Ilham stared at the contents of her big plate, feeling satiated all of a sudden. Her employers were thankfully very kind to her, unlike Amal’s mistress. Most of the live-in maids in their condominium had gathered at the playground the day before to celebrate Eid ul-Fitr. Amal was not there, as usual, probably cooking or cleaning for her employers.
Amal stood next to Ilham, a ball in her hand, staring at the variety of delicacies in her friend’s plate, “Where is the little boy you look after?”
“Oh. He is away in school. My madam gave me the morning off.” Ilham replied, glancing at Amal’s fatigued face. She guessed that Amal did not yet have her breakfast.
“I see. I was cooking.” Amal gestured at the boy standing beside them, “Abner just dropped a ball from our fifth floor. I came to pick it up.” She smiled wistfully and turned to leave.
Ilham stood up and held her plate to Amal, “Happy Eid ul-Fitr”. With a grateful glance at Ilham, Amal ate the leftovers from the previous day’s Eid festival. The Kuih tarts and Pandan snacks melted in her mouth. Her eyes became wet as she looked at the Malay rice cake, Lontong. She remembered how her father tenderly unwrapped the banana leaves and fed her. Now she did not know if her old mother and daughter even got to celebrate the festival back home. Amal paused eating and smiled at Abner, who was staring open-mouthed at her and Ilham.
“Come here,” She fed him a rose biscuit called Kuih Ros. Abner happily ate whatever she fed him. His mother neither had the time nor the patience to feed or play with him.
“Hey!” Ilham looked scared. “Are you allowed to feed him without his mother’s permission?”
Amal stopped, terrified at what her mistress would do if she found out.
“I am leaving, Ilham. Thank you for all the tasty food.” Both of them did not notice Abner picking a tissue underneath the plate and cleaning his mouth thoroughly.
Amal’s mistress was standing in the middle of the living room, her hands on her hips, “What took you so long?” she shouted.
“Ma’am..." Amal looked at the ground, her heart thudding. The punishment would either be a denial of lunch or a sound thrashing.
Abner cut in, lying for the first time in his life, “Mommy, I saw my friends in the playground. I delayed ‘auntie’ as I wanted to play swing with them.”