"Your left arm wasn't straight enough."
The words resonated in his ears as he packed his shoes, opened the gate, limped out and shut it. He gingerly shifted his left knee. It still hurt when he put weight on it.
Melodic strains of a piano wafted from the house next door. It was already past sunset. The sun's dying rays led him past a playground of several chattering children.
He noticed a boy and girl, siblings, from his class. They swung high and free, without a care in the world. He smiled, slowly making his way towards them.
The girl, a charming little thing, came running at him, tugging at him to join them on the swings.
Struggling to smile, he obliged. They talked. About her friends at school. About his colleagues at work.
She proudly told him about how much she had improved. "But I don't like my new shoes! They make my feet all tangled up."
He laughed and showed her the freshly-ripped sole of his left shoe, drawing childish giggles from her in return.
"Mei, ah mee lai liao!"
Sis, mum is here already. Her elder brother's call brought her to her feet.
"I have to go now."
"Okay." He paused. "Listen... I'll never see you again."
"Never mind. Just go."
And they disappeared into the car.
Shuffling his feet uncertainly, he took one final gaze at the house that he had so loved and hated for four years. The gentle piano continued to play. Swathed in relief, sadness, sentimentality and eagerness all at once, his heart was clearly too overwhelmed to lead him for now. Only one thing remained certain - it was time to go home.
After making sure no one was looking, he waltzed one last time under the flickering moonlight. One, two and three.