Adrian Tan




  • an excerpt from The Teenage Textbook


an excerpt from The Teenage Textbook

THE next two weeks of school swept by. They were perhaps two of the happiest weeks in Mui Ee’s life.

It wasn’t because junior college life was such a breeze. Orientation week had ended, and serious school work had begun. There were lectures, tutorials and loads of homework. But what made everything so utterly enjoyable was the fact that she was in love, in love, in love.

Yes, that’s right. Mui Ee had decided, with each passing day, that this was not infatuation, but true-blue-100% love. It didn’t really fit with what The Teenage Textbook said about love being ‘FRAIL’ (you know, friendship, romance, admiration, infatuation, lust). There was quite a lot of romance and infatuation and lust, but she didn’t think Thomas and her knew each other well enough to be friends in the same way she and Sissy were friends. Furthermore, although she was sure that she admired Thomas, she was not certain if that feeling was mutual.

Did Thomas respect her? Well, possibly. Sometimes Thomas treated her like a little girl. But on the other hand, she liked being treated like a little girl, especially by him.

No, no, thought Mui Ee. Thomas was everything a girl could wish for. He was so understanding, so charming, so loving… she didn’t deserve him. It was just too good to be true. But it was true, and Mui Ee thanked her lucky star every night.

They went to class together, sat beside each other at every lecture, and met for lunch every day at the school tuckshop without fail.

They even had a favourite spot in the canteen, at the corner table near the drinks stall.

Every afternoon at a quarter to one, Mui Ee would trot up to Cik Rihanna and order one Kit Kat, five Hacks sweets, two bottles of Yeo’s soya bean drinks, two chicken curry puffs and a plate of kueh lapis. She didn’t really like kueh lapis, but Thomas loved it, and anything Thomas loves, Mui Ee was determined to love, too.

Mui Ee would then carry all this back to their regular table and wait patiently for Thomas, who would arrive at one o’ clock after he had finished his Malay class.

Invariably, Thomas would give her his air-conditioner smile, and say, “Excuse me, lovely lady, but is this seat taken?”

And Mui Ee would smile and say, “Yes, by you.”

Life seemed so good.

Of course, there was one hitch: Thomas made Mui Ee promise never to tell anyone – absolutely anyone, cross your heart – about their relationship, yet.

The girl didn’t think that this was too unusual. Although almost everyone in school could see that they were inseparable, if they decided not to say nothing, nothing would be confirmed.

Besides, Mui Ee, too, did not feel like revealing the true nature of their relationship to anybody, yet. She wanted to keep it her little secret. Thomas agreed.

“There is a lot of opposition to mixed couples, you know,” he had explained to her. Of course Mui Ee understood. What’s more, she hadn’t even told her mother about Thomas, yet. She wondered to herself how she was going to do it. She really had no idea.

© Landmark Books

by Adrian Tan
from The Teenage Textbook (1988)
published by Landmark Books