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Anthony Lim, an engineer, has a five-year-old daughter whom he adores dearly. His wife works in the hotel industry where they have working shifts. Sometimes, she has to work on weekends where Anthony would be left with the care of Jean, their daughter. On weekdays, Jean is taken care of by Anthony’s mother.One weekend during a festive season, Anthony decided to bring Jean to a new bookstore at Orchard Road while his wife was working. Jean gleamed with joy and anticipation when she was told of the plan while his wife warned him over the phone, « Make sure you keep a close watch over her. »

Anthony and Jean stopped by the town centre for lunch before taking the MRT to Orchard Road. Anthony, a tall bespectacled man looked very much the typical unfashionable Singaporean engineer in his short sleeve, striped business shirt. The only difference from his usual workday attire was his sandals. It was a treat to let his toes breathe in the fresh weekend air. If his wife was with him, she would insist on him wearing shoes in order to look presentable. He was quite happy with his casual appearance walking towards Wheellock Place on that particular Saturday afternoon. The Orchard crowd was all chic and style along the pedestrian mall. The young ones were `all dressed to kill’ in all kinds of apparel and manner. Looking at some of them , Anthony could not help wondering what happened to sweet modesty. Like a proud father, he clutched Jean’s hand tightly. She was his pride.

« Can I choose my own book, daddy? » Jean asked. She was a picture of sweet innocence in her simple blue dress. She had her hair tied behind her with a bright yellow pin. She half walked and half hopped in her excitement. « Of course, dear, you can choose any book you want, » the father replied. If he did not like the book, he would just coax her later. They soon reached the bookstore which had just opened recently.

They were greeted by the sight of shelves, books, words and alphabets enticing the eyes and mind to a world of knowledge and learning. Anthony led Jean forward and they explored the space ahead of them. There were the books and the people who were totally absorbed in them. The bookstore seemed to expand as they walked further in. There were all kinds and categories of books set in various arrays.

Anthony brought Jean to the children’s section and after spending some time with her, he decided to leave her there for a while. He wanted to browse around in the bookstore and select a few books for himself and his wife. He told Jean about his plan and persuaded Jean to agree to his proposal in return for a special ice-cream treat. Happily, Anthony went ahead to look for his books, promising to be back very soon.

The time slipped by and Anthony lost track of it. Instead of the twenty minutes he targeted, the watch showed forty-five minutes when he next looked at it. Jean! His mind shrieked. He darted across the bookroom to the children’s section. Jean was not there. With his heart pounding, he scanned the bookstore for Jean. « Don’t panic! She must be somewhere around, » Anthony told himself. He felt anger towards himself while trying to push back the fears that spooked him.

Finally, he caught sight of Jean together with one of the counter staff. The tension within him dissipated. Jean’s eyes were red and his relief was soon replaced by sheepish embarassment as he claimed her back.

1. Who looks after Jean during the weekends ?
2. How did Jean feel about going to Orchard Road ?
3. According to the passage, how does a typical Singaporean engineer look like ?
4. How were the young ones at Orchard Road dressed ?
5. How did Anthony feel about the dressing of these young ones ?
6. Did Anthony really intend to buy Jean any book of her choice ? Explain your answer.
7. What does it mean to be ‘totally absorbed’ in the books ?
8. What was the ‘proposal’ that Jean agreed to ?
9. What was Anthony’s reaction when he suddenly realized that he had left Jean alone for forty-five minutes ?
10. What was the change in Anthony’s feelings when he finally found Jean ?

Click HERE to see the answers on English Daily.

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