Immediately, I walked straight to the taxi stand. The nearest one was at the Wisma Atria. The queue was not long, so I waited there. I decided not to call for a taxi, as now I didn’t want my movements to be traced. The police might be after me. At the bank, they had no opportunity to ask me where the money came from. Now they might just stop me and question me. Before any police confronted me, I needed to get home.
If I had booked a taxi, they would know my location with the taxi number. And from there they could trace where I lived. Finally, my turn came. The taxi man wound down the window and asked me where I wanted to go. I was afraid of disclosing my home address, so I merely said, “The north.”
The guy was not satisfied, and so quickly he drove off. I was getting more and more nervous, so I decided to go to the newsstand to get myself some sweets. At the same time, I was wondering if I should take the bus. If I boarded the bus I would be able to drop at my destination without it being disclosed.
So, I walked towards the bus stop. No one was watching me. I did not encounter the authorities. The money was still safe with me. I was still in possession of it, but I was considerably stressed. I was perspiring, and it was not a good sign. When I came to the bus stop, I saw Annabel. Annabel was my classmate in the secondary school, and I kept in touch with her every now and then. She had been to my house once or twice, and I to hers. I had no choice but to greet her.
“Where are you off to?” she asked.
“Oh, nowhere.” I didn’t want to tell her that I was going home.
“Do you want to come to my house?” Annabel asked.
“Err, I am not free today,” I said.
“But you just said you were going nowhere?!”
Annabel knew me too well. She knew that I was not used to telling lies and that if I said I was going nowhere that meant that I had nothing to do. I knew that I was stuck. If I declined Annabel’s invitation, I had to give her my intended destination, which would have been a false one.
I would have to pick a place fast, before my bus arrived. Otherwise Annabel would hop onto the same bus with me and followed me home. I would have to think of what to do with the money only after she had left my house. But then having her around would ensure a bodyguard for myself during the journey on the bus from Wisma to Farrer. So, I said, “Why don’t you let me go home and change into something nice before we go out for dinner at the Maximum Cafe?” The Maximum Cafe was a place where she and I often went.
Annabel was enthusiastic. During the journey I decided that I could not take the stress any longer, as I was too overwhelmed by the windfall. I had to confess to Annabel. So, the moment I stepped into my house, as I was locking the door, I told her to sit down by the sofa, which was just in front of the LCD television. I was just about to tell her when she turned on the television herself. They were showing some American singers vying for votes. It turned out she had something to tell me.
“Jacob is seeing someone.”
“Oh, dear. You saw them together? Someone else told you?” I was shocked, as Jacob has shown himself to be a loving husband throughout.
“No, his neighbor told me about it.”
“And you trust the testimony of this neighbor?” I asked.
“If I were you, this is only hearsay.”
Annabel paused for a while and then asked for a glass of water.
I only had orange juice in the fridge, apart from some coffee powder. It was the Florida Orange in packet form. There were still two packed in the fridge, so I could afford to be generous. I picked a large crystal glass from the kitchen cabinet, poured out a full glass, and added some ice. I brought it out to the living room, passed her the glass, and said, “Hope it is not too sweet for you.”
I liked the Florida Orange because of its sweetness.
Annabel took a sip and continued, “It happened after we came back from the cruise.”
“Oh, okay, you went on a cruise together. You had a row on the cruise.”
“Not exactly. They met on the cruise.”
“Okay, I get the picture now. You know who she is.” I tried to find out as much as possible as I sensed that Annabel needed my advice. I had a similar situation before when Michael was seeing another woman. Michael and I were now back together again.
As I thought about Annabel’s problem, I went into the bathroom. I didn't know what Annabel was doing outside, but I knew that I must get her out of the way soon, maybe immediately after dinner. She wouldn’t leave my house now, as I had promised her dinner. I wanted to take the money out from the bag and lock it up in my drawer, but it would be odd if I did that right in front of her.
When I stepped out of the bathroom I saw that Annabel was making herself comfortable. The bag of money was still lying on the sofa. It was safe there. “Let’s go for dinner, I am famished,” Annabel yelled.
I picked up my Dexter bag and said, “Hey, let me change my bag first, I can’t go into the restaurant with this bag.”
Annabel was still thinking of her situation with Jacob. “What do you think I should do?” she asked. I opened the door to my private lift lobby to pick my shoes for the outing. And then I saw the Ferragamo shoes again, though I didn’t remember buying them. And then I heard Kaiser’s bark. Annabel got into the lift and was holding it open for me.
“Shut up!” immediately came the reply of my neighbour.
Kaiser barked at me whenever I entered the house, the moment he heard me at my lift lobby, usually the minute I slipped my key into the keyhole. And then she would say,
“Shut up!” “Shut up!” as though talking to me directly.
It would have been different if she had said, “Kaiser, shut up!”
In fact, I wanted to tell her to shut up instead. Then I removed my key from the main door and stuffed the key pouch inside my bag. I walked straight into the lift where Annabel was waiting.
Once we arrived at the first floor we walked past the pavilion to the pebbled path passing by the neighbors who lived on the ground floor. Mr. Yeo, who lived in unit 01-03, was having his leisurely dinner with his newspapers. I was wondering if he could still read the print under the dim balcony light.
Then Annabel asked me, “Shall I ask for a divorce?” “
Obviously not,” I said.
“Your children are still young.”
Actually, I was no expert in this matter, as I myself never had children. I continued to walk until I reached the side gate, and I let both of us out of the estate. Then we took the long walk along Farrer Lane, where, if we were lucky, we would be able to catch a taxi. But we had no such luck tonight and we had to walk down the slope to reach the main road. I could see that some of the shops had prepared themselves for diners. Their decorative lamps were visible from inside the restaurants.