There seemed no other place to meet except at the Summerset Restaurant. Walter and I have been so regular that the restaurant had decided to give us a discount for our meals. They also knew what dishes we planned to order even before we sat down so that we need not take the trouble to plough through the menu.
“So you are Carmen,” the first thing the old man Sim said when he saw me.
“Yes, Mr Sim,” I answered differentially.
“No need to be so formal, just call me dad,” the old man said, he looked a bit intimidating.
I saw him take his scarf off his collar, then he adjusted his lapel. And after a long silence, he spoke,
“Why haven’t you come to see me earlier before,”
“Err, oh, err, …. ” I looked at Walter for help.
“Dad, we didn’t think that you would be too happy about the fact that George was born before we were registered,” Walter chipped in.
“Well, it’s not too late now,” Mr Sim, no, dad said.
“I would think that George sounds a little too plain, why not call him Charles, since the name is associated to the first in line to the British throne,” dad said.
“Oh yes of course, anything you say, dad,” Walter was all out to please his father.
“And why not hold a wedding celebration to let all our friends and relatives know that you are part of our family?” dad suggested, looking in my direction.
“It would be superfluous,” Walter came in my defence.
And then thank God the waitress didn’t forget to serve us, so that we could pause conversations.
As fate would have it, Mark walked in at this point in time.
OMG! The minute I saw Mark.
Please, please don’t come here, go have dinner elsewhere!
But Mark didn’t hear my wish, he saw us, and he walked towards our table.
“Nice company you have there, Carmen,” he greeted the rest without looking at me.
“Err, this is Mark,” I said, turning to Mr Sim. And then I looked at Mark pleadingly,
“Mark, this is Walter’s father Mr Sim,” I quickly rearranged the expression on my face before turning to Mr Sim again.
“To be precise, Sim Leng How,” the old man added.
“Oh ok, sorry I didn’t know your full name, dad,” I still had to call him dad. My money depends on my giving the appropriate form of address.
“How did you know that I am here?” I quickly asked, in order to stop Mark from saying anything that would jeopardise the stage show.
“A little bird told me,” Mark was sarcastic.
And then without another word, he grabbed Walter, who was sitting by the side of the two seater, and he punched him with his fist.
Walter fell backwards, his head hit the backrest of the sofa, and then he sprung back. Recovering, he stood up to confront Mark. Now I could see clearly that Mark was taller than Walter. Mark gave Walter another punch using the same fist, but this time Walter was more prepared. He grabbed Mark by his hand, and then he threw him like you would throw a basketball, right towards the other table. The two guests who were seated there earlier on had left by now.
By this time the manager of the restaurant had been summoned. He came and stood in between Mark and Walter, and he shouted,
“Stop, or I will call the police!”
The reluctant waitress also came by. She quickly attended to the rest of us at the table, and with swiftness of actions, she proceeded to pack up all the plates and sauces on the table.
George cried, and then Mr Sim was saying, “What is happening? Who is this?” before collapsing onto the chair and passed out.
Mr Sim died of heart attack on 15 January 2021.
I saw David Lim at the office on 5 February 2021 when I returned to work. As usual we met at the entrance.
“Hello Mr Lim, my problem has been solved,” I was more than cheerful.
“So soon?” he seemed to look too excited for my liking.
“I am going to resign soon,” I said.
“You’ve been given the sack?” the man asked.
“No, I don’t have to work now, and I plan to do freelancing,” I replied.
“Freelancing what?” he was curious.
“I will be selling houses, since now I have collected the skill of selling spaces,” as usual I was making projections, based on the lump sum inheritance that Walter would share with me.
“Great! And I will be your first customer,” the man couldn’t have been serious.
“By the way, I am free tonight, would you like to go somewhere near and eat? I know of a restaurant called Summerset, just inside the Landmark Mall,” an instant invitation.
Fine. Since this was going to be my first customer. As they said, ‘Customer is King’.
We need not walk too far to reach the Summerset Restaurant. The road to the Landmark Mall was straight forward. No turning of side lanes, all you needed to do was to make a zebra crossing. The traffic was not too heavy as this was not strictly a business district.
The same reluctant waitress.
This time she attended to the two of us immediately without due delay.
“A new male company?” she remarked, I could detect a note of sarcasm.
The minute we sat down, she offered me the menu.
“Thank you, Stacy!” David Lim said.
How did he know the name of the waitress?
“Sorry Mr Lim, we haven’t repaired the damage,” Stacy said.
“No problem, we came here only for the food,” David Lim sounded like the boss.
“Mark has been admitted to the hospital, do you want me to give you his room number?” Stacy announced.
Mark!!! He knew Mark!!!
That meant …
…. David Lim the CEO of Talkative Bureau was the informant!!!
No wonder Mark was at the restaurant on the night of 15 January 2021.
Now that David Lim knew Mark, was he also the one who told Walter that I have a son?
I started to get angry, but I told myself I had to stay, since I needed a contact for my new job as an estate agent. Any lead was useful.
“Have some wine, Carmen, don’t be too stressed about your new job,” David Lim said.
“You have set me up, haven’t you, Mr CEO?!” I became inflamed.
“Why. No. Everything that has happened was just part of my duty, I had to let the respective parties know about your situation, I was merely doing HR,”
“You could withdraw your letter of resignation and work for me as my PA … ” David Lim offered,
“ … instead of selling houses, these are Covid times, selling houses are not so lucrative.”
“PA!” I was so elated I shouted, if you still remembered that I said I wanted to move up the corporate ladder.
“Mr David Lim, no, Mr CEO, I will report to your office tomorrow morning at 8:30 a.m. sharp,”
“Be sure to wear the black taffeta,” he gave me his punch line.
This man is insane!!!
I picked up my bag, took the fastest route out of Summerset Restaurant, and then just as I passed by Hourglass Figure, I saw that the mannequin had put on another dress. This time it was a red dress with sequins sewn all over, I guess the colour was to coincide with the Chinese New Year festive season. I was a superstitious person. Red was my favourite colour, it symbolised good fortune. But this time I did not talk to her, for she was no longer Claire.
Who is the next Claire?