Golly had now reached the curiously perceptive age of four, and Ah Moi had been living with them soon after the birth of her sister: five and a half months of unadulterated bullying by a monster. Keng now often seemed more like Ah Moi’s child than her parents’. It was Ah Moi who nursed her on weekdays and often at weekends too. Whenever Keng was upset, it was to Ah Moi she turned. Father and Mother were simply there, but Ah Moi was Keng’s comforter. This was Ah Moi’s revenge. She would ‘steal’ the second daughter’s heart and mind from her parents.
At only four years of age, Golly observed this twisted world of hers with her huge round eyes, although she could not have articulated those observations if anyone had asked her. She continued to feel as a semi-outcast might have felt: tolerated but unwanted. In her inmost being lay a deep longing to belong she was unable to articulate. She was jealous of the love that Ah Moi lavished upon Keng; jealous when Father showed her little sister, (his lucky charm), fond attention; jealous too whenever Mother was demonstrably affectionate towards her baby sister.
Meanwhile, Ah Moi continued to complain loudly and boldly to her parents about their incalcitrant child and the routine of almost daily scoldings and canings continued on Mother’s return from work each evening. By this time, Golly had begun attending kindergarten, a strict but very good one, where her uniform consisted of a little blue dress with a short skirt. Within a society where corporate punishment was the norm even on the littlest person, no one batted an eyelid on seeing welts and bruising on the little girl’s legs or arms.
Golly could not wait for the holidays. It was then she would visit with Ah Ma. She would make herself as small as possible, manoeuvre her tiny buttocks into that small space formed by her grandmother’s cross-legged pose on the floor, and relax her skinny frame into Ah Ma’s voluptuousness. Ah Ma was the one person who made sense in Golly’s world: she was Golly’s favourite person in all the world. Whenever Golly was with Ah Ma, she felt wanted, cherished, loved . . . indeed, invincible! No one could hurt her within Ah Ma’s presence.
Ah Ma was Golly’s champion; her byword for protection. Ah Ma loved her unconditionally. It was at the tender age of four that Golly transferred all her pent up need to love to her paternal grandmother. Poor Mother who was forced to listen to Ah Moi’s daily complaints about her elder daughter was only too glad to have found a ‘foster’ mum for Golly in her mother-in-law. Ah Ma was happy and willing to look after her granddaughter. From then on, whenever Golly was ill, Ah Ma’s and Ah Kong’s home also became her place of recuperation.
Pitiful Mother, if she but knew it! Ah Moi’s revenge because Mother had dared to encourage affection between her daughters had become twofold. Not only had Mother lost her mother’s place and right in Keng’s heart to a hired servant, but Ah Moi had created and manipulated familial circumstances so slickly and slyly that Golly’s first love was now all her grandmother’s.