Tragedy at the Yacht Club
Jade put on her stoic face and let the family take over planning. Once her cooperation was gained Wong Hui made his move. Through selected staff Stanley socialized and worked with his attention was constantly drawn to Jade’s beauty and his need to settle down and take a wife and he should consider her. His response was always the same. He felt it unwise to think of a match like that as it would be frowned on by the Chinese community at the social level they worked at and he did not want to jeopardize their friendship which he genuinely valued and respected. But the suggestions continued until Stanley began to imagine what it would be like to share his life with this beautiful woman. He began to be less formal with her in the office and as he was not rebuffed imagined that his sensitivity to a mixed cultural marriage may have been misplaced.
Wong Hui had sponsored Stanley to yacht club membership one of the perks of working at the Singapore office for partners and their international recruits. The firm had a couple of sailing boats and Stanley along with others interested from the office had received lessons in the art of sailing. It was one of Stanley’s favorite leisure activities and he’d become somewhat proficient negotiating Singapore territorial waters which were always crowded with boats and ships of all sizes squeezed between the country and Malaysian and Indonesian waters. After some time of conditioning Wong Hui invited him to join he and Jade on a Sunday morning sailing. This Stanley eagerly accepted as he loved the sport. But when he arrived at the club and looked for them only Jade was there.
“My uncle gives his apologies, he felt suddenly unwell and asked me to let you know just now. Perhaps he was unable to phone you himself as you would have been on the way here.” She attempted to smile this was going to be a difficult time, but she had to do it for the sake of the family. She was the sacrificial lamb.
Stanley expressed his genuine sympathy. His boss had been kind to him, and he felt a bond that made his sympathy genuine. Jade watched it all to try and understand who the real Stanley Pengelly was. Nothing would escape her scrutiny of this man she was destined to sacrifice herself to for the family.
Stanley chatted happily as they manipulated controls together to catch the direction of winds and Jade responded formally yearning for the end of it and retreat to her private quarters back home. But over that hour and lunch beside the magnificent pool later in swimming attire afterward she began to thaw out. May as well make the most of a beautiful day and it was spectacular one. She had to admit sailing had been wonderful and this man didn’t seem to have a colonialist attitude. Even though he had the foreign devil’s big nose that didn’t seem to spoil her mood. As she relaxed she smiled at this Chinese description of foreigners. She could not understand how her family, her community seemed to embrace this foreigner and lifted her gaze from the pool watching children of the rich splashing around to study him.
She froze. “Why are you staring at me, is something wrong?” She hastily checked out her two-piece swimming gear to see everything was in place and looked back at him.
“Oh, I’m sorry, was I doing that? I didn’t mean to.”
“You were staring and smiling. What is so funny about me?” She shifted uncomfortably on guard and studied him carefully.
“I said I’m sorry. I was not laughing at you. I was just thinking about what a nice day this has been and how fortunate I am to have spent it with such a remarkable beautiful woman. You know I really admire how you deal with our clients professionally. You’re very competent and today I’ve seen you in a different light. It is such a pleasure to be with you and talk about our common interests. The last thing in the world I want to do is make you feel uncomfortable and I apologize if I was staring.”
Jade sat there with her mouth open. He’d called her a remarkable beautiful woman. Was this a foreigner’s trick to try and compromise her then discard her when it pleased him? That would never happen. But most women can sense a man’s intentions and this man seemed genuine. She relaxed and involuntarily laughed.
“Just doing the Los Angeles thing to keep a man confused.”
“Do you want me to take you home?” Stanley was still looking anxious and Jade smiled again. For the first time since Uncle Wong Hui had begun his manipulations in the interests of the family Jade felt in control. She’d know more about this man and wring out the truth of who he really was inside before she finally gave her consent to their plan.
“Why, what’s the rush? I love this club and want to spend the whole day here, but you can go home if you want. I understand if you have other plans, but I’d prefer to have someone to talk with about our profession if you have the time.”
“I’d love to spend the day with you!” Stanley looked relieved.
“Good! Let’s start by you telling me all about yourself from your earliest memories. What made you choose business as a profession, why aren’t you married do you have a fear of women who put you on the spot like I did just a while ago?” Jade now relaxed chuckled at her joke.
“OK as long as you tell me all about yourself. I want to understand what it’s like to be brought up in your culture which I’ve learned to respect in many ways. Why did you choose to go to the US for an education? It used to be England people of Singapore gravitated to, but you have world class universities here now.”
Stanley now relaxed stared into the afternoon sky watching seagulls in the distance as he began his life story. Bought up in an Australian rural city surrounded by distant blue mountains in the center of a vast agricultural river valley. His father was a survivor of the great depression and had slowly clawed his way up to owning multiple businesses and properties. His Father had also been a sportsman competing at state level and a local government politician. Twice a year the family would camp out at the beautiful Sunshine Coast with its miles of pristine beaches and rainforest hinterland. He remembered with fondness those days, particularly the way the rhythmic action of waves would lull them to sleep at night as they lay in their camping cots and the excitement of exploring sea life among the rocks as a child. Stanley’s interest in a business career stemmed from watching his father at work managing diverse interests and it developed in him an inbuilt inherited desire to succeed at a career in business after training. He’d worked jobs as he studied and eventually been selected as one of the University students who’d been a success in studies for honors on graduation. Then he was recruited by one of the big four accounting firms and initially located for internship in Sydney. From there it had been a transfer to London for further experience and then Singapore all in rapid order. He loved his work here.
He turned to jade smiling with satisfaction at the memories. “Now it’s your turn!”
Jade turned toward the swimming pool and was silent for a few minutes. She needed time to process what she’d heard as it didn’t fit her image of the colonialist mentality at all. She turned to face him.
“That water looks inviting I’m going to go in for a swim and then I’ll keep my promise and tell you more about myself.”
Without hesitation she dived in and completed a couple of laps thinking. Stanley sat at the edge of the pool with his legs in the water and watched her swim effortlessly. Eventually she grew tired and returned to the side of the pool treading water and breathing heavily from the exertion. Everything Jade took on she did with all her will and energy.
“Need a hand up?” Stanley extended his hand tentatively and on impulse she gripped it and pulled herself up watching him carefully. But as her feet scrambled for a foot hold on the edge she slipped and was about to fall back into the water with a possibility of hurting her knee when Stanley reached out quickly grabbed her under the arms and pulled her back up. She fell on top of him and scrambled up quickly in embarrassment.
“I’m sorry, that was clumsy of me and I feel really embarrassed. What will you think of me I won’t be able to face you in the office again after that? Please don’t think I did that on purpose.”
Stanley seeing her embarrassment decided not to laugh. “I should have been more careful, and I apologize to you for my clumsiness in getting you out of the pool. We were having such a good time and my intentions were good so please don’t ignore me at the office. That would be hurtful.”
“Perhaps I should go home.” Jade stood to head for the changing room.
“I wish you wouldn’t go I really have enjoyed having someone to talk to like this and you promised to tell me about your life. You promised!”
“I know, maybe another time after I’ve gotten over my embarrassment.”
Stanley was distraught and headed for the men’s changing room. The mood had been spoiled by this foolish situation that would have been laughed at in his homeland. Suddenly he felt out of place and missed his home. Maybe it was time for him to return. Perhaps he didn’t fit in here after all.
Jade returned to say she could find her own way home, but Stanley refused to have that. He’d accompany her home safely. His attempts to engage Jade in conversation in the taxi made no impact on the way. He courteously saw her to the door of her apartment under the watchful eye of Wong Hui who’d been alerted to their arrival. He was looking for signs of a change in Jade’s attitude toward Stanley and shook his head as he watched the cold formal goodbye.
To be continued
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