Chapter 5 & 6
Meaghan finished hanging the wet clothes onto the pole line and carried the empty basket back inside. The terrace house in Taman Hui Sing was just large enough for their needs, but it was all she could afford for her and her sister.
Last year, a government agent came to their house to inform them that their parents, who worked for a local palm oil company, had died in a plane accident. They had been on their way to Shanghai to meet with members of a Chinese import consortium, but had never made it. Since the corporate jet crashed into the South China Sea, the bodies had never been recovered. The Malaysian government provided a small subsidy, but that was barely enough to keep her sister in school supplies, so Meaghan picked up odd jobs to supplement her income.
She sat down on the worn bamboo parquet floor holding her parents’ wedding pictures, the leather cover cool under her fingers. The money she made last night in Miri would put some food on the table and a little more into her savings, but she was exhausted. Luckily, today was a rare day off. Maybe she should check the employment agencies and see if there was a better position out there. Making the decision, she went upstairs to change.
“Apa khabar!” A familiar greeting met Meaghan as she walked towards the bus stop. Her tall neighbour, Shel Berry, was outside in front of her house. Shel had moved into the neighbourhood a year ago, and had quickly befriended the two girls. As a matter of fact, she had recommended Meaghan for the job at the party. Meaghan smiled as she ambled up to the chain link fence.
“Khabar baik, Shel. I’m fine. Thank you for helping me get the job last night.” Shel waved her off.
“Never mind that, Meg. I know you are a good worker, and I know you could always use the extra money. Did you see any celebrities? Anyone I would know?” In her late thirties, Shel was always interested in Meaghan’s activities; Meaghan found she liked that someone was watching out for her and Tina. It made her feel less alone.
“The job was mostly cleaning up dishes and keeping the wine glasses full,” Meaghan laughed. “I did meet someone interesting by the pool, but I don’t know who he was.” She relayed the story to Shel, but missed the sudden focus of her neighbour when she described the man.
When Meaghan had finished, her friend quickly asked, “Did he have a tragus piercing in his right ear?” Meaghan mused for a moment, remembering the flash of the stone.
“I think he did. Why, do you know him?”
Shel’s face cleared. “Oh, nothing. It sounded like an actor I saw in a recent Korean drama. Did he sound Korean?”
Meaghan shook her head, smiling. Shel’s obsession with Korean dramas was a well-known fact. She chatted a bit longer, then headed towards the agency.
The sun was bright in the eastern sky the next day when Meaghan walked into her office building and sat down in her cubicle, ignoring the babble of the other workers. The employment agency promised to call her if they found anything, but it wasn’t encouraging. She sighed.
“Good morning, Meg!” Cynthia’s bright voice broke through the other voices. The office manager, Cynthia was an older woman, her brunette hair pulled in a chignon. She was Meaghan’s boss, and had worked at the company for many years. She plopped several files on Meaghan’s desk. “Here is the 2011 end-of –year overseas distribution report for France. Could you please proof it and make sure it’s accurate? We’ll need them for a meeting next week.”
Meaghan nodded. She was fluent in English and French, and was frequently asked to assist in communication to other countries. She turned on her computer, placed her bag in the drawer, and opened up the file.
Several hours later, the preliminary review was done, and Meaghan rubbed her eyes. She needed to get in touch with Ivoire, her contact in Nice, France, but with the seven-hour difference, it would have to wait until the afternoon. Standing up and stretching her back, she decided to stroll down to the nearby market for a quick snack.
~ ~ ~
Rickie drove along the waterfront to the family storage facility. Traffic was heavy, even before noon, and he rolled down the windows of his sport utility vehicle to catch any stray ocean breeze. The foot traffic on the sidewalks was relatively light.
Out of the corner of his eye, he thought he saw a familiar figure. Slowing down, he realised it was the woman who had haunted his dreams last night. He drove ahead of her, then pulled to the side of the road and rolled his window down.
“Excuse me!” he called out. The woman hesitated, but then turned towards him. Here in the bright sunlight, he could see her from head to toe, and smiled at the picture she made.
Gone was the severe waitress outfit; instead, she was wearing a long, flowing skirt of greens and blues, with a white sleeveless turtle neck blouse contrasting with the darker tones of her arms. Her hair was pulled away from her face by a butterfly clip, but left loose and straight down the back of her head. It was longer than he thought, hanging just below her shoulders. Her face was exactly how he remembered, except that her eyes grew wider as she recognised him.
She gave a nervous bow, and began walking faster down the sidewalk, away from the vehicle. Rickie quickly climbed out of the truck and hurried after her. “Wait!”
Meaghan ignored the summons, choosing to flee rather than face the man who caught her and her sister by the pool, but loud footsteps behind her warned her that escape was impossible. She suddenly stopped short, and turned to face her pursuer; he almost ran into her, stopping just before he slammed into her, his Cole Haans almost on top of her modest sandals. He awkwardly hopped backwards, paused and spoke three quiet words.
“It is you.”