Story by Lee Su Min
Money Buys All
I saw the shoes.
There was nothing unusual about the shoes, or shoes in general. But there was one thing that struck me. The shoes were arranged in a very neat manner, one lined on top of the other, the black sandals on top, the black shoes in the middle, then the black slippers on the last shelve at the bottom of the rack. It was perhaps too neat.
If someone had just come in from outside, it would be just casually placed, not directly one above the other. After all the shoe rack could store more than one pairs on one rack. It gave me a creepy feeling. But I was not sure if it were unwarranted.
There was always a rack at the front door. You should have a rack. Every house has a shoe rack at their front door. It’s meant for putting shoes.
The owner of the house has a very clean habit. If you accidentally walked in with your shoes, he would reprimand you straight away.
Denise was late for lunch as usual.
I didn’t mind her being late, I was just afraid that she won’t turn up. But she did.
The first thing she said to me was,
“My husband Charles is having an affair,”
I was shock. How could Denise have known?
Of course, I replied diplomatically,
“I am sorry to hear that,”
“You still seeing him?” Denise asked.
“What do you mean, Denise?” I was careful to answer correctly. This concerned my reputation.
“I know all about you and him,” Denise said.
“There was nothing about me and your husband,” I was careful to refer to Charles as her husband.
“You think I don’t know?!” she was adamant.
I became worried, I quickly reminded Denise that I was a Christian,
“You know I won’t do such a thing – I am a Catholic,” I said.
“So now you admit – such a thing – what thing you know right?!”
I was stuck for a while, but I composed myself.
So the minute I saw the waitress standing by the side, I quickly caught her attention,
“Please give me an Earl Grey,” I said.
“And a Chamomile tea for me,” Denise didn’t forget to order from the waitress at the same time.
“Milk and sugar are by the side,” the pleasant looking girl said.
We waited for tea to arrive before we resumed conversation. The silence was awful. Denise started to engage herself on her handphone. I too started engaging mine. In the end when the tea arrived, we had nothing more to say to each other.
I first met Charles on a hot and sultry evening. But the fact that the weather was hot had nothing to do with the events that unfolded subsequently. The impression I got of Charles was that he was rightly sized, meaning that he was not too thin and not too fat, and having enough muscles to support his frame. He had a mole under his chin, which unless he tilted his face upwards, was not visible. I saw it by chance, when he was looking up at the big portrait of myself hung on the wall.
“What a large picture of yourself you got there,” he said.
“That was taken within the last six months, still valid,” I said.
“You are a narcissist,” he lamented.
“No, I am not,” I denied the description.
At this juncture Denise chipped in,
“Where did you get this done? I mean, which studio was it?”
I kept quiet, I didn’t want Denise and Charles to know too much about myself.
Denise and Charles were my close friends, and my best friends. But I didn’t know Charles at all. Charles was Denise’s husband, and unless you knew Denise, you won’t know Charles.
“Let’s all go out for food,” I said, after having shown them my apartment.
I was generally not fond of having a relationship with a married man. It put me in competition with another woman straight away and in violation of the Woman’s Charter, not to mention the Bible.
But I was not a staunch Catholic, I did not hold the view that Mother Mary was the only way to communicate with God. God, in His omnipotent form, must surely be contactable from all platforms, including Buddhism and Islamism.
Tonight, after dinner I went straight into my room to write my affidavit. My new client had just met with an accident. And she was sure that the driver was paid off and the entire scene premeditated. I hesitated to comment. She wanted to sue the driver and I needed more time to establish a casual-ink between the mens rea and the actus rea.
The phone rang. An unknown caller.
I picked it up.
“Who’s this?” I asked.
“Pretty woman, this is me, Charles,”
“Oh ok, what do you want?” I wasn’t rude, and if you could hear the tone of my voice, I was actually quite friendly.
“Listen, I was just wondering if you would like a cup of tea?” Charles asked.
“I’d rather a glass of wine,” I accepted the invitation without fully realizing why I said what I said. I didn’t actually fancy Charles. In the first place, I found using the name Charles presented a pompous character, as that name actually belonged to the Prince of Wales.
“OK then, I swing round at 3:00 p.m. tomorrow, see you!” all in one breath and without further reply from me he put down the phone. I actually stopped thinking for a while.
After he hung up, I quickly picked up my phone again, tapped on Phone then quickly on Recents, selected the top on the list, and tapped again to save the number. On my Contacts I keyed in Charles name.
One thing good about being single was that you never have to account for your time, and whom you went out with. You could just hop onto a bus and walked into a café whenever you fancied. So that when Charles asked me to share a meal with him, I complied immediately, although I didn’t know the agenda then.
Charles and I have nothing in common except Denise, so naturally when we met, we talked about nothing but Denise. It seemed that Charles met her when they were at a Christian fellowship meeting. Denise was crazy about Jesus, which got Charles excited. He told himself he must get Denise out of this craze, so he set himself up to compete with the savior. The fact was that he himself was looped into Christianity as well, and he ended up marrying the woman. Of course, Denise had some good looks to accompany the set up.
So that as soon as the excitement of matrimony was over, Charles found himself wondering how he could extricate himself out of the trinity. He knew that getting involved with another woman was a sure way to trigger off a divorce, and I being a lawyer might be able to furnish him with some useful tips.
I heard Charles. So, I offered my solution, supplying Charles with the grounds for divorce:
“Adultery, unreasonable behavior, desertion, you pick one. Otherwise you would have to wait three years, and during these three years, you have to make sure that you stay away from her completely.” I warned Charles.
“I can’t wait three years,” he said.
“Then you would just have to pick one of the above options,” I told Charles very frankly.
“Wait!” Charles said.
“What?” I said.
“I have another option,” he looked me straight in the eye.
I looked at him, and he sounded very earnest.
“What if Denise ceased to exist?” he lowered his voice.
“How can she not exist? Suicide is a crime. She is not contemplating to kill herself?”
“No, I mean, I could help her with it,”
“Huh?” I was getting confused there ….
“Abetment to suicide is a crime, although suicide may not be a crime anymore. We are contemplating decriminalizing suicide.” I put it to Charles.
“I’ll have to hire a contractor then.” Charles sounded like he already knew what to do.
“It is a dangerous thing to do, the spouse is always the chief suspect,” I cautioned Charles.
“I just don’t want to be controlled by her anymore. She is quoting from the Bible all the time! 😂” Charles gave me the tearful look telling me that that was the real reason why he wanted to leave Denise.
I began to feel sorry for the man.
By the time we finished our meal, I had more or less made up my mind to help Charles.
I had not been married before, so naturally if I had an affair with Charles it concerned no one but my own reputation. I was ruthless, cheap, and treacherous. But if you asked me, matters of the heart were just between the parties concerned. Who actually initiated it? Was there reciprocity from the other party?
In the beginning I was actually unsure of Charles, but I guessed deep down I wanted the relationship. It would be good if I could have a default companion, a driver, a bread winner, a cook, all rolled into one. I knew that the Bible did not permit this. It was clearly stated in the old testament … of course the new testament overruled it when the Son of God appeared. I thought of seeing a priest for confession and counselling. But I remembered the penance – several rounds of the beads and sometimes an hour in front of the Statue of Mary … quite a task!
So, I sought the easy way out. I went to the Buddhist Temple. You could go in on any day of the week and at any time of the day. The Buddha permitted polygamy. It was one of the customs deeply entrenched in the Chinese culture. I knew that Buddha won’t mind if I went ahead and cohabited with Charles, so I went to Him for advice.
When I arrived at the Temple, I saw masses of people, some with flowers and some merely holding joss sticks. The entire place was bubbly and not far away I could see a fortune teller on standby for anyone who wished to look into the future.
I ignored the lady selling the flowers and I went straight up to the table with joss sticks. The sign on top said, “free” so I picked a random few. I found the furnace and held the joss sticks on top of the fire until they were smoking. Then I squeezed in amongst the crowd until I found a spot where no one was blocking me to the front, where a huge image of the Guan Yin was situated.
And then I knelt down and talked to Guan Yin.
I had not made up my mind, yet. So that my petition was ambiguous. It was just a general vague idea on should I or should not. I stayed there for quite some time until I heard someone saying, “yes”. Satisfied, I got up, but immediately I heard another person saying, “no”. I became a little confused, the answer was neither here nor there. I told myself I must come back again to ascertain the correct answer. Then I took a bold step and walked out of the temple, away from the masses of worshippers. Afterwards I took a long time before I found my shoes again.
Charles bought me a gold wedding band today.
He came to my office and asked if he could see me in my conference room. I was a little surprised, but I obliged him.My conference room has a round table and a large sofa.
“Put it on,” he said, sounding very excited.
The ring was thick with gold and the band had diamonds embossed around it. I looked at it and was immediately alarmed. “This is a wedding band,” I told myself, and although I wasn’t planning on getting married in the near foreseeable future, Charles was good looking by my standards. Marrying Charles was a fantasy, not a prospect.
I looked at the ring, wondering how I could ascertain his sincerity. And I still wanted to help him. So, I took the gold band from Charles, put it on and started to admire it.
“Let’s do it another day,” I pretended that I wasn’t interested, and then,
“By the way, how much did it cost you?” I could not contain my curiosity. It looked very expensive.
The man kept quiet, and then he made a startling proposal.
“Would you mind going to the Registry with me?”
“Registry? What registry? … you mean the ROM?” I quizzed with unbelievable excitement.
“Pardon me, Candice,” Charles began to sound desperate and he was beginning to look like a bad guy. We adjourned to the sofa.
Our eyes locked, and as Charles stretched out his hand to hold mine, his eyes never leaving my gaze, I asked him,
“How long have you been wanting this?”
“Since the day I met you, Candice …. You are the most attractive woman I’ve ever met ….”
“How deceitful!” I laughed as I thrust the full weight of my body onto his chest. Charles began to unbutton himself ….
Afterwards I sat on the floor wondering if it were tragedy or comedy.
It was common for a heart to long and yearn for something better. It was not inconceivable for me to fall for Charles. The husband of my best friend. They said that your best friend was always your best enemy – so why not?
I took a bus from my home to the office this morning. And was quite relieved to find a seat next to three school children. On the bus I found a Filipina lady speaking loudly into her handphone during the entire journey. She had the entire bus as her audience. I was very disgusted with her behavior, yet I could not confront her. None of us understood Tagalog!
When the bus dropped me off at the Sundance Road, I took the stairs up the three-storey walk-up apartment. It took me about thirteen steps before I reached the landing and another thirteen to the first storey. On the landing to the second storey where my office was there was an unwanted computer on the shelf, with lose wire hanging. The shelf itself was still usable but the whole image suddenly annoyed me.
I knew that it belonged to the occupants on the third storey, and I didn’t know what prompted me to take a picture of the furniture, but I just did. Then I proceeded to walk up the stairs right up to my office. It was an effort, but I managed to do so without slowing down and pausing for rest.
When I arrived at the office, I had a new client waiting for me. His name was Bryan Chong.
The first thing he told me was, that he had ten million dollars in his account. I never knew how he got it and why he got so much. If he divorced his wife Allison Lim, she would stand to gain half of it.
Over the past three years, they managed to acquire a dog and two cars. Bryan told me that one day Allison served him a plate of beef steak on a dog bowl to pick a fight with him. I laughed when I heard that.
“She does have a sense of humor,” I said.
Bryan’s face changed. I quickly apologized.
“It’s rather mean, of her, treating you like a dog,” I changed my stand. And then,
“So, did you eat the piece of steak?” I was interested to find out.
“Of course not, you think I am a dog?!” Bryan’s eyes rolled big like a pair of fish eyes.
“Sorry!” I said, “I didn’t mean to insult you … just couldn’t help myself.”
I quickly picked up the phone and called my secretary Poh Choo Ling in to give my client another cup of coffee.
Someone had removed the computer and I was glad. The mysterious junk remover did not leave a trace. I walked into the space where the PC used to occupy and I felt a sense of exhilaration, and then I heard footsteps coming down. I quickly walked down the stairs, turned right and disappeared into one of the coffee shops along the lane, asking for another coffee and waited until at least half an hour had elapsed before I went back to my office again.
This time I walked up the stairs to the third storey without pausing for rest.
I saw the shoes again.
Who was occupying this space? I asked myself.
“I told you she has another boyfriend!” a male voice shouted.
I heard footsteps hurrying down the stairs. And then again,
“You don’t believe me … you go and ask her! She is two-timing you!!” the voice was louder this time.
This was the first time I had seen him.
I have never seen someone as disheveled as that before. His was wearing a t-shirt three sizes too large, so that it was long and hung loose. It was also very crumpled and obviously not ironed. Together with his three-quarter length trousers, and without footwear, the man stood at the top of the staircase. I saw his beard and blood shot eyes, reminding me of no one but the latest image of Julian Assange.
We looked at each other and instinct told me not to greet him. I quickly retreated back into my own office. I shut the office door immediately and thank God Poh Choo Ling was in. She could act as my bodyguard and witness should the man attempted to harass me. It was not yet 5:30 p.m. so we could not close for the day. But he did not come in.
Since I saw the pair of shoes the other day, I never went up again.
Occasionally I heard footsteps of someone descending and ascending the steps, loud enough to interrupt my thoughts. I always wondered what kind of shoes he was wearing, whether it was the same court shoes that I saw on the shelves. I told myself I would find out one day. But for now, it was best not to confront the occupant and his visitors.
Lunch time, I walked down the slope to the coffee house along the narrow lane to buy some fried noodles and Korean pickles. I carried the doggie bag and took my time to stroll back to the office, not yet feeling hungry. Coffee I made myself using just hot boiling water with the 3-in-1 sachets. My secretary Poh Choo Ling was still in the office, I could hear the sound of her typing on her computer.
Life was monotonous. I looked at the gold band which Charles gave me and twirled it around my finger, wondering if I should wear it when I meet Denise.
I finally plucked up the courage to call Denise. Charles hasn’t contacted me since that night. Could it be a one-night stand? The gold band was making me feel very uncomfortable. I couldn’t wash my hands without taking it off. By now Charles would have looked for me if he were genuinely interested in me. Neither did Denise pick up my calls. Was she available? Has she made up with Charles?
Suspense was no good for the soul. I arrived at the apartment that Denise and Charles lived. I could see a Lexus parked in the drive way, indicating that either one of them was at home.
I pushed open the front gate and was surprised that it wasn’t locked. With a certain amount of hesitation, I walked up to the entrance, and rang the doorbell. A woman in pinafore came out to greet me.
“Sir and Ma’am are not at home,” she said.
“The car is here.” I replied, “she must be telling lies,” I told myself.
“Tell Ma’am that Candice has come to look for Mr. and Mrs. Chan,” suggesting that I was no stranger to put her off guard. I emphasized the word “Candice” fearing that she could not recognize my name. The woman sounded like she came from Indonesia.
It has been a while since I saw Aunty Bee. Aunty Bee was Dr Wee Siew Bee the famous gynecologist. I wasn’t planning on telling her about Charles, but I just wanted some decent conversation. Dr Wee was my guardian since I was in secondary school, and although I was now old enough not to depend on her for advice since I could make up my own mind about things, I did meet up with her from time to time.
She was busy with a patient at the time I dropped by so she only squeezed me in for three minutes. All she said was,
“Don’t forget to do your yearly medical test,”
I was free at the time, so I decided to do it on the spot. I took off the gold band, it was getting tighter as I had put on some weight.
As I sat down meekly waiting for my blood sample to be taken, I watched with amazement how nurse Ling poked the large needle into my veins with ease and proficiency. Then I turned my head away when I saw the bottle with my blood filled, labelled with my identity number and name. I felt quite relieved as I was sure that I was healthy and that the test results would prove negative for all the markings.
At the same time, I also gave nurse Ling my urine sample.
And then I did not forget to have coffee at the café located inside the hospital.
Bryan Chong was known to have a bad temper. The affidavit on the other side said so. But according to Bryan himself, his wife was always the one who precipitated the quarrels. There was more than one dog incident. I read the affidavit with interest as though I were reading a novel.
But between the two of them I had to side Bryan.
In the end I rang Bryan and asked him to come to the office.
“Listen, your ex-wife said that you strangled her, was it true?”
“No such thing!” he proclaimed.
“In fact, she hit me several times on my birthday,” Bryan added.
“So, she hit you. Does the fact that it happened on your birthday has anything to do with it?” I asked.
“Sure,” he continued,
“She complained that I often pretended that she was my mother, so that as a mother she had every right to hit her son.”
That logic was strange. Or was its Bryan’s own reasoning? Never mind, I shall counter claim that Allison was out of her mind.
I went to my PC and I started to type, forgetting that Bryan Chong was sitting right in front of me. By the time I finished typing, he had already left. I tidied up my desk, packed my bag, and changed out of my slippers. As I walked out of my office, I realized that upstairs had not come down at all today. This time I was not inclined to climb up to see if the shoes were still there.
Sometimes when you were in love you yourself didn’t even know it. You just wanted to see the person all the time, you were talking to yourself more as you were actually talking internally with that person.
I didn’t know that I was actually in love with Charles until he was gone. Common sense told me that Charles would not call me anymore. He had not spoken to me since the night that we spent together.
I had no idea if he and Denise were back together. After from the one-night stand, the gold band was hard evidence of his betrayal to Denise. I took it off every now and then to soak it in hot water to clean it. But one day I found myself standing right in front of Denise’s house again.
The silver Lexus was no longer parked in the driveway when I arrived. Nevertheless, I rang the doorbell.
A woman with coiffured hair, complete with a pair of large diamond earrings opened the door. She greeted me with impatience,
“Yes?” she said, clearly indicating that there was no reason for me to be there.
She was obviously not a maid. I could guess that she was the new owner of the property and that Denise and Charles have left the premises.
“You know Denise? I mean Charles …” I said tentatively.
“Oh, that couple, they left long ago,” she replied with a sigh. And then she added,
“You by any chance know their whereabouts?”
“Obviously not, else I won’t be here,” I said.
I wanted to go in, but the woman held the door firmly half closed. I couldn’t even peep inside. And then I heard a man shouting from inside, “Celia, who’s at the door?”
BANG! The woman slammed the door tight on me. I stood at the entrance, wondering if I could make a police report on her extremely rude behavior. In the end, I left without incurring more trouble for myself.
I took off the gold band and threw it away inside my bag. I told myself I had lost Charles for good.
All signs were clear now, pointing to one conclusion, that Charles had made up with his wife, and had decided to drop me. I thought he really liked me. I stood in the darkness, with no one to call for help. I had abandoned the Christian God, now I wondered if Guan Yin could help me.
I walked out of the gate, away from the house and then on the pavement I knelt down and cried, not caring if anyone saw me.
It was past 10:00 p.m. The entire place was so silent I could hear my own weeping and my own thoughts were loud in the still of the night.
I took out my iPhone, still having Charles number with me, I wanted to call him. I also wanted to call Denise. I wanted to call someone, to tell him that I had been cheated. But in actual fact I had cheated on my best friend. So, there was nothing I could say. I wasn’t an innocent party I was the mean, wicked woman who slept with a married man.
After some time, when I heard the sound of a car passing by, I wanted to jump onto the main road to let a passing car hit me. But then no one was going to come to my rescue, it also occurred to me that I might not die just like this. I could land myself on a wheelchair, half paralyzed, which was worse.
As my rational mind started to work, I told myself I needed to get some food to eat and get some rest to sober up myself. Wake up! This is not the end of the world! Charles is a nobody! I needed to straighten my thoughts. I mustn’t let this take control over me. I still have my clients to attend to and I still have a job to do.
The air was cool and fresh after a pouring rain.
When I arrived at my office, Bryan Chong was already in the conference room.
“Hello Mr. Chong.” I didn’t forget that he was my client and that I shouldn’t be addressing him in first names.
“Yes, I wanted to know if I could register with you that Allison was no longer living at home,”
“That’s wonderful news!” I said. “That makes our job easier,” I said, “so that now you can rely on the three-year separation, and during this time you could do whatever you want, except to initiate a contact with your ex-wife.” I mentioned it all in one breath.
I expected my client to look happy, but on the contrary, he asked me, “what shall I do with Valentino, that’s her dog.”
“So, you have no idea where she has gone to,” I queried.
“Nope,” my client said, “I don’t even know if she is still in the country.”
“Ok, then you could put your pet with the veterinarian and wait for her to come back and claim it. She couldn’t have packed everything?” I was sure.
And I added, “in any case, it best you don’t see her at all, if you want to have the divorce run smoothly.”
If you didn’t look before you crossed the road, I didn’t blame you. But not when you were Bryan Chong about to be granted a divorce.
I almost shouted at Bryan when I saw him at the hospital with one leg completely bandaged and propped up.
“What do you think you are doing?” I said.
“If you died, Allison would receive every cent that you got, without having to go through the formality of a divorce!” I emphasized, not to mention that I would lose my legal fees.
“I want to tell you, the accident was planned,” Bryan said, almost in a whisper.
I heard him, but I didn’t take him seriously.
“I will check with the traffic police on this,” I said.
“They won’t believe me,” Bryan said.
“The fact that you were divorcing her only contributes to the motive, but how can you prove that Allison hired someone to knock you down?” I cautioned.
“I swear I was using the zebra crossing …” Bryan said.
“Well, we’ll have to see the police report.” I said.
“But now that we are here, on this topic of inheritance, why don’t you do a will?” I punctuated. That seemed like a good suggestion, and appropriate at this juncture.
“Well, now that you have mentioned, don’t say I didn’t think of it before …” thank God Bryan agreed.
I took out my handphone, tapped on the App called Voice Memos and then I had it right up to Bryan’s chin, ready for a recording.
“So, tell me, what are the assets you have, in terms of fixed assets such as properties you owned, as well as deposits, bonds and equities etc. you hold under your name.” I began the paragraph for Bryan.
“I thought I have given it all to you when you wanted the list of matrimonial properties?” Bryan was unwilling to waste his time. In any case, I think he was in some kind of pain. He must be, bandaged up like that.
“Ok, then let me just draft the will for you, and you can sign it tomorrow.”
“So soon?” Bryan was a little unsure.
“The sooner the better, I don’t want you to suddenly die of a heart attack, it could be very troublesome for me.” I lamented.
From the St Peter’s Hospital, I took a Grab straight back to my office. I opened my laptop and began working on the will. I didn’t even realize that I haven’t eaten, and I drafted the will in one breath without taking a break. The will was of the utmost importance. If Bryan died now, the beneficiary would stand to gain approximately ten million dollars, thus becoming a rich man by anyone’s standard.
And for this purpose, I ensured that no one got the money except his solicitor – myself!
On the column where I was supposed to write my name, I did a blank space, and tomorrow I shall get Bryan the testator to sign on the document on the next page. If he noticed the omission, I would just tell him that all the paper works were in order and that we could fill it up later.
Now that I was the beneficiary to Bryan Chong’s estate, he need not be divorced. Things would get complicated if he did. I also ensured that I was not a witness to his will. But fact was, I might not obtain probate as I was merely the solicitor acting for him, and not related by blood. Although it was not uncommon for this to happen, I decided that I must make the bequeath more plausible. I needed to advertise the fact that Bryan and I were getting married if not already so.
I took out Charles’ gold band and put it on again, this time I was going to pretend that it was Bryan Chong who gave it to me.
It was not too difficult. My secretary Poh Choo Ling was the first one to remark,
“What a nice ring you have! So many diamonds!”
“Of course, Bryan gave it to me!” I quickly said.
“The two of you are engaged?!” Poh Choo Ling was surprised.
“No, err, actually we were married.’, and then as an afterthought, “last Christmas,” I supplied the date as well.
“Congratulations!” Ms Poh said loudly.
And then the next person to whom I declared my marital status was actually the waiter at the Marriot Court, surprisingly and not so surprisingly.
“Where is your other half? Alone?” the bright looking man said.
I did not usually talk to strangers, but this time I said,
“My husband Bryan Chong is busy,” for some reason I did not want to mention the fact that Bryan was in the hospital, but I did not fail to name him as the spouse. Although since my spouse were ill, I shouldn’t be enjoying a meal outside at a posh restaurant.
Finally, I looked into my WhatsApp conversations to see if I could text anyone else on my so-called marriage, well aware that this was a rather unique way of declaring a union, although not totally inconceivable.
And all this while, Bryan was still lying in the hospital room, waiting for the doctor to decide if he was fit to be transferred to the normal ward. Of course, I prayed. I knew that if I wanted Bryan to die, it would not strictly be murder. It was mens rea per se. But in any case, Guan Yin was more benevolent, she was bound to pardon worshippers like me and more inclined to answer to it. I was at the temple every evening after visiting Bryan at the ICU, the intensity of my prayers depending on the doctor’s report.
Finally, God answered my prayers.
Bryan Chong Wee Chin died of multiple fractures at the St Peter’s Hospital.
I arranged for the body to be brought back to his residence, held mass gatherings for his soul, and subsequently for his body to be buried according to the Catholic rites. The best part of the story was that in the process I found out that Bryan and Allison were never legally married. The two of them were only married in the Catholic Church, which meant that Bryan Chong need not have gone to court to divorce Allison.
But I have Bryan Chong’s will here with me. The fact that he quarreled with his wife is now public knowledge. If he lived, he would have divorced his wife in any case, even if that meant being a poorer man. So then, it would not be totally inconceivable that the rich man had bequeathed his entire estate to his trusted solicitor and confidant at the time of his divorce. The fact that he died soon after was purely coincidental and not manufactured.
The will, signed sealed and delivered, was a good documentary proof of my client Bryan Chong’s clear and unequivocal intentions at the time. I had no difficulty obtaining probate and the only problem I have now is to sell his asset the property which he shared with Allison. I went back to the house and surprisingly I saw Allison there. My first reaction was,
“I thought you moved out sometime ago?” I said.
“I challenge you to call the police,” the hostile woman sitting on the sofa said.
“I am not moving in until this Sunday, I am just here to see if the house is vacant. Obviously, it is not!”
“How dare you take my money!” the woman became enraged, she jumped up from the sofa, and I could see that she was holding a knife.
I had no one with me, neither was I trained in martial arts, I knew not how to defend myself, except to run out of the place as fast as I could ….
In the morning still recovering from last night’s scare, I told my secretary Poh Choo Ling to get a locksmith to go to Number 6 Lemongrass Avenue to change the lock to the house. The best thing to do now was to sell Lemongrass Avenue since it was dangerous grounds. Allison might appear at the house to scare me again.
But I received an unsolicited call at noon. Dr Bee’s clinic had rung me. A nurse who identified herself as from Dr Bee’s clinic told me to go to the clinic urgently.
“Congratulations!” the first thing Dr Bee said when I sat in front of her in the small and cozy consultation room.
“You are three months pregnant. You didn’t tell me you were married?!” Dr Bee reproached me.
I was flabbergasted. How could it be?
Of course, I knew who the father of the child was.
It could not have been mistaken for anyone else but Charles.
But regretfully my relationship with Charles had ended. I was supposed to be the widow of the late Bryan Chong!
“Err, … “, I said, tentatively.
And then without a further word I stood up and walked out on Dr Bee. I had to concoct a better story this time. How did I prove that the child I was carrying belonged to Bryan Chong and not Charles???
Again, I found myself in front of Guan Yin. This time I bought a large bouquet of flowers to present to the Lady Buddha. Overnight the Lady Buddha had become my best friend.
Some things were best forgotten even before they began. By now I have gotten over the bitterness and pain of losing Charles. All I wished was that no one would discover that I was bearing Charles’ baby. Of course, I wanted the baby. Abortion was out of the question. In any case Dr Bee would not hear of it. And I was not so sure that I could find a doctor to do the hideous job for me.
But one thing for sure. If Charles returned to my life now, I would not take him back. Of course, I had manifested my intentions to Guan Yin. But as fate would have it, Guan Yin decided to play a trick on me.
Charles rang me on November fourteenth. It was precisely this day three months ago that Charles slept with me. And I actually didn’t want to pick up his call. But he rang again and again, until I realized that he won’t stop at this before I finally pick up his call.
“I am just passing by, could I come up to your office?” Charles said. He didn’t even bother to buy me a cup of coffee. Meeting at my office premises meant that he need not spend a cent.
“Where have you been?” I said.
“So, are you really married?” Charles asked.
We both fired the questions at once.
“Hey! You are still wearing the ring that I gave you!” Charles remarked, sounding quite surprised.
“No, this is a different ring.” I insisted, thinking hard on how to disclaim any past associations.
At the same time, I was fully aware that Poh Choo Ling was sitting outside and that she could hear every word that were being said between us.
“Are you still with Denise?” I asked, the most crucial piece of information.
“Yeah, of course,” Charles said nonchalantly, which meant that the unhappiness in their marriage he complained of was merely meant to deceive me into spending the night with him.
I got my answer now, and in any case, I have his baby. I would have a new life to look forward to. With all that money that Bryan left behind for me, I could bring up the child myself.
Now having met Charles my curiosity had been fed. I need not even mention the night that I almost killed myself.
“If there was nothing else, I need to prepare for some cases. I have a big client coming in to see me tomorrow,” I was so darn cool. Bravo!
It was not easy to sell Lemongrass Avenue. Not in this economic climate. The government had imposed some cooling measures which dampened the property market. But that was not the reason why I could not sell my property.
There was a caveat being lodged. Someone had made a prior claim to the piece of land.
And you need not second guess. It was none other than Allison Lim. Bryan Chong left his entire fortune to me, she was merely his common law wife. There was no bigamy as Allison wasn’t legally married to Bryan. Although the Catholic Church regarded Allison as Bryan Chong’s wife, I was the mother of his unborn child, so that even if I were not legally married to Bryan, I had a higher claim on behalf of my unborn child.
An unborn can inherit provided that he would have come into consideration by the testator as an heir.
I swore on oath that Bryan knew about my pregnancy.
But I refused to swear on the Bible for if I followed the Catholic theology, I would have to recognize the union between Bryan Chong and Allison Lim.
My child was born on August thirty-first.
I registered him at the Births and Deaths Department within the week and named him Frank. I had no difficulty declaring his family name as Chong since the mother was always the only person who knew who the father was.
No one said I was lying, no one knew I was lying.
I was the mother. I was supposed to give my child a good life. If I had told others that Charles Chan was my son’s father, he would be the illegitimate child of a poor man. If Frank wasn’t the son of Bryan Chong, I might not stand to inherit the estate, since there was no clear recordings of my union with the deceased. The will was contested by Allison Lim and if not because of Frank I might not have gotten probate so easily.
After I have settled my late husband’s affairs, I acquired his large sum of money. When you have enough money and less worries, you tended to have more leisurely time to want to know who your neighbours were.
So, this morning when I arrived at my office on the second storey, I continued to walk up to the third storey. When I arrived at the door, I was not surprised to find the same set of shoes there.
I wanted to knock before I went in. But the door opened itself. “Assange” was just standing at the doorway about to come out.
“Welcome!” he said loudly, the moment he saw me.
I stepped in.
“Wait! Take off your shoes first,” he said.
“Err, sorry for disturbing, I was just wondering ….” I spoke softly.
“No need to be shy, lady!” the man was so cheerful I thought he had struck lottery.
“I am a fortune teller, lady. And I run a small business up here.” He talked as though I were one of his regular guests.
“Let me show you something,” he ushered me to his bureau, the only furniture visible in the living room. I was sure he must have other furniture inside his other room.
I surveyed the scene. I could see several copper statutes of Buddhism characters belonging to the Chinese relics, sizes ranging from small to large and large to medium, scattered all over the room, with no interior designing purpose. They looked like the owner had dug them out from an abandoned grave.
The man opened his drawer and fished out his mobile.
“I thought you might be interested … “, he began proudly.
“… this was a video recording I took one night … I think it was on November fourteenth … if I were not mistaken … just look at the lady … don’t you think she was gorgeous?”
I swore I was going to die!
It was the video recording of Charles and myself on the sofa at my office. The lights were on at the time and the images were as clear as Adam and Eve in broad daylight. I felt faint …
“I am sure you would want it back, lady!” the bastard sounded more than cheerful.
I wanted to slap him. I wanted to plunge a knife into his chest. Voyeuristic behavior is an offence!!!
But I knew, and the bastard also knew that this video clip would expose me, it would be evidence of me lying under oath that Frank was Bryan Chong’s son. Even if Bryan’s DNA could not be taken now since he was dead for the purpose of proving paternity, Charles the real father was alive.
I also knew that even if “Assange” surrendered the video clip to me, he might still have copies in his possession. One could never be sure of the words of a blackmailer.
I spent the rest of my life supporting my son, and a man sitting on top of my office on the third storey …
Money is the root of all evil.
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