The minibus dropped Jade off at their extended family bungalows on Thomson Road where she had her own attached unit with path through to the reservoir where she jogged morning and evening avoiding the cursed monkeys she hated. Now and then the family would discover a fugitive python escaped from the reservoir, so families were careful to see no pets were outside at night. She’d been reserved in front of the driver as she sat in the back seat with a separation between her and Stanley though she realized they’d been probably observed all night. She’d had a reasonably good sleep during the night and hadn’t realized the physical discomfort Stanley must have gone through sitting in a cramped position on a bench all night while she slept. Poor man, considering his obvious professional skills he really was an innocent in some things. She looked at his foreign features and the nose which always featured in a Chinese description of foreigners. Today it looked just about right. He was physically fit, and she realized she wanted to spend her life with him. She tried to imagine what their children would look like. Perhaps he didn’t want to have children? Maybe they were destined to be childless professionals as their present lifestyle was full on. As she walked down the pathway beside her Uncle’s bungalow she looked up automatically expecting him to be watching from behind a curtain. However, she knew the servants were all the eyes and ears he needed, and he was probably having his breakfast ready for the minibus to take him to work after it had dropped Stanley off at Holland Village.
Stanley was bone tired when dropped off at his home. He did his customary workout with treadmill and weights then soaked in a hot shower and jumped into bed without breakfast soon snoring peacefully. At precisely 9 am the cleaner opened the door with her key and stood still listening. There was an unfamiliar noise coming from the foreigner’s bedroom and she picked up a broom and crept down the corridor to apprehend the intruder. She rarely crossed paths with the foreigner who she only knew as Pink Gel the nearest her ear could understand the pronunciation of his name Pengelly. Her wages were paid into her bank account regularly by the firm and she took her job seriously. Not a speck of dust could be found anywhere but she cleaned over and over, using chairs piled on top of each other precariously to even clean the top of blades of ceiling fans in every room though she knew they were rarely used by this man who preferred his air-conditioners. She appeared suddenly around the open door to the bedroom with broom extended and gasped loudly. Pink Gel was home.
She cleared her throat quickly and shouted. “Not sleep, office time!” She imagined Pink Gel would be in big trouble not presenting for work on time, but she’d save him if possible. “You late!” she shouted desperately pointing to her watch as a startled Stanley leaped out of bed looking around.
At first Stanley was cross at being woken from sleep, then when noting the poor woman was trying to help him he smiled. “Office holiday, need sleep!”
The confused woman retreated down the corridor with her broom and Stanley settled back gratefully to try and sleep. But she was back quickly.
“You no eat breakfast, I prepare!” She ran back to the kitchen and he heard pots clanking while he put his head in his hands. He needed to sleep but soon the pleasant aroma of Chinese cooking reached him, and he realized he was hungry. So, he put on a robe over his pajamas and waited for her to call. She was an old woman and probably should have been in retirement with her children looking after her. But she was vigorous and strong and probably would miss her daily appointments. Stanley wondered about her living arrangements and whether the family valued her. Soon she was back at the door smiling broadly. “You eat then sleep!” Stanley followed obediently to the dining table and nodded in appreciation. Then tucked in while the old woman hovered over him anxiously as a mother would for her children. Then when he was finished she pushed him back toward the corridor. “Now sleep!” She followed him to his room and waved for him to enter, then silently closed the door. Every now and then she’d open the door a crack and peep to see he was asleep. When he awoke late afternoon, she’d departed leaving food on the table for him to eat.
At 6pm the phone trilled, and he picked it up. It was Jade and her voice had a softness he hadn’t detected since he’d known her. “I want to know if you’ve had time to think over last night and regret what you said. This is a big step for you because you’re not going to marry me, you’re going to marry an extended family and that could have a downside. Do you really understand what is involved here because it could be very difficult for the both of us if you decide this is too hard after we get married? I want a stable lifetime relationship when I marry, and our cultural backgrounds are very different even though I know you’ve made enormous efforts to fit in with us. You must use logic and consider that. I’ve known for a while that you love me but only yesterday realized you may have captured by heart. My heart is yours but think carefully before we go on because I know what Uncle is going to present to us when we meet with him tomorrow.”
Without hesitation Stanley responded. “Jade I read a lot about Chinese culture and what are mutual obligations in families. I suppose reading is different to experiencing but I do know my admiration for you has increased over the time you’ve been back in Singapore and that admiration became an obsession and I know I want you as a fixture in my life. So, its love, respect, awe all mixed up together. I meant what I said, and I hope you give me a chance to prove myself to you.”
There was silence as Jade processed her thoughts. “Do you have time for me this evening? I’d like to have a meal with you, and we can discuss my fears. There’s a special place on a road near Upper Thomson Road I love to eat at. It’s a hawker stand right out of old Singapore history. If you can meet me I’d love to see you there.”
Stanley’s heart skipped a beat. He’d eaten in some of the old hawker stands and the food was superb, so he quickly agreed and asked for the address scribbling a note on the post it by his bed. “I’ll be dressed in five minutes and out on the road looking for a taxi.” The food on the table was forgotten.
“Good see you there! It will probably take you half an hour at this time of day.”
Eventually Stanley managed to hail a vacant taxi and head for the address just off Upper Tomson Road. He was dressed smart casual, but when he arrived at the very basic shop with rickety outside tables and chairs realized he was over dressed when he saw Jade in shorts and a loose-fitting T shirt. Jade eyed him and smiled. “I didn’t know we were meeting a client here she said, it’s only me so you’ll have to get used to how I look when out of the office. I’ll make a Singaporean out of you yet. We are very adaptable, but we like casual.”
They chatted animatedly enjoying the meal. Jade clicked her fingers and a man appeared. She handed him money and he bowed and backed away. “I’m not sure if you’ve been to Macritchie before but that is where I spend my exercise times. Usually I jog but you are obviously not prepared for that so let’s sit and discuss the future if we are to have one together.”
Stanley nodded happily. He was so happy to be with Jade and would pull out all stops to see she was special to him for life. It was wonderful to discover the family would embrace him too. So, they headed for the Thomson Road family complex and walked through the extended family properties taking the path at the back of Jade’s separate unit to the reservoir. He was impressed with the obvious opulent lifestyle of Jade’s family and made sure not to look up as they would be observed from the upper levels she’d said. “There are no secrets from our family, and I assure you if you had any my family would have discovered them and you’d not be welcome here tonight.” She laughed happily.
Stanley had heard of the Macritchie Reservoir but not seen it during his stay in Singapore. Too busy with clients and work. He gasped in admiration as he took in the panorama before him. It was beautiful!
“I won’t jog this evening as you’re not prepared but would appreciate company when you can get evenings away from work. Let’s just sit and talk. Be wary of the monkeys. They’re horrible!”
For the next hour they talked about what it would be like to blend into a Chinese family. The do’s and don’ts that could cause embarrassment and loss of face should norms not be followed exactly. Jade held nothing back. Then she spoke. “After listening to all this do you want to move ahead with marriage. I know you love me, that’s obvious, but once I’ve committed myself to you I want to know that will be lasting. It would be a disaster for me and my family if it doesn’t work out so think carefully now as I know Uncle will be raising this in our meeting tomorrow. If you can’t handle it I’ll tell Uncle it’s a mistake and he’ll not have bad feelings about you.
Without hesitation Stanley replied. “My commitment is absolute, and I will do everything in my power to fit in and never cause embarrassment to your family. I know you’ll help me. You will, won’t you?”
The tension lifted off Jade’s shoulders. “Yes, I’ll gladly help my man. She reached over and squeezed his hand. “Now go home and prepare yourself for the meeting tomorrow morning.”
She walked with him to the entrance of Macritchie and waited until he managed to get a taxi. They waved to each other as he sped off and Jade returned home joyfully.
To be continued
© Copyright 2020 Ian Grice, “ianscyberspace.” All rights reserved
© The above images are from my personal photo collections