Chapter 24
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“The Meaning”


Zander makes a face at us as if he caught something good after emerging out from the woods.

“Why the fvck are you here?” The way Ryan asks that question pretty much summarises how I’m feeling as well. Confused and a little frustrated that we were interrupted.

“Sorry for showing up unannounced.” He calmly speaks as he brushes away the leaves on his shoulder. This is when I realise that Zander looks healthy and uninjured after the incident.

I let out a quiet sigh of relief, “It’s fine. Did you just come out from the forest?” I reply and continue to ask since something doesn’t add up with his method of arrival.

He doesn’t answer my question and only lightly smirks at it before turning serious again. He says to me, “I would like to talk to you about something.”

Both Ryan and I are confused by this.

“Why?” - “What?”

Ryan and I spoke at the same time with different questions respectively.

The wind blows at this time, rustling all the leaves loudly. Zander turns to the deep forest before going back to me.

“Not here.” He steps forward and passes me a paper with numbers on it.

My first thought is that it is a phone number but it doesn’t make sense but Zander continues to say, “It’s a coordinate for the location. Meet me there at noon in a week. If anything, Ryan has my number.”

“Am I allowed to come?” Ryan's serious tone takes me by surprise.

“It’s your choice,” Zander replies as he looks at me implying that it’s mine to make.

Ryan turns to look at me and I don’t want to go to a random place alone. It’s safer to have Ryan with me. 

“Yeah, I would like him to come too,” I tell both of them my decision which gains a smile from Ryan.

“Sure. See you in a week.” Zander then walks into the woods and disappears behind the bushes.

“Is he going to be okay in there?” I turn to Ryan as I point in the direction where Zander leaves.

“It’s fine. He grew up in the forest. Let’s go back to the others.” Ryan takes my hand and heads back to the orphanage.


We reach the front of the orphanage and the first thing I notice is Sam holding hands with Aiden while looking at the flower bushes.

“Where’s Sally?” Ryan asks when we get closer to the two of them.

Sam points to the orphanage door and explains that she went inside to do some work. Ryan thanks him and heads straight to the orphanage after explaining that he still needs to get Aiden’s personal details and belongings. I nod at him then let him go alone as I decide to wait for him with Aiden and Sam outside.

I listen while Sam explains the flower name to Aiden while the little one stares attentively at the flower. Aiden does his best to repeat the word.

Bunga,” Sam says.

“Booga,” Aiden repeats.

“Boo- ngah,” Sam enunciates it carefully. 

“Booga,” Aiden cluelessly repeats.

This goes back and forth until I decide to chime in, “What’s this word you’re trying to make him pronounce?”

Sam turns to look at me with his teaching gaze and I know immediately that he’s actually teaching Aiden another language.

“It’s the word for flower in Malay. You try it.” He tosses it to me which makes me flustered.

I smile sheepishly before recalling something. “You’re multilingual aren’t you?”

Sam nods and I continue, “Do you know what ‘sayang’ means?”

Sam looks genuinely surprised and asks me, "Where did you hear that from?" 

I don’t know why but I can feel the heat rushing through my cheeks. I have a feeling it’s best not to let him know Ryan said it even though I feel that it is futile to hide that from him. Sam doesn't wait for my reply as if knowing that I am embarrassed, 

"Sayang is also a word from the Malay language and it means ‘love’."

"L-love?" I stuttered.

Sam lets out a quiet laugh while covering his lips and Aiden sees it so he copies Sam.

"Well, it is a term of endearment but it can be used in the context of 'I love you'. It's actually a beautiful word in my opinion,"

"Why?" I ask curiously.

"Malay has two words for love. One is ‘cinta’ and the other is ‘sayang’. Both mean love but cinta is often used as a declaration of feelings between lovers,"

"Then, wouldn't that make the word ‘chin-tar1technically correct pronounciation but with silent 't'’ even more special?" I question him.

"In my opinion, not really.” He shakes his head before continuing, “Yes, cinta is reserved only between lovers but I feel like it's shallow compared to sayang. As to why I feel that way is because you can claim the words of love which is cinta but it can fade away but as for sayang, it’s an emotion that carves into you,"

"What are you saying? It’s something that won’t go away?"

"Well, I believe sayang seeps deep into you. It becomes part of you. Sayang is the word to express your love to your family, friends, and even lovers. However, you don't go around saying it to everyone. You reserve it for those who have ingrained themselves into your life. They’re part of your life and possibly becomes part of you as well. 

I’ll give you an example; when that passionate love disappears and they’ve chosen to break up, but if you ask them if there's still love… some might reply they no longer cinta their ex-lovers but they still sayang them.”

“They do care about their exes but no longer want to be with them; is what you’re telling me?” I try to put my understanding into words and Sam actually nods at that. I silently pat myself on the back.

“Aside from that, sayang can also be used for regrets or deep attachment. It can be used towards objects as well. Maybe you feel bad about wanting to throw away something; you would use the word sayang. It’s more or less to express that you are a little attached to this thing and can’t bear to throw it away so easily. That is why in my opinion, this word will strike into your core and you will always have a lingering feeling called sayang.

Of course, nowadays, people use terms of endearment like it’s nothing so the sentiments aren’t the same anymore... Oh, I'm sorry. I accidentally over-explained it to you," Sam realises that he has explained too much out of habit and shows a slight hint of embarrassment. 

“No, it’s alright. I’m thankful that you explained it in detail. It shows how much you love the language,” I speak truthfully because Sam rarely speaks so passionately and usually he only speaks this much during our study session.

“Well, it is my native country’s national language.” Sam smiles kindly.

This time around, I’m the one caught by surprise. “You’re not from around here?”

Sam shakes his head then gazes at Aiden who is now crouching by one of the bushes staring at a line of ants walking past him.

“I was also adopted,” He says lightly but he probably notices that I become awkward and doesn’t know how to move on from that so he continues, “I’m actually a mix between Chinese and Korean.” He let out a small laugh and I smiled back.

“Whoah,” Aiden must have heard him because he happily exclaims and starts trotting towards Sam.

Aiden pats Sam’s leg and Sam bursts into laughter which makes Aiden happily giggle as well. I join them and my smile widens naturally.

Time flies by us and Ryan finally decides that it's time to leave. I say farewell to Sam as he drives away. Aiden waves him goodbye too and the shy demeanour mentioned by Sally can’t be seen at all. So far, Aiden seems quite comfortable with us which is probably a good thing since he is about to leave the orphanage and start his new life with us.

Wait… Why did I say ‘us’?

“Are you okay?” Ryan asks as we walk towards the car.

“Yeah, it’s nothing,” I mumble.

Ryan doesn’t pester me for a further answer so we head home with Ryan as the driver and Aiden on my lap in the passenger’s seat. It takes longer for us to reach home because Ryan drives at a slower speed than his usual racing speed. This allows Aiden to stare out of the window with his wide eyes.

Aiden hasn’t shown any reluctance to leave the orphanage so far and it's probably because he doesn’t connect with the other kids that much. I hope he’ll grow up well and make lots of friends in the future.

Upon reaching home, Ryan opens this door I didn’t realise existed and probably because there was a stack of boxes covering it previously. The inside shows a well-decorated children's bedroom that is complete with a study area on one side and a collection of toys on the other side.

Ryan levels down to Aiden’s height and speaks in a rare kind tone, “Aiden, this is where you will sleep from now on, is that okay?”

Aiden stares at Ryan without moving so Ryan puts out his hand for Aiden to take before bringing him around the room. He patiently explains every detail in the room while emphasizing that everything inside is now Aiden’s. He even shows that there are new clothes for him to wear in the closet.

Aiden still looks apprehensive so Ryan decides to go and cook dinner and asks me to accompany Aiden to play as he adapts to the new environment. I take out the basket full of building blocks and lay it all out in front of Aiden.

I sit across from him and I notice that he waits for me to pick up the block before deciding that the blocks are fun for him to stack.

I don’t realise how much time has passed while playing with Aiden until Ryan calls us out for dinner. Ryan helps Aiden take a seat between Ryan and myself at the round dining table. He also makes sure to serve a small portion of the food to Aiden and he does so carefully.

I continue watching the attentive care he gives to Aiden throughout dinner time. Ryan tells me to take a bath with Aiden after all of us finished our food. Seeing as Aiden looks at me expectantly, I realise there is no room for me to negotiate about the dishwashing chore. 

I end up heading straight into the bathroom with Aiden after taking some bathroom essentials. Aiden remains docile throughout the shower and I’m able to dry him off quickly. 

I search his wardrobe for nightwear and manage to find the cutest animal onesies. I feel like the option should be given to Aiden so I turn to show it to him and ask which one he likes. Aiden shyly grasps the panda onesies while fidgeting.

Seeing that the time is late for children to be up, I make sure that Aiden is ready for bed. Aiden suddenly insists that I join him in bed to lay next to him. I only manage to tuck him in properly after agreeing. 

I search the room and find a children’s storybook to read out loud. He slowly falls asleep comfortably in bed.

At this moment, Ryan peeks into the room and signals to me to come outside. I assume he has something important to say so I put away the book where I found it and quietly walk out of the room. I ensure that Aiden is fast asleep before I turn off the main light and leave the nightlight on for him.

I close the door and turn around to find Ryan at the balcony overlooking the scenery. I walk to him and stand beside him before asking,

“Is there something wrong?”

Ryan turns to stare into my eyes. We remain like this for a second too long until I can’t continue as I start to feel my heart thumping loudly so I turn away.

“Yesterday…” Ryan trails off.

“What about yesterday?” I gather my courage as I try to calm my beating heart to glance at him.

“Did you misunderstand about the roommate situation?” He asks.

I become exasperated by his words and reply, “Of course! You didn’t even explain anything and then today you just brought me to the orphanage after breakfast. I thought you were gonna take Sally-,” I cut myself off as I almost accidentally tell him my thoughts of earlier today. I bite my lips in shame.

Ryan raises a brow at me before one corner of his lips lifts up.

“Did you think Sally was the one that’s going to live with me?” He says in his usual teasing voice.

“No. I didn’t think that at all.” I decide to deny all claims regarding this.

Ryan suddenly leans forward to the point our nose almost touches. His eyes are staring straight into mine and it doesn’t take long before I turn away because the heat is becoming hotter around my cheeks and ears.

Hearing Ryan laugh at my action makes me pout my lips unconsciously.

“You don’t have to worry about it,” Ryan says ambiguously.

I turn to him out of confusion and see him smirk.

“What do you mean by that?”

“Exactly as I said. You don’t have to worry about anyone staying over here since I already have you.” 

Before I can ask further, his mobile phone rings and when he looks at the caller id, he sighs. Then, he gestures to me that he needs to take the call so I head to the kitchen to drink some warm milk in order to calm myself before bed. 

I watch from a distance with my cup of milk as Ryan appears serious while talking on the phone. He catches me staring and flashes me his shiny white teeth before continuing his conversation with the person on the other side of the call.

The call ends right after I finish washing the cup I drank my milk from. He walks to me and stops a few centimetres away. He immediately apologises for the interruption that halts our conversation out of nowhere. I reassure him that it doesn’t bother me.

“Tomorrow, I have to go to work because Rick has something important to share,” Ryan explains the content of his calls.

“No, it's okay. Wait, you have work?” My brain decides slowly to digest the fact that Ryan has a job thus leading to my delayed reaction.

“Yeah, I work with Ian and the rest.” Ryan casually replies while looking at me weird for not knowing this.

“I didn’t- I never saw you dropping by to do some work when I had my study session with Sam.”

Ryan appears to recall something, “Oh, right. I haven’t been around the office because I thought I caught a hot trail and since Rick went on the business trip, I didn’t think I needed to finish my job around the rest.”

“Is it about…”

“Yeah, but that’s a conversation for next time. You should rest.”

“Oh, wait. Will Sam be there?” I recall that I haven’t asked Sam about the progress of the plan to improve the orphanage.

“Yeah, he always is.” Ryan tilts his head and raises his brows.

“Then can I come along?” I ask.

“Sure but we’ll have to bring Aiden along too,” Luckily Ryan remembers about Aiden and I nod in agreement because we can’t leave a four-year-old alone at home.

Since that is settled, I head back to Aiden’s room but Ryan suddenly stops me before I manage to open the door.

I turn around and notice that he is standing too close to me. He suddenly leans over and kisses my forehead.

“Goodnight, sayang.” He smirks after taking advantage of my momentary distraction.

I mumble goodnight to him as well and then quickly enter Aiden’s bedroom. I close the door immediately and lean my body on the door before touching my forehead. His low quiet voice lingers in my ears.

Afterwards, I remember the meaning behind the word he calls me and I just can’t help but bury my face onto my palms. I finally realise that I might not have been paying attention to Ryan. I actually don’t know when he starts to become nice to me and ultimately ends up calling me…

I can’t even say it to myself.

Abby’s question that I avoided answering the other day rings in my mind and I start to feel confused about the entire thing. I don’t actually know how I truly feel about Ryan. I do appreciate him and feel safe around him but is there more to it? 

I don’t know.

My eyes catch a glimpse of Aiden sleeping peacefully in his bed and it allows me to pause for a moment to calm down enough. I shake away all these troubling and confusing thoughts. I don’t want to deal with that right now. I push it away and tell myself,

‘Let’s just deal with it tomorrow or something.’

I cant... this chapter I can't... Anyway, reason why I never put any meaning next to the word 'sayang' other than as term of endearment is because of this chapter. Hopefully you liked it.

Basic pronounciation guide:
Bunga - Bu [Boo] - Nga [eng-aa but fast] 
Sayang - Sa [not say sound but suh sound] - Yang [Young]
Cinta - Chin - Ta(r) [silent T]

Whether the above correct or not, I don't know but it's the best I can do for you guys. Have fun trying~