Chapters 23–28

In this novel that draws on Malaysian folklore, Suraya's grandmother gives her a "pelesit" — a ghost or spirit — named Pink. But Suraya finds it difficult to control Pink's dark side.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. earnestly
    in a sincere and serious manner
    “I bring my home with me wherever I go,” he’d told Suraya’s mother earnestly as he left.
  2. sidle
    move unobtrusively or furtively
    But she didn’t answer; she was too busy sidling up against the walls of the camper, stretching on her tiptoes to peek into its streaky windows.
  3. cursory
    hasty and without attention to detail; not thorough
    A cursory glance through the contents of the cupboards revealed a small space dedicated to basic cookery ingredients—a little carafe of canola oil, glass jars with salt and sugar beached along the sides, bottles of sauces in every shade and spice variant, from the caramel darkness of sweet soy sauce to the flaming red of a sauce made with tiny, dangerously hot bird’s-eye chilis.
  4. carafe
    a bottle with a stopper
    A cursory glance through the contents of the cupboards revealed a small space dedicated to basic cookery ingredients—a little carafe of canola oil, glass jars with salt and sugar beached along the sides, bottles of sauces in every shade and spice variant, from the caramel darkness of sweet soy sauce to the flaming red of a sauce made with tiny, dangerously hot bird’s-eye chilis.
  5. fester
    decay with an offensive smell
    There were no photographs or ornaments to provide some insight into his solitary life, and no little messes; no papers strewn carelessly over tabletops, no crumpled piles of dirty clothes left to fester on the floor.
  6. sentinel
    a person employed to keep watch for some anticipated event
    There were so many of them, lined up along each shelf like sentinels, tall jars, thin jars, fat jars, each made of clear glass with a silver top screwed on tight.
  7. confines
    a bounded scope
    Row upon row of jars, row upon row of dark shapes that had begun to move restlessly against their glass confines.
  8. piety
    righteousness by virtue of being religiously devout
    You will find, child, that there are many monsters in this world who hide their darkness beneath a mask of piety. Call yourself a religious man and nobody will question you; do it well enough and you can stab them in the back, again and again and again, while they nod and say it is all for their own good.
  9. caustic
    harsh or corrosive in tone
    “Who can that be? Nobody ever comes around this time of day.”
    Or at all, mumbled Pink caustically, rubbing his aching head.
  10. inordinate
    beyond normal limits
    Inside, Jing spent an inordinate amount of time walking around Suraya’s small room, running her hands and eyes over everything, from the little bookshelf beneath the window, to the bed with its faded floral sheets, to the wooden desk covered in pots of pens and pencils, though the notebook was now firmly locked away in a drawer.
  11. palpable
    capable of being perceived
    The nervousness in Suraya’s voice was palpable.
  12. minaret
    a slender tower with balconies, especially on a mosque
    And we were close enough to the mosque to see the blue dome and the minarets from the kitchen window, and to mark time by the call to prayer.
  13. threshold
    the entrance for passing through a room or building
    And then she stepped over the threshold.
  14. spare
    lacking embellishment or ornamentation
    Suraya hadn’t been sure what to expect, but if anything, she thought Mama’s room might be spare and painfully neat, much like Mama herself. But this room was nothing like that at all. Instead, every inch of available space was covered in piles of...stuff.
  15. lurid
    glaringly vivid and graphic; marked by sensationalism
    They found all sorts of things—romance novels with lurid covers that Suraya would never have expected her mother to read, clothes with outsized shoulder pads like relics of a bygone era, several pairs of high heels in bright colors—reds and blues and yellows and purples—covered in dust, their faux leather peeling off in strips and scraps.
  16. ream
    a large quantity of written matter
    The first three drawers held nothing but reams and reams of paper—bills; cuttings from old newspapers, soft and yellowing; catalogues that had come in the mail still in their plastic wrappers, their covers promising unbelievable deals on Tupperware, dresses you could wear five different ways, and amazingly absorbent cleaning cloths; empty junk food wrappers stuffed in the spaces in between as if Mama was ashamed of consuming their contents.
  17. unyielding
    resistant to physical force or pressure
    Suraya pulled and tugged, but all it did was reveal a couple of dark, tantalizing centimeters of itself before refusing to move any further, stubborn and unyielding.
  18. admonish
    scold or reprimand; take to task
    “Don’t swear,” Suraya admonished her automatically, still staring at the marble in her hands.
  19. barrage
    the rapid and continuous delivery of communication
    Mama no longer looked irritated, just slightly shell-shocked at this barrage of words.
  20. broach
    bring up a topic for discussion
    It was dinnertime when she decided to broach the subject, and even then, she ran over five possible conversation starters before she decided on the best one.
  21. infuse
    fill, as with a certain quality
    “I’m feeling much better,” Suraya said, trying to infuse her voice with as much enthusiasm as she could.
  22. potency
    capacity to produce strong physiological or chemical effects
    Suraya could smell the familiar scent of Tiger Balm wafting gently from where Mama had massaged it into her neck and shoulders to take away the accumulated aches of the day; the potency of it made her sneeze.
  23. sundry
    consisting of a haphazard assortment of different kinds
    Instead of heading for the sundry shop, where brightly colored bouncy bells in net bags hung suspended from hooks over the entryway and all sorts of sweets clothed in lurid packaging were displayed in a way calculated to tempt even the most levelheaded child into parting with her pocket money, they slipped into the little-used alleyway behind the shophouses and pressed their bodies close against the wall, just as the school bell rang in the distance.
  24. implore
    beg or request earnestly and urgently
    Suraya’s voice was imploring.
  25. modest
    following standards of propriety in conduct or appearance
    It’s a sign of respect to the dead to be dressed modestly.
  26. covert
    secret or hidden
    A random Tuesday morning, as it turned out, was an excellent day for covert missions involving bus travel, because aside from an impeccably dressed gray-haired couple holding hands and a polished wooden cane each, a young man with headphones that sat atop an impossibly shaggy head of hair, and three girls in headscarves who went to sleep as soon as they settled into their seats, they had the entire bus to themselves.
  27. dour
    showing a brooding ill humor
    Not for the first time, Pink cursed the emotions he was trying so hard not to feel. That’s what you get, being around them for so long, he thought dourly. Humanity is contagious.
  28. festoon
    decorate or adorn
    “Relax lah,” Jing said, taking a swig from a water bottle festooned with tiny Wookiees.
  29. consternation
    sudden shock or dismay that causes confusion
    Jing definitely hadn’t; she was too busy rubbing her rear, a look of consternation on her face.
  30. mutinous
    characterized by a rebellion against authority
    He dragged his feet as he walked, kicking at pebbles, his mouth twisted into a mutinous pout.
  31. replete
    deeply filled or permeated
    Instead it was an upmarket café, complete with an extensive menu of specialty coffee written in an overly fancy font on a massive chalkboard, an interior replete with wood and chrome and exposed brick, and hipsters in tight jeans and horn-rimmed glasses.
  32. tepid
    feeling or showing little interest or enthusiasm
    And so here it was, their demise, in the form of overpriced coffee, free Wi-Fi, and too-loud folk covers of tepid pop songs.
  33. malevolent
    wishing or appearing to wish evil to others
    And then Pink remembered the rows and rows of ghosts and spirits, with their malevolent stares and their restless movements, and he looked at the two girls and the throngs of hipsters and thought: I cannot let him unleash his monsters here.
  34. imperceptibly
    in a manner that is difficult to discern
    He hadn’t expected that; she could tell from the way his little body stiffened, almost imperceptibly.
  35. gnarled
    old and twisted and covered in lines
    She paused beneath the spreading boughs of a tree so gnarled with age that she couldn’t even tell what fruit it might have once borne, and wiped the sweat off her brow.
  36. trappings
    ornaments; embellishments to or characteristic signs of
    Then she reached into her pocket, where the marble lay snug in its cloth trappings.
  37. surreptitiously
    in a secretive manner
    Then she surreptitiously rubbed it with her fingers, the way Aladdin rubbed the lamp, in case there was even the slightest chance a genie would appear.
  38. impertinence
    the trait of being rude and inclined to take liberties
    “Insolent little thing,” he sniffed. “When I was alive, the likes of you would have been taken to task for such impertinence.”
  39. expansive
    able or tending to extend in one or more directions
    “Well, then, Miss Suraya, what brings you to our neck of the woods?” Hussein gestured expansively around the cemetery.
  40. flounce
    walk in an emphatic or exaggerated way
    Without another word, she flounced off and sank back into the earth where she’d emerged from.
Created on November 27, 2020 (updated December 3, 2020)

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