along the beach slowly as she takes in the picturesque scenery of the calm blue seawater mirroring the colour of the clear sky above. The glitters of the sparkling sea by the sunlight seem brilliant and Deanna lets herself be captivated under such breath-taking magnificence of Mother Nature. She turns her eyes away back to the shore to find there are not that many people visiting the beach that weekend. There are a few families picnicking with their small children and a few lovers curling up romantically together upon the soft, white sandy beach. She looks at them wistfully, imagining romantic thoughts of Eddie and her but she finally toss them aside as she thinks about Eddie’s numerous excuses each time she suggests to spend a quality time between just the two of them together lately. And she cannot figure out why he should decline to her every suggestion when they have been dating for almost three years now. Just as she is about to sit down upon the white sand, she almost shrieks at the sight of Garfield running after her. “Garfield?” She looks down in bewilderment at Garfield sweeping his fur continuously against her feet as always. “Garfield, what are you doing here, boy?” She holds him up in the air laughingly but she stops as soon as she sees a guy staring after her from a few metres ahead. She slowly puts Garfield back down again with her eyes still watching the guy. There is an aura of familiarity about the guy as the guy stares back silently at her. The shocked expression upon his face mirrors hers. “Nor—Norman?” She can finally find her voice as she keeps on staring at him in disbelief. The Norman before her now seems to be a different Norman than the one she saw last three years. He no longer wears his bold-rimmed spectacles; his wavy hair now is combed back in elegance; the striped, metallic shirt that he often wears back then now replaced by a cool red shirt under the cover of a Denim jacket and paired with blue Levi’s jeans. She can see him holding a stack of written yellowish papers that are similar to the papers from the worn notepad that she always saw him carrying around back then. Yet it is not about the paper that makes her lost in daze. It is something about him. He looks more handsome now—perhaps, the most handsome guy she has ever laid her eyes on throughout her seventeen years of living. She can feel her feminine heart beating faster at the sight of his fine, manly figure just standing there, looking straight at her without speaking a word in reverence. Norman can hardly believe deep inside of him that it is Deanna, the beautiful girl who has captured his heart since last three years standing before him now just before he decides to throw away all his poems into the sea and forget everything about her. And now here she is after three years of heartbreaking separation, looking more beautiful than ever. Just seeing her there, all the old memories come flooding into his mind that he wish they have never existed. Moonlight Sonata… the sound of her piano… following your heart… Dave… Eddie… the poem dedicated to her… how he is humiliated in front of the whole school…. “Hi.” She finally says with a polite smile. “Hi.” Deanna listens to his voice replying coolly and she finds that there is no more hint of stutter in that confident, manly voice now. She can sense that there is an aura of self-confidence revolving about him now in contrast of that awkward, inarticulate shy guy he was back then. “Maybe I should go now.” He finally says in uncertainty after a while of silence. “No. Please. Don’t go.” Norman stops on his track and twirls his head back at her in awe. She bows her head as she says slowly, “I’m sorry I haven’t really been a good neighbour to you back then. We’re never really friendly with each other although we’ve been neighbours practically all our lives.” “No. It’s not your fault. It’s mine. I mean I wasn’t being… friendly like I should be, either.” “But I still feel bad. Please, do let me make it up to you.” She almost begs. “Accompany me.” Accompany me…. He looks up spontaneously at her as those words echo within his memory. The nostalgic words remind him of the night when he sat beside her in front of her house when the clock struck midnight hour. How he was completely mesmerised by her feminine figure and her angelic smile bathed in the watery moonlight of the night. He can never forget it no matter how many years have passed and now, here she is, standing before him, willing to make it up to him after so long… how can he refuse? “So how are you now? How’s life?” Deanna asks casually as soon as they start walking side by side by the rolling waves. The sea breeze is brushing mildly against her dark, wavy hair as her brown eyes focus upon the footprints along the sandy beach ahead of them. “I’m okay and life’s been great.” Norman lies as he thinks back to those depressing days that he had to face without seeing Deanna anymore back then. He wanted so much to tell her how he had missed her but he just cannot get the words to come out of his trembling lips. He may appear as calm as the blue sea ahead of them now and that although staying in a boarding school has made him to be stronger than who he was back then, he cannot deny that there is still that old nervous feeling left within him whenever she is near him. “That’s good.” Deanna nods. “I heard that you moved to a boarding school.” Norman nods slowly. “Yes.” “And just look at how you’ve changed!” Deanna finally turns to him smilingly, looking at him from head to toe. “Have I?” He stares back at her in amazement and a thought occurs to him how she looks more beautiful than ever in her soft-pink floral dress that she is wearing now. “I guess I have….” He whispers, almost to himself before he bows his head to see the foaming seawater washing over their feet. “Yes. You certainly look less shy than before. And just look at your appearance!” Deanna almost exclaims excitedly. “Very impressive, indeed!” She stares down at his denim jacket and the brand-new pants. “I did this…” He sounds hesitant at first. “Yes?” Deanna leans closer in curiosity. Deanna tries to hide a smile seeing a tinge of blush colouring his cheeks. “I did this… all because of you….” “Because of me?” Deanna looks mildly surprised. . “Yeah. Remember how you told me last time to lose the metallic shirt, to take off my specs… to give myself a new appearance?” Norman looks at her expectantly. Deanna just laughs. “Yes. So I guess you took my advice seriously, huh?” Seeing her laugh so carefree like that makes him want to laugh too. “Well, I thought it was a brilliant advice.” Deanna laughs again as they keep on treading upon the wet, dark sand underneath them with waves splashing upon now and then. The soothing sound of the waves combines harmoniously with Deanna’s laughter creating an enchanting piece of music to his ear makes his restless heart feels at rest. He throws a long gaze at the calm blueness of the ocean ahead. The dimming sun is hanging low upon the saffron-hued sky as if preparing its bed for nightfall will be drawing near. “And how about you? Everything is going well in your life, I hope?” Norman asks after a moment of silence between them. Deanna nods. “Yes. I’m fine and everything’s going great although nothing really interesting ever happens except for this music competition we’re having at the prom this end of the year.” “Prom?” “Yes. Will you be coming?” Norman sinks into a thoughtful silence before saying with a voice barely above a whisper, “I don’t think so. I don’t think it will be… appropriate.” “Why not?” Deanna looks at him. She stops walking at once. “Don’t you want to meet your old friends again?” Norman does not dare to meet her eyes, however. “I think it’s better if I stay away from that school.” “Is it….” Deanna sounds uncertain to continue, “… Is it because of what happened? Is it—is it because of the poem being aired on the school radio…?” Norman spontaneously lifts up his eyes to meet hers. For a moment or two, he is speechless. He looks away again, suddenly feeling himself haunted by that dark, old memory again that has caused him such great humiliation… as well as depression…. “I—I wish we could forget about the past, you see. I’m starting a new life. And I just want you to know that it was the past. I swore I didn’t mean to humiliate you in front of the whole school like that….” “I know. I know it was actually Dave’s doing, right?” Norman glances swiftly at her. “Please don’t get the wrong idea, Deanna. The poem actually means nothing. I understand if you’re awkward about it. Believe me; it’s more awkward for me too. The—the poem is just a poem… nothing more. It really doesn’t mean anything, you know. I moved on. You’re just—you’re just some other ordinary teenage crush I had while I was in the secondary school. It—it’s no big deal…. ” He hears himself sighing deep inside him. Deanna stares at him in silence as if to search for a particular truth in his awkward face. “Oh. I see.” She sounds unexpectedly in despair but he can never be certain. “It’s because of that incident that made you moved to another school, isn’t it?” Deanna suddenly asks. Norman stares at her in silence as if in awe. “You know you shouldn’t run away from your problems. It’s not going to solve anything.” “You don’t know what happened.” “Oh really?” Deanna begins to cross-fold her arms onto her chest, looking at him straight in the eye. “They said you went to a psychologist. You were having problem, weren’t you?” “Oh yeah?” The tenderness in Norman’s eyes seems to be gone away replaced by a sudden glint of dull solemnity. “I wonder, what else did they tell you? That I had gone crazy and died of suicide and that they made a joke out of it?” There is an aura of bitterness in his slow voice. “You know they didn’t mean that way….” “I can’t understand how people can judge a person without ever knowing that person. Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever felt like people misjudging you—that people don’t understand you like they are supposed to? Don’t you just hate it?” The words slip off impulsively from the bottom of his crestfallen heart. She just listens, however as if trying to understand the woe that he has been keeping inside his sensitive heart for so long. “Yes. I guess that’s human nature. We can’t expect people to have the same minds as us right?” She finally speaks up. “Norman, I’m sorry for the way they treated you back then. It was very unfair, I know. They don’t have the right to make fun of you that way… especially about your meeting a psychologist….Is it true? Did you go to a psychologist?” She asks with a softer tone. Norman joins in the silence of the atmosphere that is embracing them. The beach is becoming more deserted with more and more people gradually leaving the seaside as the day wears on. “Yes….” He slowly speaks, “…Yes, I did… but still that doesn’t mean I’m crazy.” He throws a steady gaze at the open blue sea ahead. “Why is it that people tend to label a person who’s gone to a psychologist as one who has gone crazy? Why is it people tend to overlook the goodness in people and focus on their bad side?” He asks, sounding frustrated. . “I told you, it’s human nature….” Deanna says cautiously as she stares at his wavy, short dark hair being brushed against by the fierce sea breeze that keeps blowing once in a while. “… But I don’t think that way. I don’t think you’re crazy at all.” Norman looks at her in reverence as if he has never heard anyone saying such a thing like that to him before. She sure is different than the rest…. He silently thinks with tender fondness within. “I’m just wondering whether your problem…” She bows her head for the first time, “… whether your problem has got to do with me….” She finally looks up with the most heartfelt ray shining in her beautiful brown eyes that almost breaks into his guarded soul. “No… no, of course not, Deanna. Why—why would you think…?” “No. No, please listen to me. Don’t act like that—as if everything’s fine. It’s not. I will feel much guiltier than I already am.” She interrupts quickly. “I know I haven’t been the best neighbour to you and I regret it. I mean, we could’ve been friends as we live so near to each other but instead….” “No, it’s not your fault. Please, don’t blame yourself.” Norman almost begs. He tries to look away. “I was shy back then—really, really shy. I didn’t blame you. You were really being a good neighbour by trying to strike a conversation with me whenever we met but I never did try to return your friendliness in a correct way. As I said earlier, I was too shy—too shy to even speak a word. I guess the blame is on me—not you. You’re a nice person, Deanna… always is and always will be.” He smiles as they begin to continue their long walk on the beach. “It isn’t only because of what had happened in school when my poem got aired on the school radio in front of everybody….” He tries hard to be casual although at the thought of the old memory stirs back the biggest humiliation he has ever had. And he cannot help wondering how on earth he has gathered the courage to face Deanna and to confront Deanna about it just a while ago after what has happened when he saw her last. The valuable strength that had matured him after living an independent life for years and years back in the boarding school must have had done him good. “Then what is it?” “It hasn’t got to do with you or anybody. Just between my mom and me.” He finally blurts out after a moment or two. “You and your mom?” “Yes. You know I’ve always been passionate at writing and that I’ve always wanted to be a successful writer someday.” Norman inhales the fresh air of the ocean breeze slowly as he gazes at an eagle flying low in the orange sky above the surface of the darkening sea. “It became a habit for me to write whenever the inspiration strikes.” “Inspiration?” Deanna flashes a fleeting quizzical glance at Norman but Norman feels that he has to look away. “… Yes.” He slowly nods. “I wrote about nature, about life, about beauty, about feelings, about love….” He steals a glimpse of Deanna beside him who is looking down at the sand that almost sinks their feet beneath. “I wrote about almost everything and it made me feel the happiest to express it all through poetry. Poetry, to me, is something more than just a few stanzas of words. It is filled with mysteries like this ocean ahead of us….” They both look up at the sea ahead of them. “… Under that calm surface of the sea, there are full of secrets—full of beautiful God’s creation of the shoal of fishes and other beautiful sea creatures. They actually bring meaning to life, you know like how it is with poetry. Behind those poetic words in a poem, there lie a thousand and one stories behind it waiting to be revealed. The phrases may be short but they can mean just enough about how the poet feels. I’ve never been the most talkative person but I voice it all out through poetry and it happens to be a very effective way to express how you feel inside. It’s like a remedy… one of God’s greatest gift….” Deanna just smiles at him tenderly. “That was… beautiful.” “I’m sorry.” Norman blushes as he lowers his head. He gives the most sheepish smile but the smile soon fades away as soon as he looks up again. “But my mom… she didn’t think of it that way. She was a nurse, you see. She could never understand about my passion for writing. She wanted me to be a doctor. She wanted me to make a lot of money and lived a guaranteed comfortable life rather than spending the rest of my life writing which would not guarantee me a comfortable wealth like a doctor would.” “Your father….” “My father….” Norman exhales his breath, suddenly feeling heavy. “… He left us when I was twelve. He was an artist—a really great artist….” He smiles dreamily at the sky. “My mom never approved of him painting and always tried to find a way to make him stop painting. My mom didn’t try to understand him. They always had a fight because of that. They never got along well with each other until that one cold, rainy night, my father got tired and fed up of it all that he chose to leave us without even saying a goodbye.” “Norman, I’m sorry….” “You needn’t be. It’s not your fault. And I don’t blame father, either. That night before he left, he told me to always take good care of mom and me. I asked him why and he told me that we could never predict the future. Then he hugged me like he would never let go and kissed me on the forehead repeatedly. I saw there were tears in his eyes but I just kept quiet, didn’t entirely understand what was happening. He slept by my side the whole night and the next morning when I woke up, he was gone.” “Norman, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have brought this topic up….” “No, that’s really okay. It was the past, you see. I’m already over it.” Deanna can see behind that phoney smile of his, there remains a piece of his shattered heart within him. “Anyway, like I said earlier, my mom didn’t approve of my writing so I always wrote my poems discreetly behind her back… until there was one night, she accidentally saw my penning my poem inside my room. I had never seen her being so mad before. She even tore off the paper with my poem written on it….” “Oh my God, that’s… terrible.” “That’s not all. As if I haven’t got enough misery already, the next day, I heard my poem was on air through the school radio without my consent….” His voice lowers into a feeble whisper. “And everyone in school was giving me a hard time over it.” He thinks about Eddie for a second before he shoves the image aside. “It did not take long before I became the laughing stock of the school. I felt like I couldn’t face anyone especially you. I felt really humiliated and ashamed of myself. And mom wasn’t much of a big help, either. I thought that I should really give up writing after what had happened. It was as though the whole world was against me—against my wish to write that I got so depressed I even went to the extent of ending my own life….” “Norman, that’s not the way….” Norman nods before looking at Deanna straight in the eye. “Yes, yes I know that’s not the way… thanks to you.” “Me?” “Yes, you. Remember that night how we sat in the moonlight? How you told me to follow my heart like what you did when your parents were against your playing the piano?” Norman smiles. “So I did. I didn’t give up. I followed my heart. I listened to it. And I knew that I never wanted to quit writing. Writing was my life. I tried to explain it to my mom but she wouldn’t understand so we decided to see a psychologist to solve the conflict between us.” “And…?” “And that settled everything. My mom realised everything and began to get a clearer picture of it. Our relationship has grown so much better after that.” “I’m so glad to hear that….” Deanna offers her warmest smile. Norman smiles back. “Thank you, Deanna.” “Oh, you shouldn’t thank me. I was talking crap that night and I didn’t really know what I was talking about. It was really late at night and….” All of a sudden, Deanna feels she is losing in her own storm of nervousness that she finds herself trembling in her words at the sight of him smiling at her. She is surprised at herself for feeling such a reaction. “You did give great advice.” Norman grins. “So I suppose you’re still playing the piano?” “Yes.” “Good to hear that.” Norman thinks about the last few days when he just got back from his boarding school. The first sound that greeted him when he first stepped into his house was the sound of her piano singing to the dancing of her ladylike fingers. At the sound of it, his weary face after the long journey home then broke into a calm, nostalgic smile. “How about you? Do you still write?” She asks suddenly. Norman looks away from her to the worn papers in his hand. He sighs. “What’s that?” She gestures to the papers in curiosity. “It was just… some poems…” Some poems about you… he wants to say but finally chooses to keep himself wrapped in silence. “Poems? Your poems? Oh. Are you about to throw them away into the sea?” Deanna wrinkles her smooth forehead and quickly grabs the papers from his hold. “No, no, I’m not going to let you throw away your poems! You told me that you’d follow your heart. You told me that you’d never quit writing and that writing was your life. Why is it now that you want to throw them all away?” Norman watches the tenderness upon her fair face while she silently reads every poem written on the papers. He sighs. How can he tell her? How can he tell her that he is about to throw the poems away in an attempt to forget everything about her—to forget every memory they once shared even for a brief moment? “Moonlight Sonata….” She finally looks up at him. “The poem… you haven’t finished it yet?” “There’s no use finishing it. It’s full of crap. I had been so foolish. Besides, I haven’t got any inspiration left to write….” He sighs deep within him. “I thought it was beautiful… when it got aired on the school radio…. I thought it was a pity that it was not finished….” Deanna stares into his eyes that make them lock eyes for the longest moment. “… And now, I still think it is….” It is as if there is a heavy lump stuck inside his throat. He does not know what to say that he finds himself staring into her beautiful eyes: Over the tears… of the silent departure… After all the years… of sweet torture… here I am falling again… under those mesmerising eyes… harder… As she is brought closer… to my side… with flow of inspiration… drawing the curtain close… to yesterday’s heartbreaking sight…. It is as if the flash that has been dead within him for years without seeing her now revives back to life in such a brief, miraculous moment. He cannot help feeling awe in the presence of this ordinary yet special girl walking by his side now. “You have such beautiful poems, Norman….” They are beautiful because you were my inspiration…. He keeps on staring yet the words still remains unspoken. “… And I don’t want you to quit.” She continues. “Yes, I got an idea!” She almost shrieks suddenly as she stands before him with a rush of excitement “Oh my God, oh my God, Norman, this is so great!” Before he knows it, she goes leaping up and down with her wavy hair sways excitedly above her shoulder like an eager child who just got the best birthday present from the parents. “What is it? What is it?” Norman cannot help smiling to see her in such an ecstatic state. Deanna, he knows, has always been the most vivacious girl and there is no wonder she has always been in the limelight wherever she goes. It’s like there’s always this aura of ease that she spreads to everyone she meets like a magnet…. “Well, you know, our school will be having this end-of the-year prom in the new year’s eve. And we have this music competition going on during the prom….” “And you’re in it?” Norman guesses. “Yes.” She says happily. “I thought of performing the most spectacular performance with my piano. I’ve already composed the music but right until now, I still can’t make out the lyrics….” “So…?” Norman raises an eyebrow. “So, I just thought I could use one of your poems to fit into the song, could I? Please? Please, Norman?” Deanna shines her beautiful, imploring eyes upon Norman that makes Norman feels weak in the knees. “Yes, yes, sure. Why not?” Norman agrees straightaway. “Really? Oh Norman, you’re the greatest!” The thought of Deanna ever holding him in her arms sounds beyond possibility to his maturing mind but that it just what she did as soon as those words slip off swiftly from her cherry-red lips. He is struck dumbfounded as he lets himself being wrapped about by her slender arms in her grateful embrace. He has dreamt about this numerous times when he lies awake on his bed during those lonely nights but he has never known that it would feel this heavenly. He wish he could stay there in her arms forevermore but the moment only lasts briefly as soon as Deanna realises what she is doing. “Oh. Oh my God. Sorry. I didn’t mean….” She pulls away and takes a step backward awkwardly. Norman can see her fair cheeks flushing pink. “That—that’s okay.” He tries hard to act as if the embrace does not affect him at all. “So, um, which poem of mine are you interested in to be the lyric for your song?” He tries to change to another topic to lighten the uncomfortable atmosphere between them. “Definitely ‘Moonlight Sonata’!” She answers happily without even thinking twice about it. “’M-Moonlight Sonata’?” Norman sounds surprised. “Are… Are you sure? You’re not embarrassed about had happened when it got aired on the school radio…?” Now he sounds very much uncertain. “Why would I feel embarrassed? I—I think that was very romantic of you….” Again, her cheeks begin to redden, “I mean, it’s in the past, you see. And besides, didn’t you tell me that you moved on already? And that I was just some other ordinary teenage crush you had while you were in secondary school?” Deanna stares again at him with the same innocent brown eyes. “Come on, Norman! It’s no big deal!” She pats her hand on his manly shoulder laughingly. “We’re now buddies aren’t we? Let me make it up to you after all those times of being silent neighbours.” “But—but why? The poem isn’t finished yet….” “Exactly!” Deanna snaps her finger right before his bewildered eyes. “That’s one of the reasons why I want that particular poem to be the lyric for my ballad. I think it’s the most beautiful poem you’ve ever written. Don’t you think it will be a pity for leaving such a beautiful poem as that unfinished?” “But, Deanna….” “Huh-uh. I have already made up my mind. And besides, you just said yes, didn’t you?” She grins playfully. “Very clever, eh?” Norman grins back. “Meow!” Deanna is taken aback at the feel of Garfield’s soft coat of fur caressing against her feet continuously. She cannot believe she almost forget about Garfield’s presence there. Slowly yet carefully she lifts up Garfield and lets his feline frame rests on her arms. “Hello there, little buddy. I’m sorry that we’ve forgotten all about you. Oh honey, we’re really sorry, aren’t we, Norman?” Deanna smiles fondly at the cat. Norman can only smile seeing his most beloved cat, looking at ease under the care of his most beloved girl’s arms. He can never wish for anything more. “Thanks, Deanna… for taking care of Garfield while I was gone.” He finally says smilingly. “Huh?” Deanna blinks at him as if she does not know what he is talking about.” S-sorry…?” The clueless expression upon her sweet face tickles him. “You know very well just what I’m talking about, Deanna. You don’t have to keep it as a secret no more. Mom told me all about your sneaking Garfield inside your house to feed and play with him while I wasn’t around.” He laughs. Deanna laughs sheepishly. “Oh. Sure. Don’t mention it.” Just as she turns around to the wide sea ahead, she almost cries enthusiastically, “Oh look! It’s sunset!” Norman spontaneously turns to the same direction to witness the most breathtaking panorama he has ever rested his eyes upon. There ahead of them far across the sea, the yellowish-orange sun is landing low upon the invisible horizontal line that separates the ocean and the sky above. There seem to be faint orange-hued streaks smears across the dimming sky as if the sun is leaving its momentary scar for remembrance to the abandoned sunset sky. The fading sun sinks lower and lower each second as it casts a massive shadow upon the serene, undulating surface of the mysterious sea. The light of the day wanes as the weary sun begins its tranquil sleep beyond the drawing curtain of nightfall. “Isn’t it the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?” Deanna breathes slowly with her captivating eyes glued to the scenery ahead of them. “Yes….” Norman whispers as he stares at her, instead of the sunset that is before them now. “You know…” Her cheerful voice now lowers down into the most crestfallen voice. “You know, I’ve always imagined Eddie and me watching the sunset together….” Norman looks away as he feels his heart is thrown onto a dreadful bed of thorns. “Eddie…? I guess you two are still together, huh?” Deanna slowly nods. Norman searches for any cue of happiness in her face but he finds none—only heartbroken sorrow. “Yes. We’re still together. Oh I don’t know. I’m not so sure now. We’re together yet so far apart. Do you know what I mean? It’s like there is a gap between us although we’re together. Although we’re a couple but I don’t think he really understands me. He never cares about spending time together with me anymore. He doesn’t find it pleasurable or rather, fun to have a long walk at the beach, to watch the sunset or the sunrise together or even just have a picnic or a dinner or even just sit at the beach together watching the sea. I’ve suggested all that a million times, you know, to spice up our relationship but he never did approve of all that. He thinks they’re boring and that he’d rather go to the shopping mall with me or watch a movie but I don’t think it can make us feel any closer by doing all that, don’t you think so? Besides, I don’t think it’s romantic, too.” She sighs. “Maybe he and Eliza are right. Maybe I am too much of a hopeless romantic for anyone liking. Perhaps I’m too naïve and dreamy but one can’t prevent one to keep on dreaming, right? I mean, I’ve always dreamed about all those romantic things since I was a child. It’s like some kind of faith that I’ve always believed in and wished for them to come true. But I guess, I’m too much of a fool to believe all that. I guess they only happen in the fairytales. They’re indeed too good to be true. But wouldn’t it be splendid if they were to come true, Norman? I mean, it doesn’t do me harm to believe in them, does it? I just… I just want to be romanced and to be swept off my feet like a girl should, is that so much to ask?” Deanna finally lifts up her glimmering eyes toward Norman’s gazing eyes. He sees glitters of secret hope and yearning in those wistful, innocent eyes of hers. He wish he could just throw her into his arms and stroke her face gently right at that very moment and shield her rose-tinted dreamy eyes of the world away from the cruel taint of reality. If only it were that simple… he sighs. “Garfield!” Deanna’s surprised voice hurries him from his daydream back to touch the solid ground of reality. He watches as Garfield suddenly leaps from Deanna’s hold onto the sandy ground and eventually runs to a crowd of people dancing cheerfully under a shelter of a huge white tent not very far from where they are standing. There is also a fancy stage standing proudly ahead of the crowd. Upon the stage, there lay a tall, creamy pinkish-white cake upon a round table that is decorated with white dahlias and long ribbons wrapped elegantly around the table. Beside the cake, there is the bride in her finest white dress and veil dancing with the bridegroom, looking impressively dashing in the tuxedo upon the stage. They are dancing with such carefree spirits to the lively music coming from the speakers from all four corners, without having a care to the world around them. “Wow… look at that. Isn’t it the most perfect wedding ever to have on a beach?” Deanna says dreamily, staring at the crowd who are clearly having the time of their lives dancing the night away with their respective partners. “I mean just look at those people’s faces and especially the couples. I really envy the bride and the bridegroom. I wish my wedding would be as romantic as that….” Deanna carries on still with the dreaminess that never leaves the tone of her voice. “I mean, just imagine, you and your ideal partner dance by the sea with waves splashing on the shore, the wind blowing coolly on your skin, and the….” “Would you like to dance?” Norman interrupts suddenly with a smile as he holds out his kind hand toward her. “Huh?” Deanna blinks at his open hand. “Come on, I know you want it.” Norman smiles knowingly. “I mean, I can’t let you keep on wondering and imagining how it feels like to have a nice dance at the beach for the rest of your lives, can I?” Deanna’s bewildered face then breaks into a smile as she reaches for his offering hand… and his heart is secretly blooming with rosy hope…. “It’s the nicest and the most touching song I’ve ever heard….” Norman comments as soon as Deanna’s long fingers cease dancing upon the piano keys. “You really think so?” Deanna smiles as she turns away from the piano to Norman who is sitting on a stool chair beside her bed inside her room that fine Wednesday afternoon. It is one of those days when Deanna asks Norman to accompany her to practice the song she composed on the piano for the music competition that is going to be held soon. “Yeah. It sounds movingly tragic yet peaceful at the same time. It’s a wonderful song.” Norman compliments sincerely before he looks around the cosy room. The room is like any other typical teenage girl’s room he has seen on television—with the celebrities’ posters pasted upon the pink-painted walls, the make-up table, and the girls’ magazines—only that the room he is in now is tidier—the tidiest room he has ever been, in fact. “It’s not just a song. It’s a ballad.” “A ballad!” “Yes, a ballad.” Deanna nods. “I composed this song long ago on that rainy Thursday when I thought about my deceased grandfather.” “Oh. I’m sorry. You must’ve been very close to him.” “Yes, yes I was.” Deanna gazes out of the opened window ahead of them. The sun is shining brightly behind a few fluffy white clouds in the blue sky above. “He was a wise man who would always give me advices about life—about what it’s all about. Although I couldn’t really understand what he was really saying as I was still a small child, but I still kept on listening to him as though I understood. It was like he had this aura of authority about him that made me looked up at him. Or it could be that he would always talk to me as if I were a grown-up. I enjoyed being with him because I felt that he could understand me in a way I could not tell. It was as if he could understand me in silence, I don’t know. I still remember how he would always try to defend me whenever I got bullied by my older cousins. I knew they were just jealous that I had always been the closest to Grandpa. And there came that dreadful day… I could still remember the date. It was 3rd December and I was only eight when he got a heart attack in his sleep. I cried the most. I was still a child and I had already experienced what it was like to lose the person you loved. It was really, really painful. I couldn’t eat for days. His death left me badly shaken. I remember how I dreamt about him coming to me every night after his death. He was in this white dress and his face was really radiant. He smiled at me in the dream. And before I could call out his name, he was gone….” Deanna bows her head before looking back at Norman with a tender smile. “So, you see, I’m dedicating this song especially for my late grandpa. And I just want what’s best for my performance at that night for Grandpa’s sake….” “I’m sure you’ll do great.” Norman solaces with a warm smile. “You’re a nice person, Norman. And I’m glad that we’re friends. I’m sorry for all those times…” “We’ve promised not to talk about the past, haven’t we?” Norman reminds, smilingly. “Yes, okay.” She smiles. “Now, have you finished with the lyric?” Norman sighs.” No, not really but I’m going to finish it soon, believe me. Also, I’ve picked up the tune of your song and I think my poem will fit perfectly into the song.” “Really? That’s great!” Deanna claps her hand happily. “Can you sing some of the lines for me?” A moment or two later, the silence of the room is broken again at the sound of Norman’s manly, mellow voice singing the lines of ‘Moonlight Sonata’ beautifully. He seems to be internalising the song from within his heart just by the soulful look he has upon his handsome face. Deanna stares at him in awe as his melodious voice melts into her eardrum gently yet meaningfully. She almost trembles and finds her knees weakening at such perfect smooth masculine voice singing the lines of the poem so romantically. “You—you have such a beautiful voice….” Deanna is almost breathless as soon as he stops singing. “Has anyone ever told you that?” “Uh, no…?” He scratches his head awkwardly. “Norman, you can really sing. I’ve never heard such a beautiful voice like yours. Maybe… Maybe….” Deanna gives him a secretive smile. “Oh no! Oh no—not that crazy idea of yours again!” Norman stares at her in horror. “But you have a voice, Norman. Maybe you’re the one who should sing, instead of me. My voice isn’t really as good as yours and I think your voice fits perfectly well to sing my ballad. It’s going to be great!” “But Deanna…!” “Norman, you have a talent. Don’t waste it. I know it’s going to be great. I will play the piano and you will sing—oh, what a perfect combination! This is just so great!” Deanna exclaims in wild excitement. “But, Deanna… please do listen to me. I—I don’t think I can bear facing everyone in school again after what had happened before I left for boarding school….” Deanna falls into deep silence all of a sudden as she stares at him. “Yes, yes I know how you feel, Norman but it was a long time ago, you see. It’s been almost three years and I’m sure people have already forgotten about it, don’t you think so?” “But….” “Listen to me, Norman. Even if they do remember you, who cares? Who cares what they think when you have this great talent inside of you to show it off to them. You have a voice, Norman and God gives it for a reason and that is to show to the world—to show to them you’re much better than them… that you can sing better than any of them… that you’re not afraid of them. You can’t hide from them forever, Norman. This is the time for you to rise. Besides, you have my support and I’m going to be there, too. Won’t it be enough?” Norman just stares silently at Deanna as if he has just seen an angel. Perhaps, she has been his angel all along for she has done nothing but miracles to his lonely life since her presence in it. “Will you do it, for you—for me…?” He can see a twinkle of hope glittering jubilantly in those brown eyes of hers and he does not have the heart to watch it fade away just like that so he finally nods his head slowly. “Thanks. I knew I could count on you.” He feels the warmth of her hand overwhelming his as she squeezes his hand in hers. “We’re going to be a great duo!” She holds both her hands up in the air optimistically that makes Norman cannot help but smile. “Deanna, your mom has been calling you at the top of her lungs from downstairs! I thought you didn’t hear so I hope you don’t mind my barging into your room like this! Just what were you doing in your…!” Eliza’s words trail away just like that as soon as she opens the door to Deanna’s room all of a sudden. Eliza looks fleetingly at Deanna before her disbelieving eyes glue upon Norman who is sitting by her side. Her jaw almost drops at the sight of Norman being in Deanna’s room—of all places! “Um, hi, Eliza….” Norman greets awkwardly with a weak smile. “H—hi…” Eliza stammers, still in shock. “Norman…?” “Oh my god! Is that really Norman—the shy boy in our school last time?” Eliza asks keenly as soon as Deanna leads her to the grassy compound of her house where they sit on a garden bench to have a private talk. “Yup. That’s him.” Deanna says simply. “I can’t believe it Deanna! He has grown taller and more handsome! I can’t believe it was him! How did he do it anyway? And how come you’re friends with him now?” Eliza asks, not bothering to hide the curiosity that is apparently overtaking her emotion. “I mean, as far as I know, even though you two have been neighbours, you guys have never been really close with each other and…!” “Eliza, can we not talk about the past? Things are different now.” Deanna rolls her eyes as she watches a bee buzzing around a nearby azalea. “Different? How different?” “We’re good friends now. I’ve always wanted to make it up to him for being such an ignorant neighbour to him back then. I regretted it.” Deanna sighs. “So he’s not shy anymore? He looks more confident to me now and that is so attractive plus with that tall, manly body of his and the handsome face—oh my God! He looks so great now! I can’t believe how much he has changed from a shy boy into this handsome gentleman!” Eliza says dreamily. “And now you’re saying a crazy guy attractive?” Deanna says sarcastically. Eliza just rolls her eyes. “That was back then, you see. Didn’t you say you don’t want to talk about the past just now?” “I’ve already made up my mind about my partner for that music competition.” “Oh yeah? Who?” “Norman.” “Norman?” Eliza is clearly shocked that she almost shrieks. “Yes—and that is my final decision. I know no one sings and writes lyrics better than Norman—not even Eddie, just in case if you’re wondering.” But—but… everyone will be expecting you and Eddie to perform. And if Eddie found out about this, he would be offended, you know….” “Who cares about how he feels when he doesn’t even care about how I feel each time he’s too busy to spend time with me nowadays?” “You know that’s not true, Deanna.” “Of course it’s true, Eliza! You’re my friend, how can you not believe me! I’m tired of people including you thinking how Eddie and I make a cute couple and how we’re happy together when the fact is it isn’t! I’m tired of him giving the same excuses why he cannot spend a lot of his time with me! I’m tired of people’s expectations, Eliza! I’m really tired of everything!” I just want to be alone with my piano… with someone who truly understands me… like… Norman…. Norman looks around the room that is filled with cages of abandoned stray cats and dogs. He has walked numerous times around the square-shaped room along with other people with their families and children just watching the poor animals looking back at them with such sad innocence in their eyes as though to beg the visitors to bring them all home under a safe shelter away from being trapped in the cruel cages. Norman looks at every single of those big, innocent eyes looking back at him A surge of sympathy flows over him to see such harmless creatures being locked inside the cages, God knows for how long until they meet their owners who are willing to bring them home, if there are, at all. As his wild eyes are hunting for a particular one among the sad, lonely creature behind steel bars before him, he stops as soon as his eyes take in the most beautiful Siamese feline inside a cage at a corner. “Meow!” The cat with beautiful greyish fur mews charmingly as she sweeps the steel bars of the cage with her gracious feline body. She looks really friendly for a stray cat and Norman cannot help wondering if she used to have an owner. “May I help you, sir?” A girl of early twenties appears beside him from out of nowhere. “This cat….” “Yes, that’s really one lovely Siamese cat. The owner left it here just last week. Poor little adorable creature to be left here in this kind of place, don’t you think so?” Norman nods. Sometimes he cannot help wondering sadly how people can have the heart to abandon their pets in a middle of nowhere when, they too, after all, are living beings on this earth which deserve to be loved and cared for like a human being does. But what else can he do? He cannot expect people to have the same opinion as his. Different people have different views and that is what makes us all unique in our own ways. The world will be a boring place if people were to expect having the same mind as another, Deanna used to say. He smiles at the thought of Deanna as he stares admiringly at the lovely pair of sky-blue eyes of the cat. “Do you think it’s suitable for a gift?” “Oh. You’re going to have it as a gift for someone? To a very special girl, I suppose?” The pleasant-looking girl just smiles teasingly. “It’s indeed the best gift ever! Such a beautiful cat as this will make the perfect gift for her especially if she is an animal-lover. I assure you that she will like it.” “Okay. I’ll take this cat.” Norman confirms finally without a doubt. As soon as he walks outside of the pets’ shelter, he cannot help smiling as he walks along the row of shops with a cage and the Siamese cat inside it in his hand. He is walking pass a pharmacy before he suddenly pauses on his track to see a familiar-looking guy holding a sexy-looking girl close to his side like a pair of lovers. He watches quietly as the happy couple enters the outdoor restaurant ahead of him. He takes a step forward to take a closer look at the tall, handsome guy. He observes his face and gradually an air of familiarity about the guy’s face recalls him to someone in the past, Oh—did you hear that? The shy boy sounds mad—so scary! … By the way, I think poets are such weirdoes to come up with such mushy phrases and all. Oh—please! Give me a break, won’t you? He flinches as he recognised the guy as Eddie. He almost cannot believe his eyes as he witnesses Eddie kissing the laughing girl lightly on the lips before they sit down at the far end of the restaurant. Impulsively, Norman walks hastily but steadily into the busy restaurant. He holds his fist close by side the whole time, sharpening his stare at Eddie who seems to pay no heed of the world around him but the girl sitting before him now. “Norman? What on earth are you…?” Norman does not let him finish his words as he lets his ready fist hits Eddie right on his panicked face. The blow makes him fall off the unsteady chair and finally onto the cold tiled floor of the restaurant. The atmosphere of the packed restaurant falls into dead silence as all stunned eyes especially Eddie’s date’s focus on Norman alone. “What the hell…?” Eddie blinks at Norman as he wipes away the thick-red blood flowing from his lips. Eddie is no longer staring at the timid, shy guy Norman was back then but standing before him now is Norman looking undoubtedly more self-assured than he saw him last. “That is for Deanna!” Norman raises his voice in fury. He does not care if he has drawn all attention to him for he only wants justice for the way Deanna is being unfairly treated. “You clearly don’t deserve her!” Before the owner of the restaurant can even have a warning word or two with him, Norman has already walked off from there. “Deanna!” Norman looks concerned at the sight of Deanna sobbing by herself on a bench in front of her house as soon as he reaches home. “What happened?” He quickly sits beside the heartbroken girl. “It—it’s Eddie. He—he cheated on me with another girl!” Her trembling voice shakes with tears. “I went out with Eliza just now to do a little shopping at the shops and then—then I saw him with another girl walking side by side along the shops! He was kissing her, Norman! He was—right in front of my eyes!” It hurts him so deeply to see her once gay face streaming with hopeless tears. Without even saying a word or even having a second thought, he holds her close by his side as he lets her head fall onto his offering shoulder. And to make the day seems dearer to him, she never pulls away…. “Bravo! Bravo! You did it perfectly!” Deanna claps her hand eagerly as soon as the sound of the piano dies down along with the fading of Norman’s harmonious voice. “We did it perfectly.” Norman corrects her smilingly. “Okay, we, whatever! Oh I know it, Norman, I just know it! It’s going to be great! Just you and I and we’re going to the top of the world!” Deanna holds up her hand high in the air with an excited grin as she turns away from her piano towards Norman who is sitting on the same stool chair beside her. Norman cannot help but laugh at her light-heartedness. “Well, I don’t know, Deanna. Don’t get too excited. After all, it’s just a competition….” He shakes his head. “No, it’s more than a competition.” Deanna’s brown eyes stare right into Norman’s. “You are going to surprise them all with your excellent singing!” “I don’t think my singing is that good…” “Of course it is! Oh—don’t be so modest, Norman. Be proud of yourself, for once!” Deanna slaps his knee playfully. Norman smiles as if his smile can have no ending. Just seeing Deanna smiles and how she is in a jolly mood at the moment makes him feel over the moon, too especially after her break-up with Eddie last two weeks. “Okay, let’s do it again.” She suddenly announces, breaking his reverie. “Why don’t we take a break for a while, Deanna? You’ve been playing the piano for hours. Aren’t you tired?” Norman says gently. Deanna sighs. “Yeah. I guess I am. Ah, I can’t even lift up a finger now!” Norman just laughs. “Anyway, I’ve sneaked inside something for you since your parents aren’t around today.” Slowly as if to create an air of suspense, Norman holds out an average-sized brown box from under Deanna’s study table. “What’s it?” Deanna bends closer towards the shaky box inquisitively. Just then, a Siamese cat of a perfect feline frame jumps out of the box onto Deanna’s lap. “Hey, it’s the Siamese cat you bought for me the other day!” Norman watches as her eyes light up instantly at the sight of the loving cat. “Hello, Anneliese! I’ve missed you so much!” She holds up the feline with both hands before letting her cuddled in her arms again. “You call her Anneliese?” Norman shots up an eyebrow. “Yeah. What’s wrong with it?” Deanna wrinkles her forehead. “I think it’s the most romantic name ever, isn’t that right, Anneliese?” She fondles the greyish fur of the female cat lovingly. “Man, you really are officially a hopeless romantic!” Norman laughs jokingly. Deanna rolls her eyes. “Hah, you’re mushy yourself too—what with the soppy phrases of yours in all your poems!” “Hey! Reminds me next time to figure out the ugliest words ever the next time I write a poem about you!” Norman kids. Deanna slips her tongue at Norman mischievously. “Okay, okay, fine, I give up.” Norman finally surrenders laughingly. “Anneliese, it is, if that’s what you want.” Deanna finally breaks into a kind smile as she keeps on running her dainty fingers upon the furry Anneliese who is falling asleep comfortably upon her lap. “Thanks, Norman for Anneliese. I’m sorry that you have to take care of Anneliese for me. You know how my parents are….” “Hey, that’s really okay. I’m glad you like her. I don’t mind taking care of her for you at all. Yes, I know your parents disapprove having a pet in the house but I also understand how fond you are with cats. I can’t bear seeing your yearning for a cat of your own each time you see me playing with Garfield next door….” Deanna smiles warmly. “Oh yes. Where’s Garfield?” “He’s been sleeping all day long, that fat, lazy cat,” Norman sighs, “Or else he would’ve loved to come here especially with Anneliese.” Norman leans closer to Deanna to whisper in her ear, “… I think Garfield and Anneliese are very much attracted with each other, you know….” He winks an eye. Deanna laughs. “Oh really? Isn’t that interesting…?” Deanna can hardly believe that this witty, fun-loving guy who is sitting before her now is really her timid, shy neighbour back then to whom she hardly speaks to. And now, here they are, talking, joking and laughing with each other inside her room, careless to the world around them. And before she can even stop to realise what is befalling between them, they have instantaneously become the best of friends and that his awkwardness within her presence gradually fades away. Deana cannot help thinking how funny it is that they should be close at this very period when they have been living next to each other practically all their lives. Just when she is on the verge of losing faith in love over Eddie, she is blessed with the most heartfelt friendship she has ever had throughout her living in the warm presence of Norman. God, why hadn’t we known each other earlier? Why now? She finds herself questioning. Well, better now or never…. She smiles as she listens to every single joke of his. She knows now that underneath that quiet, shy, awkward exterior of his, there lays a charming yet sensitive guy within with the most loving heart. “Hello, guys! May I join in?” Both Deanna and Norman turn around to the door to find Eliza in her best pink blouse and a pair of jeans standing in the doorway with the widest smile ever. “Hello, Norman? May I join in?” Eliza says sweetly as she walks into the room to sit next to him. “As usual….” Deanna rolls her eyes. “What do you want, Eliza?” “Oh. Of course I’m here to give some moral support while you guys practice your performance. Oh as if you’re not used to having me here whenever you guys have a practice! Have you guys done with your practice already? Am I late today?” Eliza looks concerned but Deanna just rolls her eyes at her. “I don’t think we need your moral support every single time we have practice at my house. We get on fine by ourselves.” Deanna cannot seem to hide her annoyance. “Norman, just look at how ungrateful Deanna is! I’m just trying to be a good friend, that’s all….” Deanna stares sharply at Eliza touching Norman’s muscular arm on purpose. Norman smiles awkwardly while Deanna just shakes her head in despair. She knows very well that the reason Eliza wants to be there is to be closer to Norman who is looking more handsome day by day. Deanna thinks of the times how disgusted Eliza was at the shy, clumsy Norman back then. And now, she can hardly believe Eliza is trying to seduce him after the drastic, impressive change on his appearance recently. Well, she is not actually jealous, is she? Deanna thinks wonderingly. “So I guess you still write poetry, Norman?” Eliza asks with a sweet smile. She draws her face nearer to Norman’s. “Well, yeah.” Norman nods. “You like poetry?” “Oh yes! I think poetry is a lovely form of art!” Eliza says. Deanna looks at her sharply at the corner of her eye. She knows Eliza is just trying to sound pleasing to Norman just by the fake eager tone of her voice. “So, Norman, why don’t you show me all your poetry works to me one day?” Eliza asks. “Oh. Sure. But it’s at my house.” “Your house?” Eliza’s eyes twinkle spontaneously. “I don’t mind going to your house one day, do you? I mean, we can just hang out together talking or maybe a few drinks along the way?” “Oh… uh, sure, okay.” Norman says awkwardly. Deanna, who is getting tired of feeling left out in the conversation by Eliza, finally rises from her seat with a heavy sigh. “Where are you going, Deanna?” Norman asks before she can even take another step to the door. “I’m just going to make some juice and slice a few oranges.” Deanna replies lazily. “Oh… that’s very thoughtful of you, Deanna.” Eliza comments before she twirls her eyes back at Norman, “… So Norman, as I was saying….” Deanna is slicing a few mandarin oranges upon the cutting board in the kitchen when she hears the sound of Norman laughing and Eliza giggling like hyena echoes from her room upstairs. Deanna groans as she unintentionally hits the kitchen knife hard on the cutting board, slicing the orange into half. Another laughter and she hits the kitchen knife harder on the board with a thud as though she wanted to break the cutting board into two. Great. Just great. He’s having the time of his life with my best friend inside my room when we’re supposed to practice our performance. I’m the one who should be in that room laughing with him now—not Eliza! Her forehead creases as another loud thud thunders across the silent kitchen. “Whoa, whoa there, Deanna, enough with it already! Are you going to kill that cutting board or something?” Eliza’s high-pitched voice makes her almost jump as she turns to Eliza who is standing at the kitchen entrance, looking down at her with an astonished gaze. “Oh. Hi, Eliza. I thought you were….” Deanna fakes a sweet smile. Eliza begins to walk up toward her. “Yeah, I was with Norman. I thought of coming downstairs to get some plain water for Norman and me.” Deanna gives her a look that makes Eliza says carelessly, “… I don’t think we want to drink some syrup juice. They say plain water is much healthier.” Eliza moves to stand beside Deanna as she pours herself two glasses of plain water from a jug upon the kitchen table. “Whatever, Eliza.” “Deanna? You’re not actually jealous, are you?” Eliza suddenly asks. Deanna turns to face her best friend’s doubtful expression on her olive visage. “Jealous? Why would I be jealous?” Eliza lifts up her shoulder. “Oh I don’t know. Is my company a bother to you?” “No! God, why would you think such a thing?” Deanna frowns. She then picks up the slices of oranges scattered on the board and put them onto a plate. “I don’t know, Deanna. You don’t seem to like it when I come here to see you and Norman practice. You’re not actually jealous of Norman and me, are you?” Eliza looks at her straight in the eyes as if to search for a kind of certainty to satisfy her undecided mind. Deanna burst into a laugh as if Eliza has just cracked the most absurd joke. “Of course not, you silly! You know very well that Norman and I are just friends! We’re just best friends not more than that. Just best friends—just best friends!” She repeats as though to convince herself. Gee… I have to remind myself that more often…. She hears a voice inside says. “Oh—what a relief! I knew you’d say that!” Now it is Eliza’s turn to laugh. “So of course you won’t mind if I say that I just asked him out for a date at the prom, right?” “You—what?” Deanna almost loses hold of the plate of oranges. Seeing again the hint of astonishment upon Eliza’s face makes Deanna tries to calm herself down. “Oh—I mean, uh, um, so, what did he say?” She cannot simply conceal the rising curiosity inside her. Eliza reaches a shiny red apple from a basket of fruits nearby and takes a bite. “He said he’d think about it.” “Oh.” “I know he’s going to say yes—I just know it, you know!” Eliza suddenly exclaims excitedly. “It’s just that he’s too shy to say it. Aww… isn’t he just adorable, Deanna? He’s also romantic, you know. Just now he recited to me a poem by William Words-something—oh who the hell cares about that, anyway? You know, I’ve never really been interested in poetry but oh—it’s just that he’s so irresistibly handsome—one can so easily fall for him!” Eliza breathes deeply. “God, Deanna, I think I’m in love!” “In love?” Deanna lifts up her stunned face. “Yes, in love—for the first time ever….” “But what about Aaron?” Eliza’s pink face falls as she thinks about her long-lost boyfriend, Aaron. “You know he’s now my past, Deanna. Yes, sure, I loved him once but I can’t go on waiting for him all my life, can I? Don’t you think it’s time for me to move on? I deserve to be happy, aren’t I?” Eliza smiles. “And I think Norman is just the perfect guy for me. He can actually open up my heart after all the years of suffering without having Aaron around. Aaron was my first love and he would always be. Now, let’s talk no more of the past. It’s a brand new day!” “I’m—I’m glad that Norman’s presence makes you realise that.” Deanna squeezes Eliza’s hand gently. “I know a lot of guys out there trying to woo you but you never give them a second glance. Norman must be a very special guy.” Deanna veils her secret heartbreak within with a warm smile pastes on her tender face. Eliza sighs happily. “Very special, indeed….” There is a momentary silence between them as all kind of different thoughts running through their respective minds. “Now, enough about my love life. How about yours?” “Mine?” Deanna blinks. “Yes, silly!” Eliza slaps her playfully on her best friend’s back. “Nah…” Deanna heaves a sigh. “You know, Eddie has been asking a lot about you…” Deanna groans heavily. “Who cares?” She looks away. “There’s this rumour going on that he already broke up with that girl….” “So?” “He said he regretted his mistake, Deanna. He really did. He feels really bad after what happened. He still cares, you know. He wants to make it up to you. He wants to get back together with you again....” “You know that’s not going to happen, Eliza,” Deanna says simply. “It will happen… unless there’s someone else….” Eliza stares at Deanna. Deanna tries hard to avoid her stare. “Someone else? Of-of course not, Eliza!” She sounds unsure, however. “Frankly, I have to say this, Eliza. I have this kind of emptiness inside my heart for so long. I don’t know why, I can’t describe it but it hurts sometimes. I can still feel it even when I was with Eddie back then. Until now, I still haven’t found that very special guy who can actually fulfil this emptiness inside me. I know maybe that sound corny but that’s just exactly how I feel. I need someone who can sweep me off my feet completely… who can make me feel romanced… who can make me feel whole….” Deanna expresses with pure candour. Before Eliza can even manage to say something in reply, Norman appears at the kitchen suddenly, “Hey, what took you guys so long? Perhaps, I can offer some help?” He smiles kindly. Spontaneously, Deanna turns away from Eliza toward Norman in awe as if Norman has hypnotised her from head to toe. Deanna can almost feel the sweet warmth of his smile as sweet as the wholeness that is quenching her heart that has been empty for too long. For the first time in her life, just seeing him there all smiling at the doorway of the kitchen, she feels a sudden mighty breeze of love has just swept her off her feet… and she is on earth no more…. “Deanna, hey, wait up!” Before Deanna can even manage to close her door at the sight of Norman running breathlessly into her half-closed house gate, Norman is already there right before her, blocking the door from being shut by her. He is breathing hard from the constant running yet he can still manage a bright smile. “What, Norman?” Deanna’s lazy voice sounds oddly cold but Norman does not seem to mind at all. “You won’t believe this. I just wrote the best poem ever! You know how I hardly write poetry nowadays but the idea suddenly ran smooth late last night….” “Uhuh. So…?” “I thought of making it another verse in ‘Moonlight Sonata’. It would be great!” Deanna has never seen him being so excited before for Norman has always been the calm and quiet type. “Okay. Great.” Deanna replies indifferently. “Bye.” “No, wait. Don’t you want to hear it?” Norman quickly pushes back the door when Deanna tries to close it again. Norman lowers his eyes when Deanna looks up at him in surprise. “I—I understand if you’re not free now but I thought of reciting the poem to you. Please… it would really mean a lot to me.” The cold apathy in Deanna’s eyes softens at the hopeful ray shone by Norman’s glimmering chocolate-brown eyes. Deanna sighs. “Norman, please, this is already hard for me.” Norman looks up at her quizzically. “What do you mean, Deanna?” “Norman, I….” Deanna pauses as she tries to figure out where to start. “I think I will appreciate it if we don’t spend time together a lot anymore. You don’t have to come to my house anymore. Maybe it’s best that we don’t see each other anymore.” Norman stares at her in disbelief. “Deanna, what—what are you talking about?” Deanna takes a deep breath. She never knew that it would be this hard. “Eddie and I… just got back together....” She finally announces. “What? No, no, I don’t believe this.” Norman shakes his head. “Deanna, can’t you remember what he did to you? He cheated on you! You saw him with that girl! He’s a cheater!” “Norman, he already broke up with that girl. He said he wanted to make it up to me. He said he needed me and that he’s willing to change.” “And you actually believe him?” A deep feeling of despair buried within his frustrated tone. “He lied to you, Deanna. Guys like him never change, can’t you see?” “It’s too late, Norman. We’re back together now and I don’t think it’s appropriate for you to come to my house anymore.” There is an imaginary wall of sternness that is guarding her hidden vulnerable feelings inside that leaves her yearning to break down right there and then. “But our practice…?” “We’ve had enough practice, Norman. We’ve had enough.” Deanna manages a smile. “Anyway, it’s a pity that I can’t have a look at your new poem but that’s okay, we’ll wait until our performance at the prom, won’t we? In the time being, I will practice playing the piano more often while you keep on working with lyric. I’m sure it will turn out great. Oh—and there’s Eliza! You can discuss everything with her and she’ll tell me all about it. She’s a really good advisor, I tell you. She only wants what’s best for her friends, I can guarantee you that. Besides, I can see how well you two get along with each other. I think you two will make a cute couple. And some advice from me, you will never regret if it if you were to be her boyfriend. She’s just great, believe me!” Deanna winks an eye to the clueless face of Norman. “Oh, speaking of her… that’s her all right!” Deanna looks above Norman’s shoulder to find Eliza standing right in front of Norman’s house gate. “Come on, go to her! She’s calling you now! You promised her that you’re going to show your collection of poems to her today, remember? Go now, silly! Don’t let her wait for you forever! ” Deanna urges acutely. “And oh yes, before you go, there’s one more thing. You don’t have to take care of Anneliese for me anymore. I don’t want to burden you. I ought to take care of her myself since I’m her rightfully owner.” Deanna laughs nervously at Norman’s solemn expression. “It’s okay if that means I have to have her at my house. Of course I can’t hide her forever from my parents, can I? I’m just going to face their punishment calmly. They’ll be mad at me, of course but it will pass sooner or later.” “No.” Norman silences her as he suddenly places his hand on Deanna’s. “Let me take care of her for you. Doing anything for you is never a burden to me. I gave her to you. It’s not your fault that you should be punished by your parents. And that above all, I can’t bear to let you being scolded and punished by your parents. No, I can’t let that happen to you….” His soft, heartfelt voice touches her heart quietly yet sweetly. “Norman!” Eliza’s voice finally breaks the eternal-like eloquent stare that unites both their immersed eyes. “But, Norman….” Deanna cannot seem to go on. “Please, Deanna. I’ll do it for you.” “Norman!” Eliza sounds impatient now. Norman looks behind him at Eliza who is waiting for him with annoyance before he turns back to Deanna. “Just go, silly! I wish you happy with Eliza. Now, go!” Deanna pushes him lightly on his arm. “Goodbye, Norman.” “See you at the prom, okay?” “Of course!” Deanna laughs in spite of the heartache within. “Now, go to her!” She watches as Norman walks away hesitantly toward Eliza who still has not moved an inch from where she is standing. Deanna keeps on watching as both of them begin to have a chat before falling into a friendly giggle. She watches again as Eliza links her arm fondly though Norman’s before they both enter into Norman’s house, side by side. Deanna closes the door shut behind her before she falls weakly on her knees like the tears falling slowly yet hard upon her cold cheeks, savouring the pain of a wretched heart inside… with her sweet pretence finally broken…. Deanna treads slowly upon the soft sandy shore that gloomy Saturday afternoon. She has been strolling along the quiet beach for hours now since morning yet she still cannot let go of the dreary pain that is slowly creeping upon her lonely heart. She takes a look around the solitary beach before casting a long gaze at the calm sea beyond mirroring the murky sky above. She watches the grey clouds above begin to soar in a snail’s pace upon the overcast sky. She knows there is going to be a heavy downpour soon but she does not move an inch to seek for shelter. All she desperately needs at the moment is the tranquillity that the atmosphere of the beach is offering her now. “Hello.” A friendly voice greets her from behind. She turns around to find Norman walking up to stand beside her. “What are you doing all alone by yourself here?” Norman asks after his heedless ‘Hello’ just now. Both of them are facing the wide sea ahead now as the fierce breeze blowing coldly against their skins. “Seeking some peace….” Deanna finally lets herself reply after a while. She does not dare to meet his eyes. “And you…?” “Same.” Norman answers shortly. “I haven’t seen you in a while now. And you hardly ever touch the piano now, it seems.” “I did….” “Only once in a while—not as often as you used to. If you did play, you only played all the sad tunes.” Norman comments as he finally turns to look at her. “I know you’ve been feeling sad nowadays, Deanna. And I want you to know that if there’s anything I can….” “How do you know I’m feeling sad?” Deanna interrupts. “Because I just know.” Norman looks away back to the sea again. “Because I always listen to the sound of your piano. It’s something I look forward to everyday. I’ve always been listening, Deanna and I’m willing to listen if you only tell me what is bothering you. I will be there—as a friend.” Norman waits patiently for her to respond which takes almost an eternity but when she finally speaks, he is in vain to find that she is trying to change to another topic, “How’s Anneliese, by the way?” She asks. “She’s good.” “And Garfield?” “He’s good, too.” “I’m glad.” “It’s because of Eddie, isn’t it?” Norman finally lets out what he is dying to ask. Deanna spins her head toward Norman who is staring at her with an unreadable expression. “Eddie? What has Eddie got to do with…?” “It’s because of him that you’re feeling sad, isn’t it? He’s been neglecting you again lately, isn’t he?” There is an aura of self-assurance in his sharp tone. “No, he’s not!” “Oh yeah? Where is he now?” Norman fixes a stare upon her but she tries hard to avoid his intense stare, instead. “He’s supposed to be here for you. He’s supposed to spend time with you right now—especially when you’re feeling blue at this very moment.” Deanna is silent again. She does not want to admit it but she knows he is right. “Anyway, how’s Eliza?” “Eliza… she’s a good friend.” Deanna does not know why but she feels herself sighing in relief deep inside at his simple answer. Just then, before they can even manage to continue their heart-to-heart conversation, the greyish sky above begins to pour a shower of drizzle before evolving into a steady, heavy rain falling hard upon the sandy earth. A white lightning cuts across the grey sky followed by a booming clap of thunder echoing through the quietude atmosphere of the deserted beach. “It’s raining!” Norman cries as he reaches spontaneously for Deanna’s already soaked hand. He takes off his dark jacket and begins to use it as a shelter from the ceaseless raindrops while they make their way through the wet sand towards the nearest empty hut, hand-in-hand. “No, please, wear the jacket. I don’t want you to catch a cold.” Norman refuses when Deanna hands him his jacket as soon as they step into the small hut. “But how about you?” “I’ll be fine, don’t worry.” Norman says out loud to compete against the noisy pattering of raindrops upon the rooftop of the hut. Deanna watches him shivering in the chilliness of the rainy weather beside her and she feels moved. Slowly and carefully, she covers the big jacket against their both trembling bodies that makes Norman turn to look at her in awe. “I don’t want you to catch a cold, too.” Deanna says simply with a tender smile. Norman keeps on staring at her wordlessly in the midst of the rain. The sound of thunder, of the raindrops beating against the roof, of the fierce wind raging around them outside of the hut—every single sound now seems a million miles away from his ear. His heart stirs at the warmth of her breath and he is enthralled at the sound of it. Despite the rainstorm that is surrounding them, he feels like it is just the right place for him to be at that very moment and he is sure of it… in fact, he never feels so sure in his entire life before, being a shy person he is. The loud drumming of raindrops upon the roof that shelters them from the storm reminds Deanna of the loud, fast beating of her own heartbeat—louder and faster still at the sight of his face drawing nearer and nearer to hers. Norman looks tentatively into her staring doe-brown eyes he so adore then to her trembling moist red lips. He pauses. “Deanna, I—I….” “You have never kissed a girl before, haven’t you?” Deanna whispers with wistful eyes. Norman shakes his head slowly and innocently with a quiver. “Well, let me be the first then….” Deanna smiles before she leans closer…. Those beloved eyes are staring Behind lies a sea of mysterious emotions The constant pattering of raindrops Beneath upon the sand Reminds me of the sweet beating Of a forlorn heart mend Her rain-kissed face draws nearer The love within intensifies every second Of this shared, intense silence Every sound of her urgent breath Played like the sweetest love tune Melodic yet intimate to my ear Underneath the showering grey sky A heart showering with great love The kiss she leaves upon my quivering lips So brief yet so sweet Cast a spell upon a heart lovesick Lands an eternal feeling of love its greatest gift In her eyes I see now the sunrise Rising in the violet sky And the rainstorm beyond Just dies…. “Please....” She places a forefinger upon his cold lips when she finally pulls away. “Don’t… say… anything….” A moment thereafter, she has already disappeared from there, vanished from his blurry sight amid the pouring rain… leaving behind a heart wholly conquered by love…. Norman watches as the audience before him staring back at him in amazement. Among the slow-dancing crowd before the stage, he sees all the familiar faces of which he has left behind a few years back for boarding school. Amongst them are those who used to laugh and sneer and look down on him and now there they are looking astounded more than ever to see him now standing tall and proud upon the stage with a microphone in his hand in the midst of the celebratory air that enlivens the end-of the-year prom that jolly Saturday night. “Here is a song I wrote sincerely from the bottom of my heart…” He finally speaks through the microphone as the school hall suddenly falls into pure silence. All eyes are upon him now—captivated at the air of confidence revolving about the dashing gentleman on the stage, forgetting the shy, nervous boy he was to them back then. Norman turns slowly to Deanna who is sitting before the piano upon the grand stage with him. “And I’m dedicating this very ballad to this very special girl who has taught me so much about life, about inspiration, about true friendship, about love….” He pauses, still staring at her as if he will not let go of her forever from his sight. “… And the most important thing is, she has taught me the greatest life’s lesson ever and that is to always listen to your heart in everything that you want to strive for in life. It is because of her that I’m standing before you all now. It is because of her that my inspiration never runs dry. It is because of her that I want to be a better person. It’s because of her that the unfinished ‘Moonlight Sonata’ now is completed this very night. And it’s because of her, too, that I’m singing this song tonight… this is… ‘Moonlight Sonata’….” Norman watches her moving face looks away to the black grand piano before her. Her delicate fingers rise in the air before they fall back onto the piano keys gently. A moment thereafter, her fingers begin to dance rhythmically upon the piano keys, creating a familiar slow melody—to the sweet wonderment of others in the quiet hall. Norman lets the romantic voice of the piano touching every heart including his very tenderly in the spacious hall as he keeps observing the absorbed pianist. He watches with enthralled eyes as she slowly nods her tender face to the lingering heartfelt melody, clearly feeling the melody at every musical note. Slowly with his eyes upon the beautiful pianist before him, his heartfelt voice finally airs in the serene ambience, blending harmoniously with the singing of the piano as every word spoken secretly leaves a deep lasting scar upon the pianist’s heart: “The way she goes Amid the sea of those Such mesmerising beauty Like a white swan Moving through the surface glassy Of the calm river Her air of sweet elegance Carries with her such splendour A colour dazzling Enliven every greyish scenery And those doe-brown eyes Glimmering jubilantly Like the rippling surface of the sea Reflected by the brilliant sunlight that never dies... Her delicate hand Caressing the feline With such touch so divine A touch as divine Leaving a lad with a torn heart behind Her graceful silhouette In the soft moonlight Her velvety hair The colour of midnight Waving to the whispering wind Her moonlit visage Embellished by such rosy beam So dazzling Like jewels in the darkness Such heavenly beauty Do remedy A love-filled heart In sweet secrecy... The downpour from a single tear rain the empty days before Watching her depart for the last With a world so dead through the dark curtain of sunset... Over the tears of the silent departure After all the years of sweet torture here I am falling again under those mesmerising eyes harder As she is brought closer to my side… with flow of inspiration drawing the curtain close to yesterday’s heartbreaking sight Those beloved eyes are staring Behind lies a sea of mysterious emotions The constant pattering of raindrops Beneath upon the sand Reminds me of the sweet beating Of a forlorn heart mend Her rain-kissed face draws nearer The love within intensifies every second Of this shared, intense silence Every sound of her urgent breath Played like the sweetest love tune Melodic yet intimate to my ear Underneath the showering grey sky A heart showering with great love The kiss she leaves upon my quivering lips So brief yet so sweet Cast a spell upon a heart lovesick Lands an eternal feeling of love its greatest gift In her eyes I see now the sunrise Rising in the violet sky And the rainstorm beyond Just dies…” A shower of congratulating greetings and high praises as well as friendly hand-shakes pouring profusely over him at the backstage as soon as the performance ends with the liveliest applause from the dazzled audience. Norman feels lost amid the smiling faces that are crowding around him as his eyes are frantically searching for Deanna who is nowhere in sight. “Hey man! I can’t believe this is even you! You’ve changed so much, Norman!” Dave suddenly appears before him just when he finally succeeds in struggling away from the crowd. “Buddy, I’m so proud of you! Congratulations—you did it!” Dave pats him playfully on the back. Come on, let’s have a drink. I’ve missed you after you went away for boarding school, you know!” “I’m sorry, Dave.” Norman looks apologetically at Dave. “I’m sorry but this is hardly the time. Have you seen Deanna?” “Chill out, man. Why you look so worried? Come on, enjoy this moment! You’re a star now in this school! Man, I didn’t know you have a voice! I envy you, you know. All the girls are drooling over you now, you know. Look at them now all smiling at you.” Before Norman can even make an attempt to walk away, Dave slides his arm around his best friend’s neck and spin him around in the direction of a group of giggling, gorgeous-looking girls nearby who keep staring smilingly at him. “Dave, please, I don’t need this. I need to see…!” “See me…?” Suddenly Norman finds Eliza standing beamingly right in front of him. She looks impressively stunning in her glittery black velvet evening dress but he does not seem to notice the beauty before him for his eyes are entirely blinded by his love for another. “Eliza, I…!” “Yes…?” Eliza leans closer to him. “Congratulations, Norman. You sang very well. I’m really impressed. How about a dance to celebrate?” She takes another step closer. “Eliza, I—I….” Norman does not know what to say to ensure her tender feelings will not be hurt yet he also knows that it will be unfair if he does not voice out. It is now or never. There is no other way than to say, “Eliza, I’m sorry.” He feels suddenly relieved at the release of the secret incubus within his heart. “You’re a wonderful girl, Eliza and I’m sure you will find a better guy who actually loves you for the way you are. I’m really sorry, Eliza. I really am….” Norman says with the most apologetic expression upon his sad face as he lets his hand slowly and gradually slips off hers before walking away to where his heart belongs…. “Deanna!” Norman calls out almost out of breath as soon as he finds Deanna’s slim figure in her midnight-blue dress standing at a secluded balcony. Her loose wavy dark hair seems to be waving to the slow rush of the night breeze with her shapely back still to him. He watches her shoulders trembling as she throws a long gaze upon the starlit sky with both her hands rest upon the railing. “I’ve been trying to you look for you all over the place…” Norman continues when his call is left unheeded. Deanna finally twirls her head around to face him with tears streaming upon her moonlit face—to Norman’s great concern. “Deanna, what happened?” Norman quickly walks up toward her. “I—I broke up with Eddie….” She finally declares after much struggling with the uncontrollable flow of tears. . “I just broke up with Eliza, too….” Deanna looks up at him in utter amazement. For a moment or two, she seems to be speechless until, “… I’m glad….” Norman just keeps on staring at her, astonished at such an answer. Deanna quickly looks away. “I—I’m sorry I said that….” “No, don’t pretend you’re sorry.” Norman quickly says. “I know you’re not.” As soon as he finds Deanna’s clueless eyes upon him, he finally clarifies, “…Because I don’t feel sorry that you broke up with Eddie, too.” He is standing right before her now with his rapt eyes staring straight into her watery hazel eyes. “These tears….” He begins to wipe the tears away from her tear-stained face gently, “… are they for me?” Deanna finally gathers the courage to cast her eyes away from his deep stare, realising how those eyes have the power to weaken her entire limbs. “Deanna, I beg you to look at me in the eye…” He takes her aback when he suddenly holds and shakes her both arms. “You know what we both want. You know it, don’t you?” “But Eliza is my best friend….” “Forget what everyone wants, Deanna! Tell me what do you want?” Norman asks firmly. “What do you want? Tell me! What does your heart want? What does it tell you? You told me once to always follow my heart and now, why aren’t you doing the same?” “You really want to know what I want, Norman?” Deanna suddenly breaks free from Norman’s hold in frustration to his shock. “You really want to know what my heart wants? You really want me to follow my heart?” Beads of tears begin to roll down her cheeks again. “I just want love, Norman. That’s all. I just want to be romanced. I just want all those romantic things to come into life. Call me pathetic or whatever but that’s just what my heart dies for. I just saw Eddie with the same girl kissing in a room. I guess I was too naïve to believe in all that fairytales. People have been telling me over and over again that I’ve got my head on the clouds. I guess love… is not as great as it seems after all. Those fairytales and everything romantic to the knight in shining armour is all just nonsense! Nonsense!” Deanna almost shouts despairingly to the silent night sky beyond. “No, they’re not.” Norman states finally with a stern tone. “And I’m going to prove it to you.” He reaches for her hand before he hastily leads her away from there to the beach that has witnessed their reunion back then. “Norman….” Deanna speaks softly as soon as they reach the dark, solitary beach together side by side. The sound of the booming waves wetting the sandy shore, the slow yet sweet murmuring of the wind, the musical rustling of the pine leaves swaying in the dimness enchant her heart as much as what she sees before her now. There is a red mattress spreads upon the sand a few metres away. There is also a bonfire beside the mattress, shedding generous light to the dim surrounding. Its yellowish flame blinking and dancing merrily to the rhythm of the wind, sprinkling glitters of sparks around like magical sparkles from a fairy’s wand. “Norman…” Deanna turns to him in wonderment. “What’s all this?” Norman just smiles wordlessly before he holds her hand in his and motions her to sit upon the red mattress near the warmth of the bonfire nearby. “I want you to close your eyes and just visualise what I’m going tell you.” Norman tells smilingly as he sinks close by her side. “Norman, what…?” “Just close your eyes. Don’t you trust me?” Deanna says no more as she begins to close her eyes slowly. Now Deanna sees nothing but darkness and hears nothing but the gentle splashing of the waves upon the shore, the steady whispering of the wind, the soft whistling of the leaves, and the far away hooting of an owl. Just when she feels herself calm by such beautiful sounds of nature embracing her, she starts to tremble at the sound of Norman’s gentle voice mellowing into her eardrum. “You are at the beach… all alone… so alone… with the wind blowing in the darkness of the night….” An image spontaneously comes into her mind’s eye as she pictures herself as a lost girl wandering at a beach all by herself, “… You walk along the beach aimlessly with this strange, painful hollowness inside your heart and all those heart-rending memories and past heartbreaks begin to haunt you again in your nightmares….” This time she thinks of her deceased grandfather, her parents who are so against her playing the piano… she thinks of Eddie… she thinks mostly of the speaker beside her now and somehow feels it strange to realise that his presence affects her greater than Eddie… she thinks about the tender feelings she feels every single time she is with Norman and of the fact that she is still feeling it now with him just sitting next to her… how she wants to hold him in her arms right at that moment… how she wants to revive back the kiss they both have cherished in the middle of the rainstorm back then… just when she feels like shedding a tear again, his voice is then heard once more… “Just then, a guy you so love with all your heart and soul appears out of the nowhere amid the darkness. He is riding a horse… a beautiful white horse… you hear the sound of the white house neighing and galloping nearer… and nearer to you each second. Moments pass by, and he is already standing before you now… and all your worries, your heartbreaks all gone away in a twinkle of an eye as his kind face filling your watery eyesight. You know deep within your heart that he really is the guy you’ve been waiting for all your life… the guy who makes your life worthwhile… the guy who will sweep you off your feet… the guy who will make you feel so whole… the guy who will make all your dreams come true… he is just the guy and you know it deep within your heart… you listen to your heart and it whispers, ‘Yes, there he is. I love him. I love him so much.’” She almost cries as she realises deep at the bottom of her heart that all she can imagine the mysterious guy to be is Norman himself—she cannot deny it no matter how hard she tries. Norman’s voice is then on air again joining the wild roaring of the waves nearby, “… You see the guy smiles… and you feel your heart rises with such rosy hope when he holds out his kind hand. You reach for his hand without further thought as you smile back at him….” Deanna almost smiles to herself as she visualises it all, Norman taking her hand gently in his, “… Then he leads you slowly to a table clothed with red velvet with lovely kinds of food served elegantly and there is also a pair of pink candles upon the table lighting the shadows as brilliantly as it lightens the whole romantic atmosphere between you and him. He pulls out the chair near the table for you to sit upon. And he seats himself before you across the table as both of you prepare to savour the candlelit dinner just between the two of you in your own little world as if there is no existence of another being….” Norman pauses for a while as he keeps on observing the mesmerising beauty before him now in an imaginary world of wonder. His heart beats faster than he imagines just sitting a few inches away from her. He feels suddenly breathless. She is so beautiful when she closes her eyes…. He says to himself in great marvel. With his charmed eyes still cast upon the angelic beauty before him underneath the moonbeam of the night, he carries on, “… Both eyes lock together within the joint silence. You cannot take your eyes off him as you see his glittering brown eyes staring full of love just between the flickering flames of candles before you. From far away, you let yourself being serenaded by the songs of nature that besiege you—the music of the rhythmic waves, the slow whispering of the wind touching you gently upon the skin, the shrieks of leaves against one another and the sound of your own heartbeat… you hear them all as both of you relish in the scrumptious meals served and both eyes still glue on one another in an eternal-like silence….” Deanna sighs pleasurably at his poetic words forming the idyllic image in her mind’s eye so beautifully. She feels she is soaring to another world away from the cynical world of reality as his words go on enchanting her delicate soul, “All of a sudden, he rises from his seat and walks to you with a meaningful smile. He bends down on one knee right in front of you as he offers his inviting hand to you for a dance. You smile in surprise when you take his hand and feel the warmth of his lips lands sweetly upon your hand… He escorts you to an open space underneath a swinging dark, misty pine tree and he holds your hand tight in his as if he will hold you forever and so slowly, you feel your bodies begin to sway together upon the sand, leaving footprints upon the sand of the first and loveliest slow dance you have ever had in your whole life. His soulful eyes stare deeply into yours and all of a sudden, he recites a poem to you, gentle yet moving with such tender sensitivity like a true poet…” Before long, Deanna listens to Norman’s voice beginning to chant a meaningful poem in the silence. His breathy, mellow voice softens into her ear that she feels her heart almost melts at such a heartfelt tone as she has secretly been feeling all this while each time she hears him singing: “Beautiful dreamer, wake unto me, Starlight and dewdrops are waiting for thee; Sounds of the rude world heard in the day, Lull'd by the moonlight have all pass'd a way! Beautiful dreamer, queen of my song, List while I woo thee with soft melody; Gone are the cares of life's busy throng, -- Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me! Beautiful dreamer, out on the sea Mermaids are chaunting the wild lorelie; Over the streamlet vapors are borne, Waiting to fade at the bright coming morn. Beautiful dreamer, beam on my heart, E'en as the morn on the streamlet and sea; Then will all clouds of sorrow depart, -- Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me! …When he finishes, the stare of both eyes grow intense with hidden feelings of love yearning to be poured out…. Both of you pause. You tremble as you see his face nearing you moment by moment… Your eyes just stare into the tenderness in his earnest eyes… and then, you begin to feel the touch of his kiss upon your trembling lips….” Just then, Deanna feels his lips brushing lovingly against hers… she feels a sudden frisson at such an innocent, heartfelt touch so real…. She slowly opens her eyes with a heart thumping swiftly deep inside her… and she realises that the kiss was real. She looks at Norman staring at her with intensely tender emotion and she hears his sweet breath pouring mildly upon her face… and knows at that instance that he has just kissed her…. She almost laughs seeing Norman’s face now blushing pink, looking away in awkwardness. She just smiles at him in silence until he begins to break it, “So, um, do you like your fairytales just now?” Deanna smiles as she looks around the dimness that surrounds them. She realises that she is still at the same beach with Norman beside her upon the red mattress that he spreads upon the sand for both of them. The bonfire is still there nearby, illuminating the scene magically. The ceaseless sound of the nearby waves never stops. The gentle stroking of the wind can still be felt. The sight of the full moon accompanied by thousands of shimmering jewels standing out in the dark sky never fail to solace her love-filled heart. “You know what, Norman?” She finally turns him with a teasing smile. “I prefer this fairytale better.” Norman breaks into the gayest smile. “Well, I’m happy to hear that but I just want you to know that there’ll always be fairytales if you only believe it and make it somehow come true with your imagination. So long as there’s faith and imagination, you can make almost anything come true...” He suddenly arises before he holds out his offering hand to her. “Now, shall we make the fairytales come true? Will you have a dance with me by the beach under the moonlight?” Deanna takes his hand with a laugh as he helps her to stand on her feet. They hold hands then. Deanna lets his other hand rests on her slim waist while her other hand lies upon his shoulder. They begin to slow-dance to the soothing melody of nature all around them at the forlorn beach with a feeling of wholeness deep inside them no more haunted by despair, heartbreak or solitude. “Really, Norman, you don’t have to do all this, you know….” Deanna says softly. She feels safe and warm just being by his side. Everything just feels so right to her—everything just seems to befall at the right place, at the right atmosphere, at the right situation, at the right moment… “.. Just being with you is romantic to me—even in the most inappropriate situation.” “I just don’t want you to lose faith in something you believe in, that’s all….” Norman whispers back. “So tell me who you pictured yourself with in your mind during the fairytales?” Norman suddenly asks after a long, comfortable silence as their bodies move in a slow, mutual rhythm upon the softness of the sandy beach at that beautiful night. “No one you know….” Deanna flashes him the most secretive smile. “It’s me, isn’t it?” Norman smiles expectantly. Deanna rolls her eyes playfully with a smile. “Hah! Why would you think that?” “I know.” Norman nods smilingly. “I just know.” “It doesn’t matter who it is, Norman but all you can be sure of is that… I love you.” Norman smiles his greatest smile. He has been waiting for this moment to arrive for so long and now it is happening. He feels the world has become so whole with this special girl finally within his arms with the full moon as their witness beaming upon them from above as if to offer a blessing to the young pair of lovers. “I love you too, Deanna. Believe me, I’ve always loved you.” “You used to tell me that I was just some ordinary teenage crush you had while you were in secondary school. It was a lie, wasn’t it? I could tell just by the tender look you got in your eyes ….” Out of the blue, there is the sound of the booming fireworks sprinkling its glowing colourful glitters upon the starry sky. They both look up, revelling in the magical beauty displays above them as another year is born with a whole new world filled with promising hope and dreams waiting to be fulfilled. “Yes, Deanna. It was a lie. You were much more than just some ordinary teenage crush—much, much more than that….”