It has been raining heavily so that Elsie wasn’t able to walk Gemma. She opened the black door hoping that he will do his business outside at the fence. But instead of which he peed at the door frame. The door frame was already half rotten with pieces of wood peeling off.
You could say that because of the rain, all of them were cooped up in the house, so that something was brewing in the mist. George arrived at 7:00 p.m. as usual, with Gemma announcing the guest’s presence.
“Shall I take off my shoes?” George asked casually as he walked in with his shoes. There were traces of mud on where he walked. Elsie gasped at the dirt he brought in and she almost shouted a No out loud. But George didn’t listen to her. He brought a bouquet of flowers with him and he found empty vase by the sink, then he ripped off the wrapping paper and placed the flowers in the vase and turned on the tap to fill up some water. He took the vase and placed it on top of the shrine. The light was always on at the shrine. Elsie guess that whoever he was praying to, appreciated the flowers.
“Charmaine, if you could forgive me, today is the third anniversary of your death,”
“I am sure that Jacintha is in good hands now, the Lord has told me,”
There was complete silence as George spoke. We waited for him to continue …
“Since you died, my life has been in shakers, everything has gone down the drain, I am no longer the man that you used to know,”
“I stopped going to the office, and I stopped sailing, the activity that kept me alive,”
Mr Seow was at the dining table, and Elsie was laying out the dishes for him …
“If you can hear me, please come and take one stock of rose from the vase,” George was getting insane.
Elsie saw that George’s eyes were closed as he was fully concentrating. She went up to the vase and took one stem of rose away. And then she placed it on the dining table.
“I have not slept since the day you left,” George was still pleading with Charmaine. Charmaine was nowhere to be found.
And then his eyes opened, he saw the stem on the dining table where Mr Seow was having his dinner. George was overjoyed. He came up to Mr Seow and started sharing the meal with him. Mr Seow wanted to know how much George paid for the bouquet, so he asked him,
“How much did you spend?”
“… around eighty dollars,” George said.
“… and the flower girl was giving me a discount,” he lamented.
“How much money are you left with now?” Mr Seow asked George.
“Less than ten thousand dollars,” George replied.
“How are you going to carry on, the rental and all that,” Mr Seow asked him again.
“I don’t know, was hoping to strike the lottery,” George said.
“That is most unreliable,” Mr Seow concluded.
With that, Mr Seow took his dinner plate to the kitchen to wash and Elsie quickly moved in to clear away the rest of the dishes.
No one knew that George was talking to Charmaine. And no one knew that George was engaged to Jacintha before Jacintha died. Jacintha died of a broken heart. That’s what they all said. True. Charmaine was the one who knew it best. Jacintha was in love with George and that was how Charmaine was introduced to George. But when George saw Charmaine, he fell in love with her.
Charmaine was not particularly pretty, neither did she have a good figure. But it was the topics of conversation, the things that interested them both. They shared the same tastes in food, wine and paintings. And most of all they have the same sense of humour. They laughed at the same old silly jokes. And then they enjoyed the same music and read the same authors. It was love at first sight. George and Charmaine did not hesitate to exchange cell phone numbers before they parted company. And minutes later Charmaine received his text “let’s make it again next weekend,” on her WhatsApp.
Afterwards Charmaine broke the news to Jacintha:
“George and I slept,”
“George loves me and not you.”
Jacintha listened, then she saw the engagement ring on Charmaine’s finger, so that she knew that it was the truth. But of course, it could have been any other ring, bought from a flea market. But Jacintha believed her.
Once Jacintha started drinking there was no turning back. Charmaine saw the number of emptied wine bottles lined up outside her bedroom door. She knew that Jacintha needed her to break up with George. But she wanted George. George was hers since the day she met him. Charmaine didn’t want to be the loser.
In Real Time
George came today. Without the bouquet. Elsie heard George talking to himself again and remarked to Mr Seow that this man was going insane. Mr Seow ignored her comments and went about his own business. In the end, George left a note behind on the table to tell them that he wasn’t coming anymore:
“Dear Mr Seow and company, I have found another life …. I would be back again someday …. If all goes well …. The flower girl ….”
Wendy sold flowers to pass time, not as a means to earn a living. When George appeared, she could see that he needed money. George was good looking, and for an old maid, Wendy had to act fast. On his second time around at her shop, she asked him if he would want to move in with her.
“A small ceremony will do. I don’t need any guests,” was what she said to George.
And so it happened, like in a fairy tale.
On the wedding night, with only the solemniser to witness the vows in the day, George told Wendy that she only condition for being his wife was that she must answer to the name Charmaine.
“My name is Wendy, not Charmaine.” Wendy said.
“And my name is Peter.” George said.
“Huh? I thought you said you were George?” Wendy asked.
“And I thought you were Charmaine.” George answered.
With that, George asked Wendy if she would go to a house with him, to meet with a lady by the name of Jacintha.
“And who is this Jacintha?” Wendy asked.
“Your sister. You can’t remember?” George said.
It was an old bungalow with only the two of them – Mr Seow and Elsie - naturally the entire place was rusty if not mouldy. You could smell the grass creeping up the walls and if you went closer, you might catch one or two worms.
Wendy fell in love with the house and her owner. She told herself that she would not give up anything else for this. In her mind she had decided that she wanted to live here with George. She would allow herself to be Charmaine.
When they were both upstairs, George picked up the red dress on the bed and told Wendy to put it on. She sensed that it was what he liked. It was expensive, and Wendy could see it.
When Wendy put on the red dress, it fitted her perfectly. The dress had red flowers sewn all over, and she was surprised that George found it for her.
“That’s a nice dress,” George said as he saw Wendy.
“Weather is so hot. And what perfume is that you are wearing? George commented.
“Pleasures by Estée Lauder.” Wendy replied. And then she walked down the stairs, George could hear her sandals making its way to the altar.
Downstairs at the dining room Mr Seow saw Wendy put the flowers in a vase and running some water over them and filling up the vase. He saw the Hokkien Mee which Elsie had bought and placed it on the dining table. Afterwards Wendy came to join them for dinner.
They sat there and waited for George to come down to join them.