I had to bring the special purse home now, and then waited for an opportune time to bring the matter up to Mr Soo.
So today I took a taxi home. From outside the church it was not difficult to get a taxi. It was on a slope and then after 5:00 p.m. the drivers had just changed shift. I was able to bring the cash home safely.
Back at home I put it in my wardrobe straight away.
The next morning I woke up forgetting about the special purse. I got to work as usual, taking bus number 174.
Mr Soo called me in straight away the moment I arrived. It was as though he was waiting for me.
“What happened to the money?” he asked.
“What money?” I replied.
“The money you kept in the drawer,” he said.
I became nervous I quickly said, “Oh ok, Mr Soo.”
“Let me have it,” he ordered.
I brought him to the desk, opened the drawer for him, forgetting that the special purse with the money was no longer inside.
“Hey, I thought I put it in there!” I screamed.
Mr Soo looked at me, and he said, “You took the money,”
“No, I didn’t steal it!” I denied it at the top of my voice.
And then I realised that he couldn’t have known that there was money inside the drawer. I never told him about it.
I looked hard at Mr Soo. What was it that he was trying to do? To frame me? Why on earth would he want to do that?
I was in a dilemma now. I knew that I might have to resign now. If I did, I would have to return the money which I had no intention to take in the first place. But if I were to return the money to the church now, I would have a lot of explanation to do. Maybe I should just let the money lie in my wardrobe at home. As they said, let the sleeping dogs lie.
Immediately I walked away from the man. I headed straight for the entrance to the lift, took the lift down to the first floor and then took my steps on the pebbled floor with my head held high.
The next day, I went to work as usual. At the office, everyone behaved as though nothing had happened. Not a word was mentioned about how I stormed out of the office yesterday. I went to the pantry to get my coffee as usual, and I did not fail to say hi to Siew Lan. Siew Lan’s mug was on her table, the bulldog staring at me as though to tell me to keep quiet.
Benjamin was in a mask. Looked like he got the flu. I decided to keep quiet for the rest of the day. In my mind I was thinking of the ninety-eight dollars.
And then when I went to the pantry to make myself another cup of coffee, I heard the same two voices:
What is happening here?
“Has she spoken to you?” the hoarse voice, belonging to Benjamin.
“No, she lost her temper,” the softer voice, Peter Tan.
OMG! That is me! They are referring to me!
So, I sat on the piano stool again waiting for them to leave.
Five minutes later when I was certain that they were no longer there, I pulled open the curtain and walked out of my hiding place at the piano.
And then suddenly it dawned on me that I could do something – I could return the money inside the piano stool!
… and tell Mr Soo that I have found it there. He might ask me how I got to know that there was money there. I would have to make up a story.
“Will you be free tonight?”
“I thought that was the last time,” Siew Lan’s voice.
I couldn’t help overhearing the conversation. I stood still. If they opened the curtain they would see me at once.
I held my breath, waiting for the conversation to end, and waiting for the other side to leave the pantry area. There was another way out through the main kitchen door. No one came in here unless he wanted to play the piano, and I was not intending to strike the chord now. All I wanted was to have my coffee.
I recognised the voices to be that of Benjamin and Siew Lan. So, Siew Lan lied to me. All along I had thought that she submitted to Benjamin against her own free will. The conversation I heard proved that she not only consented to the sexual relationship, she was also a willing party.
Oh dear! This was a matter that I must attend to. I was not the admin manager of the church, but non-marital affairs must be stopped at once. Didn’t the Bible tell us that adultery was a sin against the law? I remembered correctly that it was the seventh commandment.
But in order to prove that there was adultery, I must be certain that one of the parties was married. So far, both appeared to be single to me. I went home deflated and I told myself that I must attend service this Sunday.
Once I reached the first floor I knew that I was safe. I then remembered that the money was inside my purse at home.
How do I return it?
This afternoon when I went to the pantry to get coffee I found Benjamin there. There was a stool next to the fridge, and he was sitting on it. I emptied the contents of the 3-in-1 into my mug and added hot boiling water. And then I saw Benjamin looking forlorn and unhappy. I gave him one packet of the 3-in-1 instant coffee and I took the lead.
“Would you like to walk me home tonight?” I asked. My voice a little soft.
“What?” Benjamin asked, sounding almost rude.
“No, I was thinking if you’d like to walk me to the bus-stop. I repeated myself.
“Oh, ok, I have no problems with that,” I was happy with his answer, I felt a certain elation.
I looked at my watch almost every fifteen minutes that afternoon, until it reached 5:00 p.m. Then I left the premises and arrived at Benjamin’s room. Benjamin had his own office. He was the church admin officer. And there was only one admin officer.
We said nothing to each other on the way from the church to the bus-stop, which was actually half the journey as when we walked together to and back from the Café 21 during lunch hour. Except that this time we both knew that we could adjourn elsewhere.
Nothing happened after we arrived at the bus-stop. By now I had concluded that Benjamin was actually more interested in Siew Lan than in me, which was a defeat for sure. Whether he was having an ongoing relationship with Siew Lan I really did not know. Now my only concern was that Benjamin might tell Siew Lan about my special purse.
“Look, you won’t tell her what I told you today, right?” I opened the topic, just before my bus arrived.
“Who is her?” he asked.
“Siew Lan, of course,” I said.
“I thought you meant Judy,” Benjamin said.
“Who’s Judy?” I followed suit.
“My wife, I thought you knew that I was married,” Benjamin said, genuinely looking surprised.
Hold it. Benjamin was married! Which meant that he and Siew Lan were not supposed to be sleeping together. It was against church laws to be sleeping with someone else’s spouse.
I had every reason to break up this union between the two of them now. Once I procured Benjamin’s home address I could inform his wife about his relationship with Siew Lan, and then he, Benjamin would get the sack. And then the next thing was – I would get the promotion – to take over as the admin officer replacing Benjamin.
“Where do you live?” I asked, immediately.
My mind works very fast.
“East Coast,” he replies.
“Look, my bus is here.” Benjamin hurried off.
And then I saw Benjamin going up the bus and leaving me standing waiting for mine. I knew that he was upset, I saw him in the pantry on the stool this afternoon.