Alternate Ending to Tiger Daughter by Gemma and Amelia

Tiger Daughter Created by CBCA NSW Central Coast Subbranch Older Readers Homeschool Group

What our creative response is:

‘Tiger Daughter: An Alternative Ending’ is, unsurprisingly, an alternative version of the ending of the book Tiger Daughter by Rebecca Lim. It picks up just before the scene in the original when the main character, Wen, runs away from home. This alternative version was an experiment of creative expression, and an exercise for the authors; allowing us to get a real sense of the characters, while adding our own spin to the plot and outcome of the book.

 

  • Once home, Wen smiles as she remembers the deep conversation she had with her mother during their walk. She has never felt so close to her. As her mother begins to settle into her evening ritual of cooking, Wen walks slowly into the kitchen. She waits to be acknowledged, but when her mother’s attention remains firmly on the sharp knife in her hand, Wen speaks up.

”Uhh…Mum?” she whispers, and her mother grunts in reply, not looking up.

“Mum?” she repeats. She knows her mother can hear her, but she needs to know she wants to.

“Yes Wen, what is it?”

“Well…Henry and I are taking part in an exam at the end of the month to get into a bigger highschool with more classes and opportunities and I want you to know about it.” Once Wen begins, the words continue like a waterfall, and by the time she forces her mouth shut, she has told her mother almost everything. Wen waits with bated breath as her mother stares blankly at her, processing everything she has just heard.

“Wen – I” her mother begins, but she doesn’t get far. A loud crash from the door startles them both, and the moment Wen turns around her heart drops to the floor.

”What is this exam you plan on taking? And HOW DARE YOU PLAN ON TAKING IT WITHOUT INFORMING ME!”his rage infects the room. Wen and her mother jump back, frightened as his face reddens and his hands form fists.

“This just proves how disobedient a child you are! I cannot believe you are my child!”

Wen wants to scream back, to fight her father, thrash him with the most scornful insult she can think of, but her mouth seems to be sewn shut. She does nothing but receive her father’s slanders as he spits them on her.

“I’m sorry,” she mutters when he finally stops to take a breath.

“Your pointless apology is NOT enough, you will drop out of that exam tomorrow.”

Wen shuts her eyes and takes a deep breath.“No,” she whispers.

“What did you just say to me?”

Wen’s body feels frozen in time, and the beating of her heart is almost enough to bring her chest pain.

“I will not drop out.”

“Then,” her father begins, and Wen is relieved that he is no longer screaming at her. “Then you will leave this house. You are no longer welcome here.”

Wen freezes, and her mouth falls open, horrified.

“You’re not serious,” her mother quickly says, but her father shakes his head, indicating that he is indeed serious, and leaves the room without another word. There is complete silence for a moment.

“He wasn’t serious, Wen; you don’t have to leave.”

“I know…I think I might go up to my room.” Wen can’t breathe, she is suffocating with the hate that consumes her. She tries to force out a smile and leaves the kitchen. But she does not walk to her room; instead, she inches to the door, and as silently as she can, slips out into the crisp night air.

 

  1. After wandering the streets for some time, Wen stops to think about her options. She can’t go back home with her father in his rage, and she doesn’t want to. For her whole life, she has been putting up with her father’s horrible behaviour, and now that she is gone, she never wants to return.

There is only one other place she can think of where she would be welcomed with all the alacrity she has never had at home. And yet, she has never been inside before. What colour are his walls? she wonders. Wen finds herself wandering in the direction of Henry’s house. As she approaches the dry plants of the front garden and the dark, barricaded screen door comes into view, she begins to fear that Henry will not let her in. What if Mr Xiou refuses her, and casts her back onto the lonely streets?

As that possibility fills her mind, she suddenly thinks of another danger, and she glances around with paranoia. Someone steps out onto the footpath, dragging a large bin onto it before retreating out of her sight, and Wen almost breaks into a terrified run.

Wen reaches the doorway and knocks. She blinks with surprise as it flings open before she has the chance to knock again. Henry lets her inside, without asking a single question, locks the door behind her, and leads her into the lounge room with a blank look in his eyes.

 

  1. Once inside, Wen flinches at the loneliness of the peeling walls and dust-covered shelves. Henry walks through without looking, but Wen can’t stop her eyes from travelling over the devastation of a home. Henry leads her up some rickety stairs and into his bedroom. Green is the first thought that pops into Wen’s brain. His walls are green. 

Only once the door was shut tight did Henry lift his sights from the scratched floor to meet her eyes.

“What’s going on?” he asks, his voice quiet and monotone.

Wen swallows against the rising sickness but answers honestly, “I’m running away from home.”

“Why?” Henry’s voice is soft and comforting, and Wen begins recounting all the events that lead up to this moment.

As she describes the fateful argument with her father, the simmering fury it gave her is renewed in her chest. She clenches her teeth to contain the anger the memory fills her with.

Wen vents all her repressed anger towards her father, and Henry listens silently. Eventually the torrent of words subside, leaving Wen feeling empty, somehow.

“I won’t… I can’t go back.” Wen suddenly realises how tired she is and she slumps into Henry’s chair. Henry looks down at her, a question mark in his eyes.

“Where will you stay?” he asks, but a sharp rap at the door shakes through the weak floorboards and interrupts them. Henry crosses the room to pull it open.

His father stoops in the doorway; his eyes skim over the room, catching sight of Wen before coming to rest on Henry. He raises his eyebrows in quest of an explanation. Henry sets his teeth. He looks up at his father and Wen holds her breath in apprehension, waiting as the two hold eye contact.

“Wen’s staying for a while,” Henry says. And he shuts the door.

 

  1. Four days later: Wen fidgets nervously with her backpack, her eyes on the cafe door. She got a seat close to the back of the shop. If she catches even a glimpse of her father she’ll become a shadow, disappearing into her surroundings and slipping out the door. But there’s a gnawing sensation in her stomach that tells her she needs to do this.

Wait – there. The neat pink suit is unmistakable. Wen swallows and looks down. She wonders if she should leave anyway, sneak through the back door and retreat to the comfort of a heartfelt conversation with Henry and a warm bowl of soup. But, as her mother looks around the cafe and catches sight of her huddling in the corner, the relief on her face is enough for Wen to stay put and wait as Teresa rushes over to her daughter.

Wen is pulled into her mother’s embrace and the sweet smell of her mother’s favourite Jasmine perfume dances between them. It’s just what she needs to relieve the stress growing between her shoulders and pounding through her head.

“Oh, Wen, I’ve missed you so much. Are you alright? What have you been doing? You are staying with Henry, right?” Her mother hurries to sit down, and she listens with her eyes wide as Wen answers her questions. She hands a menu to her daughter, and Wen sighs as the comforting feeling of normality flows through her.

“You have no idea how worried I’ve been about you, Wen. It’s been nearly a week.” She stares down at Wen with a look of almost strictness.

“I know, Mum.” Wen lowers her eyes guiltily, but she just isn’t going back. “I’m sorry, but I can’t come home now.”

“But Wen, you must,” her mother urges, although with only a half heart, as if she doesn’t really believe what she is saying.

Wen looks up at her mother quickly. The weakness of her statement feels off, somehow. Wen quietly studies her mother’s face for a few minutes and suddenly notices the dark swellings, almost concealed by makeup, thicker than her mother ever applies. A wave of anger deeper than any she has ever felt before grows inside her stomach. She struggles to contain her rage all through their meal. Afterwards, she watches her mother walk down the street with a feeling of doom. What on earth should she do?

 

  1. Wen returns to Henry’s house later that afternoon feeling nervous and guilt-ridden. Seeing the raw redness around her mother’s eyes, hearing about all her sleepless nights, riddled with worry, and most of all, seeing the discolourations showing through her mother’s painted face, brought a bubbling fury into Wen’s heart.

Now she can’t help worrying about her mother’s safety. Her father had been deteriorating since he had lost his job, and she didn’t know how to feel about leaving her mother alone with him.

She wonders if she should go back and attempt to help. But it wasn’t like her presence had ever done her mother any good when her father was in one of his many moods.

Wen had almost invited her mother to Henry’s house but stopped herself. She could not thrust another person into the grieving Mr Xiou’s care, no matter how desperately she wanted to.

As she walks inside Henry’s house, her footsteps no longer ring with gladness. She can’t rid herself of the image of her mother’s crumpled face. She needs to do something, but there’s nothing she can think of that would help. She could storm home and unleash her volcano of anger that’s been simmering under her chest for as many years as she has lived… but what would that do but worsen both their lives?

Who is there in her life that she can turn to? Henry is her only friend and there is nothing he or his father can do. No one else cares enough about her or knows anything about her situation and even if they did, no one has enough authority to do anything about her father except perhaps the police, and she would have no idea what to say if she was facing an officer.

Authority… her thoughts turn to the people in her “outside” life who have authority. Her teachers. And maybe… just maybe there is one person who could help.

 

  1. The knock at the door was the only thing keeping him silent, and Teresa hoped whoever was there would leave before Mr Zhou’s anger could no longer be expressed through furious glares.

Teresa waits for the sound of retreating footsteps, but the silence is splintered by another loud bang on the door. She can see the rage in her husband’s eyes. She scurries out of the room to the door, lifting her sleeve over the swelling deformity on her shoulder. She opens the door a crack and frowns in surprise as she recognises Wen’s teacher.

“Leanne,” she says, slipping out into the garden. “What are you doing here?”

Leanne nods her friendly greeting and Teresa stiffens, suddenly worried that something might have happened to Wen.

“Wen came to talk to me yesterday,” Leanne starts, and Teresa’s heart sinks to her toes. “She’s worried about what’s happening to you but wouldn’t say what that is. Can you tell me what’s going on?”

Teresa stands on the pathway, struggling. She wonders what on earth she should do. Once upon a time, it would have been simple. She can almost remember the innocent incredulity she felt when her friend told her of a neighbour who would not leave her abusive partner. Now it seems much less simple. She isn’t sure she’s brave enough to do this.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she finally decides on saying, but Wen’s sharp-eyed teacher does not seem convinced.

“Wen seemed very sure that something was wrong.”

Teresa grits her teeth and swallows.

“Wen is a child, she – she does not know… understand things like this.”

Leanne steps slightly closer, and opens her mouth to say something, but closes it abruptly when a sound from inside causes Teresa flinch with fear.

The front door crashes open and Mr Zhou stands there, red with anger.

“What in the name of – who the hell are you talking to?!” Teresa stops dead as if hit by a physical force. Her husband clenches his fists tight. He raises them, a manic glint in his eyes, and Teresa braces herself. Mr Zhou catches her a glancing blow to the eye but then moves past her to where Leanne stands. He grits his teeth and raises his fists again.

 

  1. A light click indicates Mr Xiou’s return and Wen and Henry leap down the stairs to greet him with the brightest smiles they could manage. They know how drained Mr Xiou could be upon returning home, so they enjoy bringing a smile to his heavy, tired face in any way they can. But this evening, his deep, drained face is ridden with sorrow and fear, and his eyes, instead of hanging limp, dart around nervously. They land on Wen’s brown ones and a deeper furrow creases his brow.

“Wen…” he starts, swallowing unhappily. “Your mother…”

Wen’s eyes widen in sudden alarm and fear.

“What?” She almost swallows her words as fear settles in her gut. Mr Xiou does not respond straight away but gives her a sympathetic look and sighs.

“I got a call from the hospital, and…and your mother’s hurt, badly hurt.”  Wen stands paralysed, unimaginable emotions and thoughts rush through her, and even breathing seems impossible in this moment. For a few seconds, she cannot see past the swirling colours that cover her eyes. As she blinks the spots away, she forces a breath out and starts to catch up with her brain.

“Will she… is she going to… will she be okay?”

“Yes, although it will take time.” Wen’s breath rushes out in a gush of relief.

“I think we should go see her,” Mr Xiou says gently. Wen nods quickly and dashes to the doorway, where she slips on her shoes before Mr Xiou even has the chance to blink.

 

  1. Mr Zhou is in the kitchen when he hears the loud knock of a heavy fist on the front door. He turns his back on the sound and sits heavily in a wooden chair, momentarily forgetting the absence of his dramatic wife. He waits for her to unlock the door and dismiss whoever is there, but unfortunately, the knocking does not stop. Mr Zhou groans and gets to his feet. He thumps down the hallway and pulls the door open with a scowl. Opening his mouth to shout at whoever persistently stands there, he is shocked when the screen door is thrust in his face and the firm, wide figures of two police officers step through the doorway, and into his narrow hallway.

“What is the meaning of this?”

“Mr Zhou, you are under arrest for inflicting severe bodily harm on Mrs Teresa Zhou. We are going to escort you to the police station for questioning. ” One of them says, and he holds open the door. The other stands next to his fellow, the very real gun in his belt drawing Mr. Zhou’s eyes.

Mr Zhou’s frown morphs into a scowl of fury. He clenches both fists tight by his side, outrage bubbling deep within him. As he reaches the officer at his door he gives him a look of cold contempt and controlled anger.

“What has my wife been telling you?” he sneers. “You can’t trust her – she’s always lying, always blaming me for something.”

The officer gives Mr Zhou a calm, set look.

“Mr. Zhou, you will be interviewed at the station. Save your story for then.”

Mr Zhou clenches his teeth in fury. “Where is my daughter? It’s her you should be arresting, she caused all this.”

The silent officer tilts his head upwards and quietly sighs. The officer holding the door open gestures towards the police car.

“Save it, Mr. Zhou.”

 

  1. Wen has only seen her mother once since the dreadful night Mr Xiou had returned home with the horrible news hovering in his mind. She had not wanted to go back – seeing her mother, her skin black-blue and discoloured with blotches, and bumps growing on it as large as Wen’s thumbs, saddened Wen, and she did not ever want to see her mother in that state again.

So for a while, they communicated through the weak hospital phone, until the aching of her mother’s jaw, and the static that often took over the calls, became so bad it was barely worth the effort.

But today she is going back, as Teresa is about to be discharged. Wen is glad her mother will be looking more like herself and able to return home soon. It is an odd thought that, after the week or so she had been away, maybe she would be able to return home too. It is an even odder thought that she might live in her house without her father. She feels–knows– that it will be a change for the better, though.

Wen sits on the end of her mother’s bed in the whitewashed hospital ward, looking out the window at the summery sky outside. Beside her, her mother is being checked over by a narrow-faced nurse, and she winces slightly as the woman prods her back mercilessly.

“Are you feeling okay now?” Wen asks.

“That depends on what you mean,” her mother says with a sigh as the nurse turns towards the door, muttering a few words to the doctor who stands by it. “My body is feeling much better and isn’t hurting the way it was before, but the rest of me is less easy to work out.” Wen looks down at her feet and tries to think of something sensible and comforting to say, but nothing inspirational pops into her head. She sighs slightly too.

“How are you going?” her mother asks. Wen shrugs.

“I don’t really know. I’m glad… about Dad, I think, but…” her words sputter out. “Everything is so different now. It happened so, you know, fast.” She shrugs apologetically at the cliche and directs her eyes back towards her toes.

“I know, Wen. But now that it has happened, you can come home?” Teresa looks at Wen with hope glistening in her eyes, and Wen responds without even having to think.

“Of course I will be coming home, Mum. I already have my bags packed.” A relieved smile breaks onto Teresa’s lips, and she leans across the bed to embrace her daughter, who returns the hug gladly.

“Can we go home now?” Wen asks, pulling out of her mother’s arms and looking deeply into her eyes.

“Yes, Wen, let’s go.”

 

 

Two years later: Flowers fill Teresa’s garden beds and the high school Wen and Henry attend is overshadowed by a jacaranda, blooming brilliantly in late spring. Wen sits by her window, staring blankly down at the maths homework she is supposed to be finishing.

The sun streaming through the glass doesn’t help her brain work any better, although it is a pleasant presence. After a few more moments of wrestling with her frazzled brain Wen sets her pencil down. Tomorrow, she thinks to herself as she heads towards the kitchen, from which beguiling scents have been wafting for the past hour.

Her mother is nervous, Wen can tell by the tantalising pile of dishes blanketing the kitchen table. She knows Mr Xiou and Henry are coming over for dinner, but she suspects the extreme amounts of food are due to Teresa’s tendency to cook when nervous, rather than their guests.

“How are you going, Mum?” Wen asks, sneezing slightly when the heavy, delicious-smelling steam that fills the room wafts over her, making it hard for Wen to even see her mother through it. “As fine as I can possibly be. Have you finished your homework? Yuze and Henry will be here soon, you don’t want to be hidden away in your room while they are here, do you?” Teresa demands, changing the subject almost as quickly as she throws another plate of food to the bench.

“Mmm… I haven’t finished it yet. It’s quite hard; I’m not sure even Henry would be able to help me with it this time,” Wen answers. Since being accepted in the school, her work had become definitely and insanely more difficult. Through the front door, Wen glimpses Mr Xiou’s shabby van making its way towards them.

“They’re coming,” she says, looking up at her mother out of the corner of her eye. Teresa keeps her head down and her hands working, but the quick flick of her lively eyes towards the door and the swift tightening of her fingers on her knife betray her. Wen smiles. It’s been good to see her mother brighten in the absence of her father, and this latest phase has been the most enjoyable to watch. A knock on the door interrupts Wen’s thoughts. She marches to the door and throws it wide to see Henry standing on the small, covered porch.

“Hey Wen,” he says, smiling before looking regretfully at the large binder of papers in his hands. “Umm…Wen, I – I kind of need help with my maths homework.” He mutters the words so quickly that Wen can barely understand them, but when she does, she cannot hold in a laugh. Henry needing help with maths homework! This new school has really scrambled the order of their relationship.

“Sure, but if I’m being honest, I’m just as lost as you are.” Wen giggles, holding the door open as Henry and his father walk in. Henry makes a beeline up the stairs to Wen’s room, and Mr Xiou makes one, with equal urgency to the kitchen, where she hears her mother cry out a joyful greeting. Wen follows Henry up the stairs to find him sitting in her chair, looking gloomily over her own unfinished maths homework.

“Oh,” he says disappointedly, and for some reason, his tone of shattered hope is so hilarious that Wen just has to burst out laughing. A reluctant smile breaks across Henry’s lips, but he obviously has no sense of humour to make light of the situation. “Wen, this is serious!” This statement pushes another bout of giggles from Wen’s stomach, and it takes her a few minutes to calm down.

“Henry,” she says with sympathy, “did you really think I was the right person to help with this particular assignment?”

Henry sighs and rests his forehead on his arms.

“Come on,” Wen says, still giggling, and she picks up her phone and turns it on. She goes to the table, takes a quick photo of the troublesome page, and sends it through to Rachel. “Well, Henry,” she says, forcing down another laugh, “You were very helpful in primary school, but when all is said and done I must say you’re not so useful to me anymore. I had high hopes for you, my boy, but I’m afraid you’ve disappointed me.” The giggles resurface. “You may as well leave now.”

Henry snorts and whacks Wen playfully over the head with her pillow.

“Wen! Henry!” Teresa calls up the stairs. “Dinner’s ready!” Wen and Henry head down to the kitchen to find a most remarkable dinner laid out on the table. There is barely any room for their bowls with all the dishes that fill the space. The dinner is a marvellous and relatively silent one. Wen watches Mr Xiou and her mother out of the corner of her eye and smiles at their ease and silent happiness in each other’s company. She catches Henry’s eye and they grin. After dinner, Henry and Wen offer to wash up. The hot water swirls about in the sink, and as they bathe the dirty dishes in the suds Henry suddenly turns to look at Wen.

“Your father,” he says quietly, not wanting to disturb the parents, “he must be getting out soon.” A cloud comes down over Wen’s face.

“Tomorrow,” she says.

“What’s going to happen?” his eyes seek out Wen’s own.

“He’s having an Apprehended Violence Order put on him,” Wen says in a barely audible breath. Henry nods, swallows, and looks down.

The dishes are all washed, dried and put away eventually, and Henry and Wen retreat back upstairs as the sun drops towards the treetops. “Should we give this another try?” Wen asks, gesturing to their combined pile of maths homework, and Henry only groans.

“No way, my brain would explode if it touched that again!” “Agreed,” Wen says, and she flops down onto her bed. Henry sits next to her and they stare out at the glistening world. Wen breathes out slowly and sighs.

“Do you remember that poem we had to learn last year, After Rain?’

“Yeah,” Henry sighs. “That Alfred Noyes guy really was sentimental.”

Wen chuckles. “Yeah… ”

“Mmm,” Henry mutters, sighing deeply. “Are you going to see your dad when he gets out?”

Wen scrunches her eyebrows. She knows she can’t anyway, but she hasn’t thought about what she would do if she could. She wonders if her father would even want to see her; she doubts that. There is nothing, no connection, no love to bring him back to her, and, she supposes, there is no connection or love to bring her back to him.

“I don’t think I will. You must leave the past behind, after all, and anyway, I’m pretty content with the present. Plus, with the AVO, it’s not like I can anyway.”

Henry chuckles as he lies down next to Wen and closes his eyes. The present certainly was pretty good.

 

The end.