Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Short Story: If I Could Change One Thing

If I Could Change One Thing
by kaioucat
23 Feb 2011, 1.35 a.m.

Lenny woke up that morning even before the alarm clock rang. It was the fourth consecutive morning she woke up without the help of an alarm clock, a feat in which she took great pride, especially since she started her daily exercise regime at the park and her healthily balanced diet prescribed by her doctor. After brushing her teeth and washing her face with soap and water, she wiped her face dry and smiled at the image of her freshly awakened self in the mirror. She was beaming in a healthy glow.

It was her second month of pregnancy, and also the middle of what they called the first trimester. Both her husband, Will, and herself had been trying for this baby for almost two years before striking gold. The doctor told them that pregnancy at her age could be quite risky, but Lenny was doing perfectly fine so far. As far as Lenny was concerned, she had never felt better in her entire life.

The traffic that morning seemed to be playing along with Lenny’s good mood. By the time she reached the primary school where she taught, she still had time to read a few head stories on the day’s papers and reorganize her desk. The first period of the day was the English language, but there was nothing much to prepare for the class because it was show-and-tell day with a little spice added to the activity. Last week, Lenny gave the class an assignment to prepare a three-minute show-and-tell that must relate to the topic “If I Could Change One Thing In My Life”. She was eager to hear what the young minds of the innocent children in her class had come up with.

As Lenny entered the classroom, she could see that her students had indeed done their homework. The class was particularly crowded with belongings obviously brought from home for the show-and-tell. As everyone settled down, Lenny proceeded with her plan by asking for volunteers to kick-start the activity. A couple of short, eager hands shot up almost instantly, much to Lenny’s amusement because those were the exact hands she expected to see raised up. She called their names one by one – Jacky and Sam – and they each took turns to come in front of the class and shared ever so outspokenly about their assignment.

Jacky carried with him a small cage containing one very calm-looking guinea pig, which they all later found out was named Buzz. Jacky claimed that he wanted to change the colour of its fur from brown to blue because blue was his favourite colour. The class roared in laughter as Jacky revealed the other side of Buzz showing a blue coloured spot of fur, apparently dyed by Jacky in hopes to turn it blue.

Sam came up with a scroll in her hand, but instead of showing it first, she pointed to the sky and said she wanted the stars at night to be nearer so she could catch them and keep them in her bedroom. The class “ooh-ed” and “aah-ed” as she unrolled her scroll to reveal a picture of her bedroom with silver and golden star-shaped stickers all over it. Lenny actually thought that was rather imaginative of Sam.

As the two default volunteers finished their turns, Lenny scanned the classroom to choose the next presenter. Her eyes came to a halt at Little Fred, an introverted orphan who always seemed to keep to himself. His classmates never saw him any differently from the others. They just seldom talked to Little Fred because he never seemed to like to mingle. Lenny called out his name.

Little Fred sat emotionless for a while before realizing his name was being called. Without one trace of change in his expression, he stood up and walked slowly but steadily to the front of the classroom. He was empty handed.

Little Fred started to speak slowly in his soft voice, “If I could change one thing in my life…”, before pausing for a while. At this point, Lenny began to think this could be a bad idea because Fred could say he wanted his parents to be around, and that would be quite heavy for the other children to comprehend in their young age.

“If I could change one thing in my life”, Fred repeated. “I would choose not to be born”. Lenny’s heart dropped. The other children sat in silence, some in confusion, staring at poor Little Fred, whose eyes were fixed solidly on the floor beneath his worn-out shoes. Before Lenny could decide whether to interrupt, Little Fred took out a crumpled piece of photo from his right pocket and showed it to the class before continuing with his speech, this time a little firmer than before.

“She was my mother. She died while she was giving birth to me. Dad told me he hated me because of that, so he left me with Aunt Janet. I don’t think Aunt Janet likes me much either because she gave me to a house full of other unwanted boys. If nobody likes me, it would be better if Mother did not give birth to me so she could stay alive. I am sure Dad and Aunt Janet would be happy too.”

As Little Fred finished his last words, he continued to stand still, photo clutched tightly in his right hand, eyes back on the floor. The class was equally still and silent. It took Lenny a while to realize that Little Fred’s speech was over. Tears rolling down her cheeks, she lunged at Little Fred to hug him tightly. A few other children came up and gently stroke Lenny and Little Fred on their heads, as if to console them.

As Lenny knelt there hugging Little Fred, who also began to cry, she promised herself that she would do whatever it took to help Little Fred. She also promised herself that she would never, ever, let anything remotely close to this ordeal happen to her own child. At that moment, all of her exercise regime and balanced diet seemed far too inadequate. She had to do much more to make sure that her baby came to this world in good health and be given love from both the mother and the father. It was a promise Lenny whispered then and there to her unborn child.

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