Oh Yesus, jadilah ganjaran terbesar
Come and be my exceedingly great reward
You're the treasure that I would give my whole life for
What would it profit me to gain the world but lose my soul?
I know my life is not my own
You live in the in-between. You've been living there since the pandemic started, since the day the gomen ask you to stay home, stay safe. Lindung Diri, Lindung Semua. The days bleed into each other, the weeks into months, the months into years. It has been eighteen months since you've seen the light.
Who have you really protected?
The plastic boxes pile up in your house, one for every meal. Almost. You can still handle making your own breakfast, when you decide to have it. What's the point? There's no rush hour, you can deal with waking up a little later, working on a slow cup of caffeine, and then having a large brunch delivered. One more plastic box, until all you are is plastic boxes, stacked up in precarious columns, hanging boxes deep on the racks, painstakingly washed to get the oil out.
Who has your hand-washing saved?
You reach, you grasp. You slip. It's always that way, has always been. Your hands are not strong enough to hold; no one's arms are strong enough to keep you. Out of the corner of your eye, you see them run. Like everyone has left you. There is no hey let's hang out when you can't; when you're boxed in, boxed out, plastic shoulders slumped. There is no real you. Your conversations stall in the first line. I'm fine. Nothing new. You're more boring than ever.
Who has your isolation helped?
So you live in the in-between, in the shadows. You are a shadow. You are all the things you have forgotten, all the things you have put on hold, all the plans you've shelved, all the hopes you've seen wither. But there is light, and there is dark, and even in the Saturday of the soul, there is hope. Even the dimmest of lights can shine. The smallest leaf still casts a shadow. And maybe in the in-between is where you are finally perceived, when the brightest of lights shine through you.
Who keeps you safe?
But you -
where the light shines through
Photos taken at Between 01, an art installation by Tan Lay Heong (and others!). More info here: georgetownfestival.com/2021/programmes/between-01/
You can pre-book a viewing slot via this form, but actually... you can also just fill in the form when you arrive. The form offers 1-hour slots, but it's not like you have to turn up on the hour or for the whole hour. There's a 12-minute dance video that is looped and you should probably sit in the little plastic igloo for the surround-sound impact.
It didn’t help that after almost a decade of that kind of behaviour (the first five years were a mix; she’d managed to hold out for that long until her seniority and job scope meant she couldn’t just deny her way out of responsibilities) she didn’t really have any friends outside of work. Outside of her old job, she should say. Were they even friends? Or just people she had to deal with on a regular basis?
What even were friends?
Jasmine lay in bed staring up at the ceiling, wondering what she should do. She pulled her blanket over her head and inhaled the warmth. She couldn’t call Aun or Lay Peng, or Deen or Raj—they’d all be working right now, possibly even desperately covering for all the work she’d left behind when she quit, probably even working off that unending to-do list she’d stuck in the front of the file while cursing her. Though she had tried to close up as much as possible before she left. It wasn’t her fault that in the last week of her three months’ notice, whoever that idiot was behind scheduling (her boss) decided that they really, really needed someone on that last-minute job and the only one with a blank week was…her. Because she was leaving. And she needed to close out all her files.
But nope. New client it was, no matter how idiotic it was.
Anyway. Not her job anymore.
She rolled on her left side, kicking the blanket off and reached for her phone, squinting at the large numbers. It was only eight in the morning. Way too early to be awake on what should be technically a holiday. Well, a weekend. What had she done in the past when she took her annual leave? Oh right—she only took leave to go travel, which meant she had a whole new place to explore, or when she went back home, which meant her mother would put her to work doing something. Like marketing.
Jasmine got out of bed and shuffled to the kitchen. She blinked and stretched, then sighed as she opened the fridge. It looked terribly empty, even more empty than usual. Right, she’d finished up her leftovers yesterday because she got home late, even though she’d already surrendered her laptop and work badge by the time HR and IT left at five pm. There was a lot she could do just by talking to her team and pointing at their screens.
She squinted at her phone again. No one had called. She was fairly sure there was someone already in the office, but no one had called. Or messaged.
Not my job. Not my problem. Not anymore. They’ve got it.
It should be easy to remember, seeing that she’d turned in all her company property, but it was like this void. In her heart. An emptiness. Maybe she should do some marketing. All she had was cereal and since she wasn’t going to work today (or for the next few days until she found something else to do) she would have to make her own lunches and dinners. Jasmine laughed at herself until she cried.
When she was done laugh-crying, she washed up, took a shower, and sat down to cereal and milk and the book she’d bought two years ago but hadn’t had time to read. By the time she was done with it, it was four in the afternoon and she was hungry. She didn’t feel like cooking (not like there was anything remotely cookable in the fridge) so she ordered something random off Grab. And then she started another book.
It was Thursday night (how had six days passed by so slowly and yet so quickly?) before she decided she should do something a little more productive than binge-reading all her TBR and ordering food on Grab because even though she had a lot of savings (she hadn't had the time to spend it), it wasn’t going to last forever. She hadn’t talked to a person in days other than acknowledging the Grab driver and grunting at the guard when she went to pick up her food. She wasn’t even sure if that counted as talking to people.
Tomorrow was Friday. She’d been unemployed for a week. Friday morning, she would pretend she was on holiday and take a tour of her historical city.
I mean, people travel all the way here for holidays, right? Why not be a tourist in my own city?
She rather liked the idea of a staycation.
Here's where you can find out more about The Tea Novel!!! Which doesn't have a name yet. Or even a properly thought out plot. But eh, it's the first draft of a WIP so things will sort themselves out...eventually.
Welcome to the book tour for Head Over Tails!
Here's the blurb before we jump into my review:
Their love is true...but is it real?
Fear of inheriting his father’s hallucinations and memory loss have brought Jacob’s life to a screeching halt at age nineteen. Now he spends his days alone on the beach behind his home, staring into the endless Hawaiian waves.
Mermaid Sevencea is eager to explore life above the water--and cheer up the handsome, lonely young man strolling on the shores. Forming a bond with him is as natural as swimming. All she needs are legs to walk beside him, so Sevencea disappears to trade for the necessary magic.
Yet when she returns, Jacob is gone, convinced she was a hallucination after all. And the more Sevencea searches for him, the more she doubts what they have will last.
Can love truly exist between land and sea?
A sweet YA mermaid-meets-human romance set within the lovely vistas of Hawaii.
Head Over Tails by Brianna Tibbetts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
So many fantasy books these days are high-stakes epics with people trying to save the world--or at least save their kingdom or reclaim their throne--that Head Over Tails threw me a little. (Also, I should read blurbs more carefully, I was just excited about mermaids and magic). While it runs in the vein of retelling Hans Christian Anderson's Little Mermaid, with a little tinge of the Disney version, this one is really a low-stakes sweet romance between a mermaid and a human.
There is no kingdom to be saved, there is no prince who needs a wife; just nineteen-year-old Jacob struggling to find his place in the world in the aftermath of his father's diagnosis that splits his world--and family--apart. And as much as Sevencea gives off Ariel vibes, she's not a princess whose forbidden romance will cause the fall of her father's kingdom; all she wants is (mostly) to not let the cute guy she's (maybe) falling in love with think she's only a hallucination.
Despite it being a romance, Head Over Tails is very much about family. The choices both Jacob and Sevencea make are heavily impacted by their families--whether it's Jacob's fear that he's inherited his father's illness, or it's Sevencea looking for her father's wisdom and advice. I love found family stories (there's a bit of that going on at The Makai), where the displaced and disenchanted build a new family from the wreckage, but this also feels necessary: a reminder that natural families are also important. And while most families are messy and sometimes they break apart, they can still be what you need when everyone pulls together, when each family member decides to work towards reconciliation instead of giving up.
Overall, Head Over Tails is quiet, slow, and sweet. There are no unexpected twists or crafty, intricate plotting. It's a comfort read for when you're reaching for soothing and familiar, when you crave the simplicity of youth falling in love, and that quiet hope of a happily ever after.
Note: I received a digital ARC of this book from Uncommon Universes Press as part of the book launch tour. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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