Grafted into the Family
Jade’s father consulted with Wong Hui and then beckoned to Stanley. “My brother has rescheduled his program and will take your appointments for today.”
Wong Hui and the spiritual advisor left the room. Jade’s father continued. “You will accompany me now as we have much to talk about. Wong Hui determined soon after your transfer to Singapore you have great talent in adapting to different cultures. We are quite well connected around the world in the Chinese communities and have extensive personal and family investment businesses abroad. Younger brother manages the family investments, but they are largely invested in general Chinese managed investments overseas. We’d like to extend our reach into the broader Western business world which is Caucasian controlled. Would you be prepared to work with younger brother as an entering wedge into that investment world? You have an amazing grasp of this in the work you’re doing here, and clients value your expertise, so you’ve crossed that barrier into our world. Now would you help us cross the barrier into the Caucasian world?”
“I will follow your advice as my elders. What do you want me to do?”
Jade’s father inclined toward him in appreciation. “We will now spend the day meeting very important people in government and the business world. I will introduce you to them and indicate you have been accepted into our family. You will find things you had to work hard at before now become very easy after that as you do your work using your Chinese name. You already have been noticed at these levels but being part of our Singapore society will make things even easier. How would you like to have Singapore citizenship? We’d like you to make this your permanent home and not take Jade away from us now but realize you have emotional links to your own country.”
“I’d welcome that but would like to retain my Australian citizenship.”
Jade’s father nodded. “I understand. We’ll look into that as we have connections both ways.” He took his phone and punched in a number, barking instructions in rapid fire Mandarin then beckoned Stanley to follow. They took the elevator down to the basement and a driver rushed to a car with the Citibank emblem on the side to open the back doors and close them as they sat in the back seat. The conversation with the driver resumed. That morning in an exhausting whirlwind of appointments there was a pause as they entered the family-controlled hotel and were ushered into a private dining room for lunch. They were joined by several other important Singapore business clients of Citibank. Cards were exchanged and Jade’s father had a brief introduction in Mandarin then repeated this in English for Stanley who was desperately trying to keep up with the conversation. His language skill needed a lot more work. For the rest of the meal consisting of twenty-four courses only English was spoken. The afternoon was spent meeting important political leaders who watched him carefully as Jade’s father gave them background. Later he indicted some chairs in a government building waiting area and disappeared briefly returning after a while with an officer who looked him over then said goodbye to them.
“Immigration!” Said Jade’s father before indicating they should move on as it was getting late now. The evening was given over to another group meeting at the hotel a preliminary explanation given in Mandarin to the assembled guests and then the conversation reverted to English with cards being exchanged. Stanley was exhausted and longed to be released to his house in Holland Village for a good rest. Tomorrow he’d have to be back at work again and needed to process what had happened in his life so suddenly.
Eventually he was driven home, and Jade’s father spoke again. “Please be ready with all your things tomorrow at 7am as you’ll be moving to the new apartment at 800 Thomson Road. For the first time an exhausted Stanley protested. “I need sleep as I have work to do tomorrow.”
“Wong Hui will cover for you again tomorrow. First you move. The old woman has packed up all your things, but you will have to make sure nothing has been missed, that is all. She will be sleeping in that house tonight and see you have had your food before we make the move. I must be back at my job at Citibank, but younger brother will supervise the move.”
Stanley was too weary to argue, and he’d already agreed to cooperate with the family. Perhaps this was another test of his sincerity, but he had one last request. “Can I have the old lady to look after the apartment? I like her!”
“She has already agreed to transfer from Holland Village work. We will get another person to look after that property. What do you want to do with your exercise equipment as there is a well-equipped set of exercise rooms at the apartment towers ground floors and good facilities at Macritchie? You will not need to take your equipment.
Stanley sighed he was too tired to argue. “You decide!” he said in resignation.
Jade’s father had insisted he turn off his cell phone for the day but on home entry he turned it on as he was shepherded to bed by the motherly old woman. “You sleep, get up early. New place. I wake you then wash and eat.” Stanley did a quick inventory of his things lying in boxes for inspection and noted only casual clothes remained for him to wear during the move.
A dozen missed calls flashed up on the screen along with multiple text messages from Jade saying phone me. Wearily he punched in her number and was bombarded by an angry and concerned Jade. What did they do to you today and why didn’t you answer my calls? I’ve been so worried about you. That was a horrible thing they did to you offering money to leave me and go home. I’m so angry with them all.”
“Calm down Jade. They have your interests at heart and wanted to know if my commitment to you was sincere enough to choose you over a lot of money. They must have a low opinion of foreigners but are satisfied now and I have had an exhausting day so need sleep. They are moving me to the new apartment at 7am tomorrow so I need to get some sleep as I’m totally exhausted. Can I phone you tomorrow morning when I’m awake and rational?”
Jade’s voice softened. “Do you need help moving in? I love the apartment and the view is spectacular. I couldn’t wish for a more wonderful place to share with you. Phone me as soon as you get up.”
The old woman appeared in the doorway. “You sleep now!”
Jade heard it and laughed. “OK sleep but phone me as soon as you get out of bed.”
Two minutes later he was fast asleep. The old woman peeped again then satisfied she curled up on a mat in the kitchen and was soon snoring loudly.
At four thirty am her in built alarm clock woke her and she began to clatter around the kitchen preparing breakfast. The noise startled Stanley awake, and he put the pillow over his head in frustration. It could be frustrating having her around, but he now looked on her as a mother figure. His own parents had died in an accident while he was in England. At least she wouldn’t be a live in at the new apartment and would be keeping the same hours of work as she had in Holland Village. He wondered how it would be living with Jade. As he was awake anyway he reached for his phone. It was now four forty-five. He put it down and headed for the bathroom shaving and showering. The old woman appeared at the door and peeped in then returned to the kitchen satisfied. Good Pink Gel was not lazy. She hurried to finish her cooking and waited for him to appear in the corridor. He checked his robe to make sure he was decent. “You dress and eat now!”
He put on casual clothes laid out for him by the woman for the move and picked up his phone to contact Jade. The woman appeared again and frowned. “First eat, then talk!”
He first felt irritation at her constant presence and orders then smiled. She was only doing what she’d been asked to do even though it could be a bit over the top at times. He put the cell phone down. “Eat then talk!” He laughed as he made his way to the dining room following her. The table was set with an amazing meal and he breathed in the fragrance of it all with appreciation. “Very good!” He said and the old woman beamed with pleasure and clapped. She stood over him as he ate pointing to dishes in turn. When he’d had his fill, he put up his hand in surrender and she laughed. “Now you talk!”
He ran to the room and phoned Jade pouring out yesterday and today in rapid order while she listened silently.
“Do you still want to marry me?” She knew the answer as she’d read the signals in his face many times but wanted to hear him say it again.”
“Jade I’m afraid of all this ceremony coming up in a month as I don’t want to embarrass your family not knowing what is expected of me but I’d marry you this morning in a civil ceremony if that was acceptable as I don’t want to be in that apartment without you. I can’t live without you now.”
Jade responded quickly. “I’d gladly take you up on that offer, but our family would never forgive either of us.” She laughed. “I’ll see you later at the apartment. I want you to meet someone very special to me.”
“But you’re not supposed to come to the apartment until we’re married, Wong Hui made that clear and I don’t want them to be angry with us. Anyway, who is this special person who is so special to you.”
“It’s my twin sister. She works in Shanghai with a law firm. The family banished her, but I insisted that if I agreed to marry you she’d be invited to my marriage. She arrived this morning and is staying with me for the day as she has to meet with the family then return to Shanghai.”
“What’s her name and is she as beautiful as you?”
Jade laughed. “Maybe she’s much more beautiful than me and maybe I should not bring her to meet you or you may change your mind and want to marry her instead. Her name is Lanfen which translated into English would mean orchid fragrance.”
“What a lovely name!” He murmured softly
It had been an exhausting day moving in and becoming familiar with all the facilities and rules of the tower complex. Wong Hui had phoned to say take one more day to settle in then come tomorrow and we’ll work together to look at present clients and see how other family responsibilities can be worked in with your client base. They’ll miss you if we have them reassigned and that is not in our interests he said, then added we’re glad you decided to join our family.
By evening he’d just woken up after taking a quick nap prompted by the exhaustion of moving in and was preparing to phone and see if Jade had finished work for the day when the alarm sounded. He remembered only those who’d received the number could punch numbers in on the dial at the entrance and come up otherwise they had to press a button and request permission. It was Jade.
“Jade I was just about to phone you. You shouldn’t be here. If your family finds out we’re in trouble and they seem to have eyes and ears everywhere.”
“You just leave it to me. Now press the button to release the door I’m coming up to inspect my apartment.”
Stanley pulled on his shirt and shorts and waited apprehensively wondering what pair of eyes were observing this. Then he pressed a button to open the electric front door to his apartment. The door opened and Jade strode in. He rushed to her and hugged her tightly. “I love you and am so glad you came,” he said. There was loud laughter and another Jade walked in. “So, you love Lanfen more than me, I’m heartbroken!” Both women laughed together and put their arms around each other. Which one is your wife to be?” Said Lanfen.
“I don’t know!” Said Stanley stricken with embarrassment. He looked from one to the other and honestly could not tell which of the identical twins was his Jade. But reviewing his foolish move he recalled the one who now spoke to him had a different voice. He blushed and laughed in his embarrassment. “I’m so sorry Jade!”
The girls laughed again and this time he recognized Jade’s voice. “We wanted to trick you so it’s our fault.” She strode past with her arm around her sister and they inspected the apartment together. Lanfen flashed a cheeky smile. “I enjoyed the hug, maybe I’ll marry you instead of my sister if you hug like that.” Jade gave her a playful slap and the women gave the apartment a careful check over talking excitedly. Then they returned. “Come on, we’re going out to eat and this time you are paying.
To be continued.
© Copyright 2020 Ian Grice, “ianscyberspace.” All rights reserved
© The above image is part of a private collection belonging to Ian Grice