Copyright © 2013 by Raine Koh
The next morning, I received a phone call from the Boss. “How is it going?” he asked.
“It's going fine, I am letting her get used to me,” I said. “And one more thing, I saw Daniel yesterday.”
“Daniel? I guess the vultures are circling. Do well Ethan. You know your debt is cleared if you get this,” said the Boss.
“I know,” I answered and he hung up the phone. My feelings towards the Boss switched from gratefulness to contempt on a daily basis.
I was fifteen when the accident happened. After that I was sent to an orphanage where I didn't talk to anyone at all. All I did was draw. The social workers were worried about me and even took me to see a doctor to make sure my vocal cords were not hurt in any way. After the doctor proclaimed my body to be in perfect physical condition, they proceeded to take me to a psychiatrist who tried to use art to understand my subconscious self. I didn't think he knew what he was doing. I was just drawing normal things, like fruits, people, whatever caught my eye. There was nothing dark or abstract about it at all. As to why I refused to speak...It was a reason I found hard to explain. I also stopped sleeping at night.
The social workers did not know what to do with me and even brought me to a priest, in case some bad spirits have entered my body. That didn't work either. So they stayed puzzled for about a year while I stayed quiet and awake.
And then, the Boss came for me. He told me that he was a friend of my mother's and she had a debt I had to clear. He gave me two options, either I pay him back by my own means or I could work for him and he would take a cut from my pay.
“I'll work for you.” That was the first time the social workers heard me speak. And so I spent the next few months training under the Boss. He taught me the art of seduction, how to act around women and what was their weaknesses. He even taught me how to be good in bed, only in theory, of course.
The Boss was never married. He always said, “I don't believe in women, they will betray you in the end. The only thing you can believe in is money.” And he practised what he preached. He had amassed for himself a vast fortune, although looking at his appearance or office, you would never believe it.
Sometimes I wonder if he represented my future, but then, I had no intention of living past 30. I was already living on borrowed time.
Project 13 had told me to wake her up after she had slept for eight hours. “You must succeed Bunny, no matter how hard it is, my future depends on you,” she told me, before retiring to her bedroom. It was 5am.
At 1pm, I went over to her bedroom to see Project 13 sprawled on the bed. I shook her shoulders and said, “Rise and shine...” There was no response. I shook her a little more violently and cried, “Wake up!” Still no movement from her. “Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!” I shouted, directly at her ear.
I placed my finger under her nose to see if she was still breathing. She was. Holding her arm, I pulled her off the bed and onto the floor. Her body landed with a “thud” but still no response from her. Project 13 continued to sleep. I contemplated splashing water on her but it seemed like a messy solution. Instead I walked over to the kitchen and prepared lunch (Ham and Cheese Baked Rice).
An hour later, I returned to the room to find her still sleeping on the floor. I carried her in my arms (she was heavier than how I remembered her) and brought her to the dining table. I sat her down in a chair and brought the dish to her. She sniffed the food's aroma and opened her eyes to see me sitting next to her. “Good morning,” she said, her arms stretched upwards.
“Technically it's afternoon though,” I said passing her a fork and spoon. I sat down and started to eat too.
“You know it's lovely waking up and seeing your face. If only you didn't suffer from insomnia, I would have you sleep with me.”
I started to choke on my rice but she didn't seem to notice how crazy her words sounded.
She looked at the window. “It's so bright. I haven't been up this early in a long time.”
It is 2 pm though. Not exactly early, I thought.
Not surprisingly, she finished every grain of rice in minutes. “Do you want to go out? Have a short walk before writing?” I asked. Maybe some sun will do her good, I thought.
“Sure, I always wanted to bring my bunny for a walk. But I was scared of choking him if I tied a string around his neck though.”
“You don't have to tie a string around me. You can just hold my hand if you are scared I'll run away,” I said, clearing the plates. “Do you want to change? I asked, looking at her clothes.
She looked down at her cornflower blue frilly nightgown. “What's wrong with what I'm wearing? It can't be worn in the day?” she asked.
“Well, I guess if you really want, it's okay.”
And so, for the very first time ever since I became her pet we went out into the sunlight together. With Project 13 in her nightgown, I felt like I was escorting a patient. Passers-by were giving us strange looks although she seemed oblivious to it all. Instead Project 13 looked happy, she was even humming a tune.
“If we walk a little further, we will see a playground,” she said. Project 13 held my hand and started to run. This was the first time I saw so much movement from her as I felt myself being dragged along.
The playground was empty. I guess the kids are all in school, I thought, except for this big one. Project 13 sat on a swing and tried to push herself up, without much success. I stood behind her and helped push the swing. It was a hot afternoon but she could feel the wind in her hair as she went up higher and higher.
“You know Bunny, besides regretting not letting my bunny die at home, I also regret not being able to give my grandmother a better life before she passed away,” she said, as she swung up and down. “Could you tell me about your family?”
“My family? I had a younger brother. He was adorable and followed me wherever I went. He was much taller than me, was sporty and loved playing basketball.”
“Where is he now?”
“He's gone, they are all gone.”
“We are strangely similar, aren't we?” she said, looking up at the bright blue sky. Not a single cloud was in sight.
“Well...” I couldn't really agree with her on that point. I continued pushing the swing.
“Don't worry Bunny, as long as you remain by my side, I will be able to give you a better life,” she said suddenly.
“And how will you do that?” I asked.
“Well, I will have some money on my birthday on December first. Although I plan to give it all away, I should be able to keep a bit of it to treat you to a delicious meal!” she said brightly.
Alarm bells started to ring in my head. “Give it all away?” I said. Stunned, I stopped pushing the swing.
“Yes, I plan to set up a scholarship fund for aspiring writers,” she said, standing up. “Bunny, is the heat getting to you too? I think it is best we head back.” Project 13 reached out and held my hand. I was still a bit shocked at what she intended to do with the money. Was she really mad? Was a million dollars nothing to her? She wasn't exactly living in luxury right now.
Project 13 noticed I have turned quiet. She looked at me closely and whispered, “Slowly, everyone around me disappears. First it was my parents, then my grandmother then my bunny. Will you leave me also?”
I turned to her, preparing to lie, when I felt her grasp loosen and she slumped herself next to me. Project 13 had fainted! “Are you okay?” I asked, patting her cheek. Her body leaned against me feebly.
“Heat...” she mumbled, unable to open her eyes. I couldn't help but sigh as I carried her on my back and piggybacked Project 13 back to her house. Seriously, was she able to live past her 25th birthday? And what is this scholarship fund about? How can anyone just give away a million dollars without much thought?
I placed her on her bed and turned on the air conditioner. After about ten minutes, she woke up, looking dazed.
“The sun was too much for you. You should get some rest,” I said, passing her a glass of water.
“Bunny, have I ever told you how glad I am you became a human?” she asked, before taking a sip of water. She then lied down again on the bed.
“No, you haven't.”
“I'm glad...” she said. Project 13 shut her eyes and drifted off to sleep. I let out another sigh and went out of the house.