Forbidden Love

Chapter 1: Fleeting glance

Life was boring, as usual. I had to help Ma take care of my younger siblings in the tiny, cramped shophouse we shared with six more families. Being a girl, I never had the chance to go to school. Such was life before the war. Big brother Rong went to the local Chinese school, Pa slogged in the docks, and I, Ling, aged sixteen, had to take care of my younger siblings aged two to thirteen. Ma supplemented our meager income by being a seamstress.

Life sure was boring, but it definitely was peaceful.

We had all heard about the Japanese invading Malaya, sweeping and taking territory like a fearsome tidal wave. But although we were worried, we still placed our trust in our British colonial masters, believing their promise to defend us from the invaders. Yet, at the same time, all those Caucasians were setting sail for their motherland. Were they going to leave us in the lurch? No, no, it was not so, for those were the civilian Caucasians fleeing the impending war.

December 7 was the night, the night that shattered what trust we placed in the hands of our British masters. The planes came with dusk, bombing at random. We huddled together under an old but sturdy desk, praying for our lives. I heard the neighbourhood gossip, Ah Ma, tell her companion that all the British had were outdated weapons, and had fled form the victorious Japanese in Malaya, leaving maps, artillery and foodstuffs.

And they had the cheek to call Singapore 'the impregnable fortress', and here we were, having bombs rain on us.

Now, I no longer cared what the governor called us anymore. I wanted to get out of this place, alive.

But how?


Rong came back, despair written all over his face. Prices of essential foodstuffs were sky high, and nobody was even willing to spare half a handful of rice with his neighbour.

I wasn't surprised. Thought the Japanese had not yet conquered us, people were not willing to take chances, and stocked up on food whilst they still could. It was every man for himself now.

Pa was gone. He had joined forces with the British army in a last-ditch effort to fight the Japanese at Bukit Timah despite Ma's pleas. He never came back, and Rong was now the man of the house.

Rong-ge was not yet nineteen, still a youth who was not yet ready to take on the full burden of taking care of a family. He had always been an idealist, but Pa's departure forced him to give up his ideals and meet reality in the eye. He had changed tremendously; the huge responsibility of his family taking its toll on his previously humorous and easygoing demeanour. He was now solemn and expressionless, a victim of circumstances. It pained me so to see my brother change so much.

Unfortunate as Rong was to have his youth cruelly snatched away from him by Pa's departure, my younger siblings were the most pitiful of all. Their carefree days of play and innocence were gone forever, their playground reduced to rubble. Five-year-old Ming once asked me,' Ling-jie, is this a game? Are we playing hide and seek? Will the "catcher" find us?'


15 February 1942. The first day of the Lunar New Year.

General Percival surrendered.

After he had surrendered, rumour had it that the Allied army vastly outnumbered the Japanese, and the Japanese were low on supplies. Well, it was just a rumour, wasn't it?

The rabbit walked straight into a starving tiger's mouth, for absolutely nothing at all. (A/n: General Percival was called the "Rabbit of Malaya" for his buck-toothed grin while General Yamashita was nicknamed the "Tiger of Malaya" for his aggressive and daring attacks)

Ha, ha, ha. Now we are under the ruthless Japanese regime. Things sure don't bode well for us Chinese. The Japanese invaded China in the 1930s and we sent money and aid to help our motherland. Due to that, the Japanese were reportedly even more brutal to their Chinese prisoners than captives of other races. At least, that was what I had heard from some Malayan refugees who didn't manage to outrun fate.

Some Japanese soldiers came into our cramped and filthily unhygienic shophouse to make an announcement. 'No more Singapore. Now "Shonan-to". "Light of the South". All men older than 18 years report tomorrow at big factory east from here. No report, die. Japanese treat women, children well. No worry. See Japanese, bow. All clocks add 1 and half hour, same as Tokyo. Obey rules everything good.'

Admittedly, our English skills weren't much better than theirs, but we got their messge anyway. Not a murmur was heard, for everyone feared the wrath of the Japanese conquerors. I secretly thought that the new name of our island was pretty ironic; we were going to step into a new era of darkness.

One of the soldiers suddenly caught my eye, and our gaze locked for several seconds. He was a tall chap not much older than me with a head of short black hair. A scar ran to the left of his chin. His features were fine and chiseled. Well, in short, he was handsome. dashingly good-looking. I could fee my heart stop and my cheeks burn. He, too, blushed. I wondered if he felt the same way as I did.

He was suddenly jerked out of his trance by his companion, who muttered something to him. The three soldiers thus left, but I noticed that he turned back to take one last fleeting glance at someone or something. Meanwhile, I craned my neck as far as I could, and watched his retreating figure until he turned the corner of the street.

Perhaps, just perhaps, I could live in an era of light.

A/n: Harlow. I dunno how you all will respond to this fic, which I think has ventured into some 'forbidden territory' in which sensitive issues are breached. Hmm. Just tell me what you think. Flame me, review, whatever. But I assure you all, this will not be a focus on the atrocities of war, but a romance between a soldier and a civilian of a persecuted race. Thanks. =)