Shan was brought up as a devout Catholic, but Catholicism was not the defining point of her life. Shan was a sweet girl, fiercely loyal and devoted to her husband, caring mother to her children, patient listener to all her friends, and indeed was nothing anyone could bring to hate. The only importance Catholicism has on her life is her belief against pre-marital sex and divorce.
The belief against pre-marital sex is somewhat an obsolete belief in her current life since she’s married with kids, but right until her marriage day, her husband had not even seen her naked breast, much less other more intimate details.
Before her marriage, she would sometimes wonder in fear whether Ming would leave her as she could not bring herself to fulfil his sexual desires. It was clear in Ming’s eyes that fiery passion burned within even though he told her he respected her and would hence respect her faith. Once in a while she would fantasise Ming forcing himself upon her, she knew she would find it difficult to resist him, but true to his word, Ming respected her.
Even after their marriage, Shan often found herself unable to satisfy Ming’s needs. Being a virgin and an innocent and shy young girl, she never knew how to be creative in bed. And Ming, being the respecting fine young man, never pressed for more with Shan. Sex to them was merely a procreating avenue. Shan would lie in bed and Ming would hump her till ejaculation. Then he would flip over and the both of them would fall asleep. Everything was a mechanical process.
Shan could tell from Ming’s eyes that he wanted more adventures in bed, and it was not about the quantity of the sex, but the quality of it rather. She knew she failed him in the department, but it was difficult for her to muster up courage to try out something different with Ming. Sometimes, she would fantasise Ming leading her and guiding her to do something she had never tried before, but Ming, being the respecting young man never pressed for more with Shan.
Shan met Ming at a mutual friend’s fathering and were instantly attracted to each other. Shan saw Ming as a nice and sensible young man who respected everyone for who they were. Ming was attracted to the nice and sweet gentle young woman in Shan and saw her potential to be that self-sacrificing loving wife and mother.
They hung out. They dated. And they started introducing each other as their significant others in front of other people. Shan could not remember who started it first or who made the move first because everything seemed to proceed on so gradually.
Even though Shan knew all of Ming’s friends after an extended dating period, Shan did not know much about Ming’s private life before he met her. And she never managed to find an appropriate time to ask him about it. Some of the friends claimed that they never heard Ming having a girlfriend until Shan’s presence in his life, but others thought that Ming had been in a relationship or two before. None was sure about it.
None except Scarlett. Scarlett was Ming’s best friend and the friend who knew most about him that she would sometimes put Shan green with envy. Scarlett once told Shan that she was indeed Ming’s first girlfriend, but added that Ming had dated many others before meeting Shan. Most of the time, Shan used Scarlett’s words as the benchmark even though her mind would wander off at times.
She could tell from Ming’s body language that he was not a virgin kisser, not a virgin at all. Hence, she often found herself wondering about all of Ming’s previous encounters with other girls. However, despite being a married couple and everything, Shan never dared to ask Ming anything about his previous relationships. And Ming never once offered her any details about it.
But Shan, despite her lack of experience in love, was still ultimately a woman. She has her womanly intuitions and was sensitive in mood changes around her.
Despite being so, she found it difficult to pinpoint the exact time and date when she realised this. Possibly it was after the marriage because she could not have brought herself to marry had she known about it. Maybe it was on their wedding itself where everyone’s emotions were accentuated.
Also, Shan, being the shy and timid Shan, never confronted Ming or Scarlett about it. She didn’t even dare tell anyone about her discovery.
She took in everything and acted as though nothing happened. Sometimes she would even attempt to convince herself that her discovery was in fact merely just a wild speculation on her part and everything was just thought up. After all, she has yet exacted a confession out from anyone, and as the usual court saying goes, innocent until proven guilty. Ming and Scarlett were innocent.
No matter how hard she tried to convince herself, it was no use. She knew what was going on. She knew.
She knew that Scarlett and Ming were seeing each other behind her back. Okay, Ming made it a point to notify Shan every time he brought back a DVD and brought it over to Scarlett’s place for a late night movie. But she knew, without Ming telling her, that sex transpired between them during the movie session.
What Shan was not sure was since when this has started between Ming and Scarlett. Shan knew that Ming had known Scarlett for the longest time, she was one of his oldest buddies. Ming had known Scarlett way before he met Shan, and during the early stages of their relationship, Ming had already introduced Scarlett to Shan. But at that time, Shan merely dismissed Scarlett as a normal platonic friend of Ming.
As Shan got to know Scarlett better, Shan got to know Scarlett’s various boyfriends too. She saw them come and go and even saw Scarlett double/triple/quadruple timing them, and she knew there were probably even more who never even made it to meet her. Unlike all of those boyfriends of Scarlett, Ming remained by Scarlett’s side for decades, leading Shan not to realise that something might have transpired between them.
However, as time passed, Shan sensed that growing jealousy Scarlett had towards her even though Scarlett never made it show. Then, after the wedding, Scarlett disappeared for a short period. She said she was posted overseas, but Shan felt the distancing Scarlett took in her relationship with Ming.
On the other hand, Shan too picked up certain vibes from Ming. At first, she sensed a slight awkwardness in Ming as and when she picked up the jealousy vibe from Scarlett, but with Scarlett’s disappearance, Shan felt a slight alteration in Ming’s personality. He became more irritable and distracted. She caught him masturbating and sobbing in the toilet a few times, but she never confronted him about it on every occasion.
Other than the fact that Shan was a shy and timid innocent young woman, there was another reason holding Shan back from seeking the entire truth. Shan was against divorce. There was no way she could see herself separated from Ming or her children. She knew that if she confronted either one of them, divorce would definitely be on the cards. And never was that an option to Shan.
Shan knew that if she confronted Ming about it, there was no way in her selfish dreams that she could tolerate sharing her husband with another. And she could not force Ming to pick between her and Scarlett.
Shan knew that Ming loved Scarlett more than anything else in the world.
Therefore, day after day, night after night, Shan put on a mask to hide what she knew and treated Ming and Scarlett like she normally would. Every evening, she would pray that Ming did not come home with a DVD and Ming did not leave home to watch that DVD with Scarlett and Ming not have sex with Scarlett.
But of course, sometimes Ming would bring a DVD home, and he would leave for Scarlett’s place to watch the DVD with her and have sex with her.
Shan could not complain, because, she was in fact Scarlett’s “the other woman”.
I've been writing about Ming, Shan and Scarlett for quite some time already, but there are still many tales that I can spin out of them, and more importantly, many other mysteries about them I've yet unravelled. Shan's Tale is a break from my usual narration of Ming and Scarlett, instead, bringing you into the deepest thoughts of Shan, to find out what she really thinks.
This was one of the two pieces I submitted for this year's GPA, and sadly to say, neither of them were chosen. Still, under the whole context of the other stories of Ming and Scarlett and Shan, this is one piece that I'll hold deep in my heart.
PS: Click on the label below to read more about Ming and the two women in his life.