Chapter 14: Nutella brownies

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It was a cold night and I forgot to close the window before retiring to bed. When I woke up to the sound of the front door, my fingers were trembling. I heard Nora was having a conversation with Marina in the living area. The round, black clock on my desk was showing that it's 3.30a.m. Both of them must have just came back from work. They were becoming really busy women. I couldn't even remember when I last talked to Marina, who seemed to be away on most days and nights.

Nora and Marina watched TV for a few minutes before I heard a few clicks - they switched off the lights and fan - followed by the sounds of their bedroom doors closing.

I closed my eyes but the cold wind blowing through the window was getting stronger. The window was only a few feet from me, but I was too sleepy to move from the bed. I sat up and leaned against the headboard for a few moments. Then, I saw the window panes moved slowly inwards as if pulled by an unseen rope or pushed by the strong wind. But I knew it was neither when the levers moved down followed by a sharp clicking sound. 

"Dwen?" I was suddenly wide awake. 

"Allysa," he said softly. He sounded like he was on the bed, sitting right in front of me. I pulled up my knees and wrapped my arms around them. The room was still very cold even with the window closed. "Sorry I left so suddenly this evening,"he said. I didn't hear anything from him after he told me that Uncle Rahman was his father. 

"It's okay. I understand," I whispered with chattering teeth. He was so near and the coldness he brought made my breaths misty.

"No. You haven't been dead. You don't understand what I'm feeling." His voice was sad, as if longing for something or someone. 

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that." I reached out my hand, trying to find the coldest area in the room, assuming that was where Dwen was sitting. A very cold, thin, cylindrical object touched my shoulder. 

"That's my finger," said Dwen. "I'm right here beside you." I turned and thought that I wanted to cry when all I could see was my study desk and the wall. 

"It is sad that I can't see you, Dwen," I told him. Honestly, curiosity had gotten better of me since he told me who he was. If he was Ku Na's cousin, then Nazrul must have known him when he was alive. I had to muster all my will power not to call Nazrul and ask for Dwen's photo. 

It was not going to be easy to be with Nazrul after this when all I could think was to ask him about Dwen: How did he die? How was he like? Did he do anything bad that his soul was now trapped in another dimension?

"I don't want you to see me, Allysa. What's more important is that I can see you. I'm just a nobody."

"But you are Uncle Rahman's son." I couldn't imagine what the old man had gone through; losing a son.

"I was. But now I can't even get close to him. I was lucky enough to see him today. It was because of you, Allysa."

"Me?" I was getting worried. Was I being used as a communication medium?

"There's no way I can explain this. But it seemed like I can only tag along and communicate with you. I was at the coffee shop with you and Nazrul this afternoon. When I saw my father, I tried to follow him but I couldn't."

"So, you're stuck with me?"

Dwen didn't answer, but I could feel that he had left his spot. Then I saw a pen on my study desk started moving. He was writing on a piece of paper. "What are you doing?" I asked.

"I'm writing down the things I want to tell.... explain to a few people. This could be the last time I'm remembering the words. I don't know what would happen to my soul tomorrow. So, before I forget them, or before I vanish totally, let me write them down. Can you keep this letter for me?" I saw the A4 paper being folded twice before my blue stapler flew out of my drawer and secured it. 

"Can I read them?" It was like asking for permission to read one's diary and it made me feel giddy.

"Not yet. I might need to change some of the words later." Fair enough. It would be disasterous if I read the note now. What if I slipped my tongue and told Nazrul or Ku Na about it? 

"Okay. Cool. I'll get a folder if you're going to write more letters."

"Thank you, Allysa. Some of the things might not make any sense anymore, but I'm just pushing my luck." I heard his faint laughter. "If you're keeping my letters in a folder, name it Van Halen, will you?"

"Why Van Halen? Why not Maroon 5?"

"Van Halen used to be one of my favorites. All my friends and family knew it. By the way, who's Maroon 5?"

I kept silent for a moment trying to establish the year of Dwen's death. It was probably before 2002 because Harder To Breathe was released and became a hit on that year and made Maroon 5 a household name. 

"Oh, it's just another boyband," I told him. "You won't care about their songs."

Dwen chuckled softly. I saw that the pen and stapler had been returned to their original places. "For all you know, I might enjoy their songs."

He reminded me about my conversation with Nazrul earlier. "Hey, you were right about Nazrul's favorite song. But he told me that he didn't want to listen to it anymore."

"Sure," said Dwen. "Who would want to listen to something that could bring back sad memories."

"But why did you ask me to sing it at the karaoke?" I was getting confused. 

His laughter was hollow. Was the song related to another story he was not prepared to tell me?

"It was my favourite song too. I used to play and sing it."

"You were a musician and a singer?" I was getting excited. I didn't think I could go back to sleep soon. 

"Well, not really. I wanted to become a songwriter...." his voice trailed off.

"And?" I was already standing next to the study desk as I thought he was still there. 

"And then I died when I was 19. I never get to become a songwriter. End of story." He concluded everything with just a few sentences. 

"Are you going to tell me about it now?" I was hoping to learn more of his life story. If some day Uncle Rahman were to ask me to have coffee with him, at least I'd be more prepared.

"It's better if you don't hear it from me." His voice was getting very faint. I knew he was leaving soon. 

"Okay. I won't force you."

"Thank you, Allysa." It was becoming a mere whisper. 

"By the way, can you not visit me tomorrow? My mother is coming over."

"It's beyond my control, Allysa."

Shit. Now I was in trouble. How was I going to make sure Dwen won't scare my mom away. And should she learned about the frequent visits or some people would call it 'the haunting', she would have an even stronger reason to bring me back to Kedah.

Now I really couldn't go back to sleep. My city life might end tomorrow.  

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