Madelaine Shaw-Wong

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Borneo

December 1941

The roar of aircraft and thunderous explosions shook them from their beds. In the morning, Ming-Zhu and her father gawked at the ruined air traffic control tower and at the runway, pock-marked with craters. The hangers were empty now of aircraft and all but a handful of the British soldiers had vanished overnight.

     Jung Shu-Ang shook his head, sucked on his cigarette, and then crushed it with the sole of his shoe. “This had to be the work of the British.”

     “Why would they do that? Why would they bomb their own airstrip?” Ming-Zhu asked.

     Shu-Ang stood with legs parted slightly and twirled the gold ring on his finger. He looked down at his daughter, furrowing his brow. “Some say we will be invaded.”

     She watched the worried expression on his face. “Who’s going to invade?”

     “The Japanese.”

     “Why did the British soldiers go? They should have stayed.”

     “You’re too young to concern yourself about such things.” He patted her shoulder and then led her back to the black Buick sedan.

     That night, Ming-Zhu listened to her parents’ hushed conversation through the thin wooden walls of her bedroom. She stared into the darkness and her heart thumped wildly. Her sister, Ming-Mei, slumbered in a nearby bed.

     “When will the invasion come?” her mother, Fen-Fang asked.

     “The British have ensured that the Japanese can’t invade by air. But if it’s a naval attack, it could be soon,” Shu-Ang said.

     “Who will help us?”

     “I don’t know if anyone can.”

     “What will we do? The children--”

     “There’s nothing we can do.”