Coral Cove #3
I should have known the night we landed at Singapore’s Changi Airport things would turn out badly. That something was already steeping in the thick, black Malaysian air like a tea ball of Darjeeling in a teapot. A something that would totally change my life forever.
Torn from her old existence in Florida, seventeen-year-old Brooke Bentley is forced to find new friends against a backdrop of intrigue, violence and revenge.
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I should have known the night we landed in Singapore that things would turn out badly. That something was already steeping in the thick, black Malaysian air like a tea ball of Darjeeling in a teapot. A something that would totally change my life forever. But how could I have suspected when I hadn’t even met Toy and Lani or Queenie, or fallen in love with Raffie Desai? If only someone had warned me. But life isn’t a Disney movie. It’s for real, and if I learned anything during my months in Singapore it is that.
* * *
“Ladies and gentlemen. We will be landing at Changi Airport in twenty minutes. Please secure all…” The announcement from the tiny female flight attendant, first in English, then Mandarin, woke me from a restless sleep. Struggling to clear my head, I opened my eyes. Yes! After a total of twenty-three hours in the air and ten plus hours in airports, the flight with no end was over. We were in Singapore!
Shedding the small blanket from around my shoulders, I raised the blind and peered out the window of the 747 at nothing but darkness and oblivion. “Brooke, are you awake?” I turned to my mother who peered at me from her cocoon-like seat across the aisle.
I nodded. “Yes, I’m awake.”
“Did you hear what the flight attendant said? We’re finally here, honey, so don’t fall asleep. And please check under your seat.”
I nodded again, refusing to give her the satisfaction of a smile even though she’d been going out of her way to be nice since we began the trip. The beginning of our new adventure. Adventure. That’s what my mom and dad had labeled our one-year transfer to Singapore the night they sprung it on Benji and me. Nightmare was more like it. I thought of Tyler and the night I gave him back his ring, biting my lip to keep from crying.
Remembering my mother’s instruction about lost stuff, I felt under my seat coming up with a Teen Vogue, a sock and a Snickers wrapper. Jamming the sock on my foot and the magazine in my humongous hobo purse, I tossed the candy wrapper back under the seat and buckled up. Okay. I was ready. At least as ready as anyone whose life had been recently ruined. Maybe the year will go by fast, I thought. But inside I knew I was lying to myself. I gazed out the window again, waiting for my first real glimpse of Singapore. I had fifteen minutes to think before we landed. Fifteen minutes to remember the past seventeen years of my life.
At first, the idea of leaving the Greek fishing town of Coral Cove, Florida to live on an island off the coast of Malaysia was exciting. Then from excitement I’d morphed to being mad. I mean, what girl in her right mind really wants to leave her BFFs, her school and her boyfriend to move a zillion miles away? But like every other teenager in this unfair world, I didn’t have a choice.
Tyler had been devastated too, even suggesting we run away and get married. And though I wasn’t always the sanest person on the planet, I wasn’t that crazy. Instead, I convinced him we’d wait for each other. A year isn’t that long when you really love someone, is it?
* * *
Midnight. Exhausted, my mother, brother, Benji, and I straggled off the plane into the terminal where we clustered together like newly hatched butterflies drying their wings. Blurry eyed, we took the escalator down to the luggage area. Thoroughly sick of sitting, I leaned against a pole, scoping out my new surroundings, trying to figure out just what day it was. Because since leaving L.A., crossing the International Date Line and losing umpteen hours, I didn’t have a clue whether it was Tuesday or Wednesday. But it’s hard to think when you’re sleep deprived and surrounded by a tsunami of people. But then, I guess they didn’t call Changi the busiest airport in the world for nothing.
With nothing to do but text, my fingers came to a halt when I noticed a hunky guy around my age standing with three pretty Indian women in bright saris and a heavy man wearing a suit and a turban. Tall, with cocoa-colored skin, the young guy had long braids the color of black licorice and was dressed in a starched white shirt and white slacks that made him look like the good guy in a Bollywood movie. Apparently unaware of my rude stare, he was totally preoccupied in directing a porter on how to arrange a mountain of suitcases on a cart. One, two, three, four. Seven suitcases and counting. Amazing! I guess I wasn’t the only one who had a problem with over packing.
A wild wave from my mother interrupted my counting. “Brooke, you missed your luggage! See, the pink ribbons?” Jamming my cell in my purse, I scanned the conveyor belt in time to see my two chubby suitcases cruise by like truant teenage girls on their way to the beach. I shot to the carousel, attempting to head them off before they escaped through the tunnel. Inches from one delinquent, I was jostled aside by someone who first stepped on my toes. With a yelp, I looked up to see the guy with the braids. Acting as though I were invisible, he grabbed a humungous suitcase from the conveyor and was off. Wincing in pain, I balanced flamingo like on one foot to examine my injured toes while the oblivious perpetrator dragged his prize back to his family. What a jerk! Probably typical of all the guys in Singapore. But what did I care about men! I had Tyler.
Dragging my suitcases, I stumbled after my mother and brother. Outside, the sultry air greeted me like an old friend. “It feels just like Florida in August,” I said to anyone who’d listen. I scanned a row of waiting limos. A potpourri of Asian, Indian, Malay and Caucasians jostled by, almost everyone looking exhausted and rich. Not that we were exactly poor. But in this world there’s money and then there’s money. And as supposedly the sixth wealthiest city in the world, Singapore had tons of it.
“Brooke, Brooke, our driver’s over there.” My mother pointed to a wiry, brown-skinned man carrying a sign that read Bentley Family. He smiled as we approached.
“Mrs. Bentley, I presume?” he began in a gentle sing-song voice. “My name is Madhi and I am your driver. Your husband sent me to take you to your new home.”
“You don’t know how happy I am to see you,” my mother began. “We’re just so exhausted.” And for a minute, I thought she was going to cry.
“Yes, Madame. I’m sure you are quite fatigued. You have traveled far, indeed. Let me assist you with your bags.” And then with more muscle than I thought possible for a skinny old guy, he tossed our seven traumatized bags onto the cart. Ecstatic to have someone else take charge, my mother, brother and I followed Madhi through the airport outside into a light drizzle where our limo waited at the curb.
Loaded with baggage and passengers, our car lumbered off into the night. Appearing to be on the wrong side of the road, my mother and I sat in the back; the driver and Benji, who looked like he was driving, sat in the front. The drizzle continued, and except for the scraping of the scratchy wipers against the windshield, all was quiet until we reached our new home. Once eager to see the ultra-modern penthouse perched on a hill, I no longer cared. For all I wanted was a real bed, a real bathroom, and a kitchen with a refrigerator where I could stash almond milk, fruit, and protein powder. After what seemed forever, Madhi stopped. He turned to my mother and me.
“Your new residence,” he announced with a grand flourish. “One Mount Sophia.”
In a flurry of confusion, the four of us made our way into the lobby of the condo where my mother pushed a button on an intercom connecting us to my father. Within minutes he was downstairs, giving everyone a hug. I was never so happy to see him.
Like a sleepy two-year-old being led to the bathroom in the middle of the night, I followed my father into the elevator and to the top floor marked penthouse. Stopping in front of a pair of black lacquered doors, he flung them open. Mesmerized, I dragged myself into the foyer where I was greeted by an ultra-modern living room that looked like something out of a Turner Classic 1930’s movie—blonde wood floors, white shag carpeting and low-slung furniture. My father waved at our surroundings. “Well, what do you think?” he asked.
“Unreal,” I said. “Now where can I crash?”
Ushered to my new room, I closed the door. Stripping off my rumpled jeans and T-shirt, I dragged a washcloth over my face, brushed my teeth and fell into bed. Soon drifting toward sleep, thoughts of the past thirty hours filled my exhausted mind. But try as I would to think of Tyler and our last night together, I couldn’t, instead my only image being of the tall Hindu guy with the long licorice braids and mysterious eyes.