The screeching sounds of the players’ sports gear friction against the shiny floor of the school gym echoed. The clock strikes three, which explains the sheer number of people in the court. After school. And commencement of club activities. The grounds of the school gym belong to the basketball club. Among the spectators, was a female student who occupied the corner seat every day after school without fail. People bypassed, yet no one took notice of her. As if she was transparent. A ghost. Non-existent. Her presence was null.
The girl was petite and delicate. Just like anyone on the school grounds, she was dressed prim and proper in their school’s black-and-white uniform. Her black-collared shirt was partially covered by a warm layer of the school’s grey jersey. Taking a scrutinized glance over the window panes over her head, many students strolling outside were dressed similarly. School jerseys draped over their thin uniform.
It was winter. Residues of snowflakes landed softly on the streets. Christmas was upon them yet again. The student’s mind was at peace. She smiled as her attention returned to the book she had on her lap. Oh, but how wrong she was! It was the moment of nightmare. Just as no one taken interest in her arrival, no one noticed she had left too. Why was she there in the first place, no one knows. Precisely two hours later, the female student headed for home. Club activities had ended, and it was almost Christmas.
Upon arriving home, she was graced with her unwanted family. Her powerful father, her hateful stepmother, and her indignant half-sister. All heads turned as soon as they heard the loud clanking sounds of the doors opening and closing. The family sat comfortably around the fireplace. They exchanged glances. She is home.
Their eyes met as she pottered herself into the common room. A long pregnant pause of awkwardness. Each stare was equally intense. The first to disrupt the mood was her half-sister. She started with a cough. An effort poorly done to pull wool over her snickers. She cleared her throat.
“I see you’re finally back, sister.” Her half-sister stressed each syllable of the honourable honorific slowly and clearly, as if making sure not to make any clumsy mistakes.
“I see that you’re not celebrating Christmas. Isn’t this refreshing.” She raised an eyebrow. She knew everything about this family too much. There is always a catch behind those weird actions they make. And like always, her words of sarcasm worked on her half-sister.
“Y... you imbecile!” Her half-sister’s filthy mouth works wonders. There is never a day she ever hears a young mistress like her conversate without dirty curses coming from her.
Her father, the head of the family sighed. “Take a seat, Scarlett.” He gestured to the empty seat on his left. His first daughter returned his gesture with a glare. That look earned herself a second helping of dirty looks from her scheming stepmother and narcissist half-sister.
Her father cleared her throat. His tone was more demanding this time. “Do not make me repeat my words. I said, T-a-k-e- A -S-e-a-t.”
The sight of the first daughter struggling in agony was music to their ears. They were immersed with delight as they observed the mistress’s daughter complied. Humiliated. Embarrassment. Shame. With teeth gritted and fists clenched, Scarlett reluctantly obeyed her father’s command.
Scarlett crossed her legs, her sling bag tossed on the carpet next to the couch. Her unwavering sight of attention pierced through the pathetic members they call family. Her half-sister quivered slightly, flinched slightly, and plunged into her mother’s embrace. Her stepmother, as usual, has taken her daughter’s side.
“What do you think you’re doing?” her stepmother had demanded.
Scarlett huffed. “Why, are you offended I tainted your beloved couch? Please. I did as father told. Take a seat, he had said. So I did. No offense, Aunt Amelia.” She smirked. Scarlett was satisfied. Proud of her handiwork. So vain and simple, it makes them a good target. A golden opportunity to overthrow them from their royal throne.
Both mother and daughter were left speechless. Fists clenched, stares sharp as daggers. It was the first time they had been humiliated so badly. Outsmarted by a nobody. A commoner girl of unwanted origins. Clearly, Scarlett had pulled a fast one on the both of them. The head of the family cleared his throat, interrupted his wife and daughters from going at each other’s throat. He wedged himself in between his wife and Scarlett. It was the fastest way out. And he had to spare his wife. Scarlett must never gain triumph in the Ko Mansion.
“That’s enough.” He calmly spoke, ignoring the fact that his wife had threatened Scarlett, and disregarding Scarlett disgracing his wife and his second daughter. “We’re not here to fight.”
Scarlett huffed, folded her arms. “Fine. What do you want? Spill it.”
“How dare you talk to Daddy like this? So crude and unrefined, it is a wonder that you weren’t tossed onto the streets!” Scarlett’s half-sister pointed her finger accusingly at her. Opting for a mini revenge when one least expected it, a strategy to success.
Scarlett’s lips curled into a sneer. She was unaffected, pococurante and apathetic by her half-sister’s harsh words. “Father, please continue. You should reassign a better tutor to re-educate Qing Ran from the basics from now on. One should never interrupt an elder when he is making an official announcement. Rejecting the head of the family is punishable by death. Isn’t that right?”
“Wha- ” Qing Ran blushed bright red. Nothing had gone right since they met. Her plans were a disarray. Qing Ran's schemes never went as planned. Instead, Qing Ran had walked into a trap of her own. Her trap had backfired perfectly. Scarlett had made a fool out of her. Aunt Amelia was furious. Her true self began to resurface. Her expressions glowed vermillion. Consumed by anger, Aunt Amelia raised her hand against her stepdaughter.
"Stop." The head of the house intervened. He skilfully blocked his wife’s atrocious attack. Aunt Amelia turned to glare at her husband.
“Why are you stopping me? Don’t you care that she belittled us?!” her shrill blasted at full volume. At her husband’s pointed look, her plans were pulled to a halt. Her muscles relaxed, her strength withdrawn. Scarlett swore she heard Qing Ran’s little ‘tch’ from behind her mother’s shadows. An outsider could see the members of this family were more venomous than a snake. The master of the Ko family decided to ignore his wife this time. With constant complaint over every single matter, daybreak would have been upon them by the time they were done.
Scarlett paid no mind. She continued her favourite pastime, no, excruciating torture of intense glare against these poisonous snakes; the people who owed her her life. Her father took out a crystal snow globe and presented it into Scarlett’s delicate hands. Scarlett stared at it with a questioning gaze.
“What is this?” she asked.
“A globe, of course. Are you an idiot?” Qing Ran taunted. “Father, how come you never gave me one? Give it to me!”
Scarlett was dumbfounded. Speechless. Astounded. This selfish bitch.
“I can see that, genius. I’m saying why the heck is it in my hands?” Scarlett refuted.
“Take good care of it. It’s the only thing your mother left you.” said her father.
“Why? You never gave me answers every time I asked about my mother. Now you are giving me my mother’s memento? Is this goodbye? You’re getting rid of me?” Scarlett was indifferent. Some say she had nerves of steel. “Perfect. Toss me out. Just like what you did to my mother. I had enough of this nasty family.”
Scarlett could feel the sharp stares of joy coming from both mother and daughter. Both mother and daughter could not believe what the family head had said. The words he uttered. Unbelievable. Astounding. Their expressions were priceless. It was a crystal globe crafted by a famous craftsman. An exquisite artifact. To think that this was one of Jordan Wilson’s masterpieces was inconceivable. The historical relic. Casually resting in Scarlett’s delicate hands. Scarlett felt its warmth seeping through her skin. As if it was saying, welcome home. Qing An, the head of the family, Amelia and Qing Ran stared at the clear crystal ball in astonishment. Colours illuminated from its crystal ball. A possession of that witch. A well-kept secret.
It acknowledged Scarlett as its new owner.
Amelia’s resentment flared. She could never forget that glowing light. That vexing, familiar light. It emitted shades of colours she thought was impossible. That witch had made it possible. To disgrace her even in her death, unbelievable! Amelia swore it was the last thing Scarlett will ever get away with. Like mother, like daughter. It had belonged to that witch, Scarlett’s mother. Even Qing Ran was left amazed by the impressive glow. She had never seen a crystal globe like this before.
Amelia elbowed her daughter in the side, snapping her out of the trance. Qing Ran gritted her teeth. Why couldn’t it be her who got that? That child of lowly birth origin? Why? Why is it always her?!
The powerful man looked away with a dejected expression on his face.
“Words of apologies cannot atone for my sins.”
“Hmph. You’ve gone senile, Ko Qing An. This looks like you’re asking for favours. I don’t care if you regretted your choice, but you’ve wronged my mother. You’re twenty years too late!”
Qing An’s lips curled. “I can promise you that, on one condition.”