Jade fled to her room and cried. What image of a Chinese woman would this have developed in the foreigner’s mind? She was not a plaything and the incident was unfortunate in that she’d begun to have an unexpected happy time with him. She was horrified at the electricity that had passed between them as she tripped and fell on top of him. She hadn’t experienced such a feeling before and didn’t know what to make of it. But as she slept that night the scene returned over and over, and she felt a stirring that resonated with her. But she’d spoilt the day by her clumsy exit from the pool and determined to apologize to Stanley as soon as he arrived at the office Monday morning and not see him again in a social way. But the more she resolved to do that the more she wanted to see him socially again. She rationalized she’d made a promise to tell her story and a promise made was to be kept. So, she would do that and then make it plain there should be no more contacts.
Next morning Stanley headed for the office and straight to her desk where an exhausted Jade after a night of fitful sleep watched him approach with apprehension.
“Jade I want to apologize to you for my clumsiness yesterday. I meant no harm and I just wanted to say sorry and ask that you not let this come between us professionally. I don’t want this to cause a rift between me and your family who I really want to continue being friends with. If you haven’t told them about it please don’t. I want them to continue to have a good opinion of me. Maybe I don’t fit in here so I’m thinking of requesting a posting back to the Sydney office then I’ll not be any embarrassment to your family here.” He turned to leave imagining all eyes were on him for this unusual encounter with the boss’s niece.
“Wait!” The alarm in her voice had him stop in his tracks and turn around enquiringly.
Jade’s brain snapped into gear. If her family thought this man they valued as an asset left Singapore and they suspected she was the cause she’d be in trouble with them. Apart from that she didn’t want him to leave either.
“I apologize for my foolish actions yesterday. I was embarrassed and didn’t want you to think I’d done that on purpose. I can see you didn’t, and I did promise that you’d hear my story and would tonight be convenient to you? We could do it over a dinner after work if that’s OK with you?” The encounter made its way through the ever-listening office grapevine to Wong Hui who smiled in satisfaction. But it raised his interest. What was this incident both seems to be concerned enough about to apologize to each other? He would need to follow that up.
By the time the day’s business activities were finished at the office Stanley looked at this watch. It had been a full-on day and most days of the week he had night dining appointments with clients or members of the firm visiting from abroad. He enjoyed the lifestyle very much as it was stimulating to exchange ideas with clients and peers. His office overlooked Singapore from the tenth storey office complex in Suntec City. Usually he gravitated to one of the food court outlets on the bottom level for his evening meal unless an important client had to be entertained at one of the up-market hotels. Then it would be off to his assigned home at Holland Village belonging to the firm for a review of the next day’s activities, quick scan of professional journals and bed. He was an early riser and made good use of the gym he’d installed in one room of the house before the firm’s minibus picked him up for work. He’d rescheduled his appointment for that evening looking forward to spending it with Jade. He headed for Jade’s office and waited until she’d finished with her client in one of the common interview rooms. She appeared looking exhausted. Loss of sleep from the night before had blunted her usual energetic appearance.
Stanley instantly reacted to her obvious exhaustion. “You look like you need rest Jade, maybe we should do this another night?” He looked so concerned Jade smiled in appreciation. She was about to agree when she remembered a promise is a promise. Being sincere was important to her. So, she put on her mask smile.
“No, I’m looking forward to an evening out instead of business, business, business!”
“Do you want me to take you to your Uncle’s favourite hotel where the firm has special arrangements for high priority service?”
Jade shook her head. “Too much like a business appointment. I need to unwind away from that lifestyle.
“OK, then what do you want to do I’d like to hear your story?”
“If you really want to know I prefer to get away from the rat race, buy some takeaway and sit on a bench down at Marina Bay and stare out at the water. Maybe that will help prompt my memory.”
Stanley beamed with pleasure. “Makes me think of my growing up years. I love the ocean and never get tired of feeling peace in those surroundings. I guess there are still some places in Singapore where it’s possible to get that feeling. I have an idea. Let’s catch a quick meal down below at the food court and take a taxi to Marina Bay seeing you are so tired.”
An hour later they were down at Marina Bay and looking for a place to settle. Jade sighed in satisfaction as she sat on a bench and there was silence between them for a while. Finally, she began to relate her memories. Dark memories of the occupation when she was a child and could sense the terror her parents lived under during those times. Memories still haunted her though she’d not experienced anything terrifying herself. The competitiveness within the family as she grew up. Failure to achieve the highest grades was a shame to her family so she’d pushed herself and succeeded then on impulse she’d decided to do her higher education in the US. This pleased her family as establishing contacts abroad was always helpful to the future of the extended family as business possibilities were explored. She was not enamoured with Los Angeles as customs were so strange to her, but many Chinese studied in Universities there so she could live within her cultural bubble while seeking knowledge in her chosen area. But she’d begged her Uncle to give her a chance in Singapore time and again and at last he’d agreed. Jade did not mention her suspicions as to his motive and felt a little strange she was relating all this to the one who had bought a perceived rift with her family. Her speech began to slur and then there was silence. Her head wobbled as Stanley watched with concern wondering if he should shake her awake and take her home. Slowly she lurched to his shoulder then slowly fell into his lap.
To be continued
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