Their images appeared on my mind like pictures rotating at random display. I wanted to help all three of them. I always wanted to help women. Most of my clients were women. This lady by the lamp post could be in the same shoes as that of my client’s pregnant wife or that of the potential Bollywood porn star. Tonight, I didn’t want to see Claire. Not yet.
When I gave Claire the pearl earrings I knew what she wanted. She did not want earrings. It was a ring that she wanted and an engagement ring. And tonight, I had disowned her. I had announced to the waiter of The Winsor Café that Claire was not my wife. I could have told him that she was my fiancée. After all, neither one of us was dating anyone else. This meant that in my mind I had worked out that I wanted to see she.
Yes, I wanted to give she a chance. Something told me that she was waiting for me.
Again, I did not take the sleeping pills. I fell asleep at four a.m. and got to the office late. Terrence was waiting for me already as I came in. I told Nora that I didn’t want to take any calls. Once I shut the door I interviewed my client.
“Did you know that she was pregnant?” I asked.
“I thought that was undisputed? What are you trying to get at?” Terrence said.
“How many months pregnant was she at the material time?” I asked again.
“Three, possibly four …. I’m not sure.” He said.
“Listen, what I am trying to say is that she must be looking rather unattractive with a big belly … that it was unlikely you want sex from her,” I was getting at it.
“If she was only three months pregnant it would be a little tricky to be having sex, did she want the child?” I continued.
“No, she came out of the bathroom naked …” Terrence began to recall,
“then she told me that this was going to be the last time before the baby gets bigger, and then … it just happened.”
“Why do you think that she did that?” I asked my client, looking at him directly.
“I really have no idea.” I could see that he was getting very exasperated.
I wanted so much to help this man sitting in front of me. I wanted to know the truth. I told myself that I must get to the bottom of this. I was prevented by the code of ethics not to see his client. But already I have sketched a wicked image of her.
Why would a woman want to put the father of her unborn baby in jail? Unless … unless he was not the child’s father. Yes, I have stumbled on the truth. There was no logic to it unless this was the fact. I was a lawyer. In all situations, logic must prevail. I put this matter aside for the time being until I found the missing link, the woman’s lover.
It was not unusual for me to bring clients to Jasmine’s Inn for lunch. Most of them like Szechuan food. Half way through lunch, Terrence suddenly said,
“Now I remember. Margaret was a little strange at the ultrasound scan … when she found out that it was a boy, instead of turning to me, she took out her handphone and she messaged someone.”
“Did you see who the recipient was?” I asked.
“No,” Terrence replied.
“And why not?” lunch was getting serious,
“I am not in the habit of prying on her,” Terrence confessed,
“although I should have, in hindsight,” he said.
We were getting somewhere now. The deceitful woman was contacting her lover. I was sure of that.
“Do you want to hire a PI to trail her?” I enquired of my client.
“How much?” he asked.
“A few thousand dollars, but it’s worth it.” I urged him.
Terrence thought about it, “No harm done. Although I didn’t think she is seeing another man.”
“Do you have a picture of Margaret?” Terrence paused for a while, then he brought his wallet out,
“I don’t have a recent one,” he held out the photo.
I stared at the picture. It looked a splitting image of the lady at the lamp post, except that the subject in the picture had cropped hair and she looked a little fairer.
“Is she Indian?” I asked.
“Yeah, a classic Indian beauty, we got hitched after three weeks.” Terrence seemed proud of the fact.
I rang Spider’s Bureau the private investigation agency. Preoccupied with Terrence’s case now I have since stopped buying little gifts for Claire and I hoped that she had not noticed it. If I could identify malice as a motive, then I knew that Terrence and I had won the case and then all we need do was wait for the Attorney-General’s Chambers to withdraw the charges. Although I knew the director of Spider’s Bureau very well I had never been to the firm.
The lady at the lamp post was at the same spot as I walked out of the office to meet Claire at our usual joint at The Winsor Café this evening. I couldn’t say that I was happy to see her at the lamp post as I had expected to see her almost every day now. She looked like Margaret, Terrence’s wife, and she looked like Sushila the Indian Bollywood dancer. And I was not sure whom she resembled more.
The fact of her standing at the lamp post waiting for me had become a scheduled event. I had started to buy a few new neckties, as the ones I was wearing did not make me stand out. I bought a pink tie and a turquoise one to compliment my grey pants and as for shirts I had always worn white. By now I had decided that I was not going to marry Claire. Was I wrong in eliminating Claire? I was not cheating on her. So far, I had not spoken to she yet. I only looked forward to the glimpses of recognition on the street on the way to The Winsor Café.
It took only one week to establish that Margaret was seeing another man. And according to the taped conversation, that man was the father of the unborn child.
“No wonder she wants to put me in jail,” Terrence woke up.
“Yes, and whilst you are serving sentence, she could file for divorce without having to be separated from you for three years.”
I never saw a man break down before.
“I loved her,” he sobbed.
As though it was not affirmative, he told me he recently bought a house in joint names.
“The more reason why she wants to be separated from you,” I hit the nail on the coffin.
I knew that I was also stupid like Terrence. I told myself I didn’t want to fall into the trap again. I managed to resist Claire so many times. I was getting a divorce soon and I didn’t want to be involved with another woman. But this time, this woman standing at the lamp post, looked different, like a changed person.
I went to church on Sunday and spoke with my pastor. He was happy for me that I had decided against Claire.
“You were married in church, so you have taken the sacred marriage vows, divorce is unacceptable in Christian marriages.” He proclaimed vehemently.
I listened and at the same time I wondered if when an Indian married a Christian in church would she be regarded as having renounced her Hindi faith.
The case of Sushila was still pending and I knew that there was little chance that she would be found innocent. There was no question of guilt as she confessed to the crime. Was there any way to establish that her husband had beaten her up before? I thought of the lines of defence.
And as I walked along the streets down at the office thinking of the case it was the same evening, the same moon casting a shadow onto her thin long figure. She was across the street under the lamp post.
In the dark I could not see if she were wearing black or navy. Then I wanted to walk right up to her; I wanted to say hi tonight. Just then I saw a silver Mercedes crossed a median and went straight for her. With my own eyes I saw her fall onto the pavement. I rushed up to her as another bystander rang for the ambulance.
Together we waited for the paramedics to arrive. Immediately they went into action. I heard the paramedics asked her,
“Ma’am, you have just met with an accident. Can I have the telephone number of your next-of-kin?”
“Nine-eight-three-six-nine-one-eight-four ….” with that I saw her close her eyes and at the same time my handphone rang almost instantly.
I picked up the call and I saw the caller’s identity as “unknown”. I listened to the caller from the civil defence force,
“Your wife has just met with an accident. Please go to the nearest hospital at Alexandra Road to see her.”
Yes, this woman, this lady who had been waiting for me at the lamppost was Rashida my wife. We were only separated now after she walked out on me and I told myself I would not talk to her again. We were not divorced yet. If she died divorce would not be necessary anymore.
Silently I prayed to God that she would come out alive. I promised God that I would honour Him by making the marriage work this time. And I realized that I still loved Rashida, perhaps that was why I had refused Claire.
Claire was waiting for me again at The Winsor Café, but I knew that I would not be eating pumpkin soup and lamp chop tonight for once.