"Come here Malin,you're not having fever,are you?"

Malin jerked away, not fast enough for Mak Eton's reach on her forehead. She made every quick body gestures possible to portray an instant denial.

"That's my girl..I'll make you a nice glass of winter melon drink right after this,would you like that?"

"Uhuh!" Malin nodded like a choking old machine.

"But not until you finish your meal. Now eat up," Her smile followed her tender words,ever so soothing it always is Malin's cure of pain.

"Malin dear,how have you been doing at school?"


"Unnecessary repeat,you heard do you find school?" Mak Eton pinched the girl lightly on her nose.

"Um,it's fun," said the girl,giggling.

"Really? I'm happy to hear that,well have you made lots of friends there? They're all lovely aren't they?"

"They're lovely,they all are,"

Malin stopped chewing. A sudden change on her face caught Mak Eton's attention.

"Listen to me my dear,I want you to grow up a graceful young lady. And I want you to be brave too,you know that?"

Mak Eton embraced the child into her arms.

"I know you love school,don't you?"

"I love school!" The child snapped in.

"Well that's good,that's good," Mak Eton nodded in pure expressions of satisfaction.

Malin's words died away for the second time. A slight unclear sign of disappointment.

"Malin..." Mak Eton held her tight. "You'll see one day,that I'm telling you the truth. You'll grow up good,and you'll find friends all around you. Be good to everyone around you,it matters not if they treat you the same,but it matters most for you to bear this in mind;you understand me?"

There's no other safer place in the world for the little girl except where she was then.

"Mak Eton,why can't I go out and play with friends? Why not even-"

A humming noise near the living room brought Malin to a halt. Mak Eton hurried to the passageway.

"It's fine Mak Eton,I'll carry this upstairs. Malin,have you finished your homework?"

Malin Struggled for words in between her gulps.

"No,not yet,"

"Get it done,then come back down for dinner. I have plenty of things to talk about."

"Yes mum,"

The lady threw her an unexpected smile,too unexpected Malin failed to resolve herself into a reaction germane to her mother's gesture,as if she was studying and exegesis of a hundred torturing pages long,which in turn transformed her into a completely fatuous looking stranger. It lasted but not for long before Marlia turned away,her attache' case swung back and forth in an easy oscillation.

Mak Eton and Malin looked at one another,their eyes met in an interval only a couple of seconds following the first glance.

Why her mother smiled,she knew not. But it served the little girl a better non-deliberate obfuscation for the day. Perhaps. Malin dragged herself upstairs into her room again and closed the door gently behind her. She stood holding her head up by the chin,looking out across the window into the darkening dusk skies. The sun shamed away into cool hugs of the clouds,and somewhere across,the moon peeked out to bless pale rays of shine on Malin's complexion.

"Alex-I'm sorry,I really am,"

Mulling over,her thoughts travelled a greater distance than her feet could ever carry her. Where it met Alex's.

The boy bestrode on a tiny chair for ten minutes and shifted when he felt a slight cramp on his back.

Tomorrow I'll meet her again after school and it will all be fine again! He whispered in no doubt to himself-a benison,together with it a hopeful tireless grin.

"What?" replied Alex, obviously too far away to hear Malin's soft squeak.

She held up a finger to her best friend, "One minute", it's supposed to mean. She quickly put on her outside clothes and ran down the stairs, stopping at the bottom to check if Mak Eton, her maid was around. After confirming that she was nowhere in sight, she apprehensively opened the door to see Alex already waiting right on the doorstep, sitting with his back towards her.

"What took you so long?" said Alex with a grin as he turned to face his bestest friend.

"What are you doing here? Do you know how much trouble I'll get into if my Mom found out? How did you get here anyway? And how did you get here so fast?"

"Whoa, aren't you gonna invite me in first?" Alex said as relaxed as ever, the grin still there.

Malin took his arm and raced with him upstairs. Just before she could close her room door, a voice from the kitchen said "Malin? Aren't you going to come here and eat? Mak Eton made your favourite."

"Er, maybe later Mak Eton. Right after, er, I finish my homework," said Malin unconvincingly as she closed the door.

She exhaled in relief, only to see Alex jumping on her bed.

"Come on Malin, join me!" Alex said as he bounced on the pink and white floral motif of her bed.

"You can't do that!" Malin now with her pale skin suddenly turning a bright red. "Get down from there right now! You want us both to get in trouble?"

"Party pooper," said Alex as he climbed down the bed, to meet his friend face to face. "So what are we gonna play first?" asked Alex expectantly.

"No, we're not gonna play! Play time is over!" Malin heard herself say. She has never been angry towards Alex before.

"Okay then," Alex shrugged, as he turned around and jumped out of the open window. "Bye!" Malin managed to hear him say.

She sprinted a whole 5 steps and, panic-stricken, searched the ground for her friend. He was nowhere to be found. She heard a knock on her door. She turned to see Mak Eton.

"Did you call me just now Malin? I'm sure I heard you say something," inquired the maid ever so softly, so as not to cause her to drop tears again.

"Er, no. I was just er, practicing my er, story-telling in front of the mirror," she said as she again felt guilty for lying to the closest person to her in the family, if she can be regarded as kin.

Mak Eton smiled sweetly, showing the lines of experience on her face. "Come, join me in the dining room. It's already nearing 5 o'clock and your mother would not be happy if she were to find out you haven't had your lunch yet."

Malin followed, her face still red and her heart still in her throat.