Weekly Writing Challenge: 1,000 Words
by Chua Han Au
It’s now or never.
His daughter had done it once again. But this time, instead of filling herself with sleeping pills or intoxicating herself with chloroform, she chose to end her life in a suicidal jump.
She is a complexed child, or so her father thought. She was in fact, a child living in suffering, in darkness. She suffers from a condition known as achromatopsia. Her eyes, black as currant, perceived the world to be of shades of grey. Her life was dull; and is still. Her symptom was not known until the age of 6, when it was her father who first discovered it.
“Red,” Clara’s father, Keyon drawled.
“Red. Say it with me, reh-eh-ed; R-E-D,”
“— It’s grey,” Clara repeated.
“Let’s try another colour now shall we? What about this? Chrysanthemum. It’s yellow,”
“Yellow? It’s black,” Clara said cocksurely.
They tried all sorts of colours, ranging from the primary colours to the secondary colours. Yet, all Clara could see was just shades of obscurity.
Achromatopsia was not the only condition that Clara suffered from. She, too, suffered from a serious disorder known as Muscular Dystrophy. It is a disorder in which her muscles will gradually weaken as she grows. She can now only depend on her wheelchair for transport. She disliked crowds for she knew she’d be judged by her condition, and talked of behind her back. She used to love parties until she was mocked at, for being unable to differentiate the different colours of the balloons, during her 3-year-old birthday party.
Since birth, she had lost her mother and therefore, lived under the solitary care and love of her father. Unfortunately, single parented love is not beneficial for a child’s growth both emotionally and psychologically. She yearned for love from a mother. But due to her condition, no one liked her the way her father does. Her inability to walk made it difficult for her to complete simple things (in our perspective) such as bathing or even dressing up. All these shortcomings made her feel worthless and inconsequential. But yet, it cannot be denied that she was indeed a filial child. On every April the 8th, she’d get a birthday present for her dearest father. Be it a garland of flowers that she had made it herself or a simple cookie that she had gotten from school. She’d also do up a card, with the help of her teacher. In short, the father and daughter relationship was indisputably close.
As if to be condemned to live in a series of unfortunate events, her father had ageusia. However, his eyesight was perfectly normal and was able to differentiate the seven colours of the rainbow precisely. Her father, Keyon, was a pastry chef of good repute, despite his condition. He was well known for cake decorations and the fluffiness of his acclaimed blueberry sponge cake. For every cake that he decorates, he’d add a daisy fondant to it— his timeless trademark. His business was doing well, far more than he had expected it would be. Unfortunately he stopped when he realised his daughter had fainted from the suffocation due to fuel gases in his house. That was the first time.
It has already been three years since he last baked a sponge cake, or even the simplest cupcake.
But now, he told himself, “It’s now or never.”
“A simple sponge cake with your daisy fondant is what I call simplicity is beauty!”
It echoed in his ears like the call of the loon in a dark still night.
Tears of pure anguish and dolor flowed from the deepest wounds his heart could ever take.
His hand grasped the whisk, but it was no longer that old feeling of satisfaction or beatitude he once had. It was now a feeling of repentance. In that moment, he was living in self-denial. He took the whisk and whisked the mixture evenly and professionally. Tears threatened to flow once more as vestiges of his daughter helping him in the kitchen surfaced. Memories of making cakes together had been long gone; he could not bring himself to believe that he was now baking a cake for his daughter, without his daughter.
Cakes were a norm, or so he thought. Hence, he decided to add a little desert to spice things up.
Peppermint leaves with a dainty slice of his ostentatious blueberry chiffon cake and a dwarf-sized glass fully filled with iced almond milk latte.
That’ll be perfect.
15 minutes was all he had left, that was what Keyon approximated.
“Clara, here’s what Dad made,” Keyon passed his masterpeiece to Clara while shining crystals of pure sadness emerged from his canthus.
“Dad… why… why did you go through all the fuss for this? And why the tears?”
Keyon wanted to find an excuse to cover up his reason for tearing, but he found none.
He gaped and his throat was stuck from all the crying in his kitchen.
“I can’t… I can’t hold them remember?” Clara reminded her dad once again, but this time, patiently.
“Oh, right… care to have a bite? I’ll feed you,”
But as Clara tried to nod, her cheeks were starting to become livid; the flush from her face was instantly gone. Her eyelids shut and her skull, like a heavy ball of metal, fell against her right shoulder.
The unmistakable beep sounded and it punctuated Keyon’s thoughts. In that moment of despair, he felt completely lost, completely grief-stricken, completely hollow.
It had all happened too soon. Too infelicitous.
Why couldn’t there be one more moment for him to spare?
Why couldn’t he be given a chance to tell his daughter that it wasn’t her fault that she was born this way? She was sui generis, in his eyes.
Why couldn’t he feed his daughter for the last time?
“I’m… sorry—” briny tears made wet tracks down his rugged face and he lamented.
As much as tears blurred his vision, he noticed something flickering in the light.
It was some kind of reflection; something was in her hands. Something that she had planned to give him, but failed to do so.
As he removed the blanket, he saw a photograph, one that he knew was definitely hers.
On the back of the photograph, there was a message written with Keyon’s fountain pen:
After so many years, he finally felt genuine warmth; he finally smiled. He, too, uttered something which seemed to be: “Thank you for a last memory”.