Chapter 37 & 38
Meaghan remained in a pensive mood for the rest of the day. She knew she was missing something crucial, but it remain stubbornly just out of reach.
As she approached her house, she saw the familiar figure of her missing neighbor, and her spirits lifted. She waved as she approached.
“Apa khabar, Shel. How was your trip? Where did you go?”
Shel smiled. “Oh, Sam and I decided to have a little adventure, so we did a bit of traveling. I wanted to get back in time to help you with your pre-festival cleaning, since this is first time without your parents. I even picked up some tuak rice wine while we were traveling, just for you and your sister. When did you need me to come over to help with the cleaning?”
“You don’t need to come over, Shel.” Meaghan saw the clouded look on her neighbor’s face, and hastened to reply, “We did a complete cleaning for Tina’s birthday last weekend.”
“Oh, that’s right. I forgot about that. Well,” Shel shrugged, “if you need any help, let me know.” And with that, she went back inside her house. Meaghan stared at Shel’s front door, shook her head, and walked to her house.
She had just settled down on the couch, her feet tucked underneath her and a glass of lemonade at her elbow, when her cell phone rang. She answered it.
“Selamat petang, Meg! It’s Sethe. Listen, I’ve wanted to do a bit of shopping and I was wondering if you have any time tomorrow evening to go with me. We’ll do dinner ahead of time.” Meaghan thought for a moment, but didn’t have any plans. It would also be the first time that it would be the two of them, and she figured she might ask Sethe some questions about her brother.
“I just need to let my sister know, but it shouldn’t be a problem.”
“You know, she could come along, too,” Sethe said. “It might be better to include her! I can call her and ask, if you want.”
Meaghan smiled at her enthusiasm. Maybe the girls could strike up a friendship; Sethe was closer to her in age, but much more like Tina sister in her sunny personality. She agreed and gave Sethe her sister’s phone number.
Looking into her glass, she thought about the last several weeks. Ever since that fateful day when she met Rickie – was it three weeks ago? – her life seemed to have gone askew. ‘I feel like I’m in some bad fiction,’ she thought.
Still, Rickie. She sighed and took a sip, savoring the sweet tartness of the lemonade. Just thinking about him made her happy and uncomfortable at the same time.
He seemed genuinely interested in a relationship with her, but with his background, she wondered why. A good family with deep history and roots to Malaysia’s royalty, old money, her boss at the task force and the owner of the company she normally worked for. What did he see in her, an unsophisticated woman raising her younger sister? Her thoughts turned inward for a while, until she heard a key in the front door lock that signaled Tina’s arrival.
“Hey, Meg!” Tina looked almost as giddy as the day of her birthday.
“Hi, Leaf. How was school today?” Tina looked puzzled for a second, and then adopted a bored tone. “Okay, the usual stuff. I had a pop test in History, but I think I did alright.
“Abang Rickie’s sister called me for both of us. I told her we would go.”
Meaghan uncoiled her legs and was looking down for her slippers, so she missed the swift calculating glance from her sibling. “I told her we would meet at her house.” Meaghan looked up in surprise.
“Did she give you the address?” she asked.
Tina nodded, and added, “I’ll come straight home from school, and we can leave together. What are we eating tonight?”
Meaghan stood up and the two of them walked towards the kitchen. “Let’s see what we can come up with for supper. We still have some ice cream left…”
The Tuesday morning sun shone through the front windows as Rickie made his way down the staircase to the dining room. Sethe, JoAnne, and his father were already there; Rickie greeted everyone in turn and sat down to a breakfast of waffles and scrambled eggs.
“So what are you scheduled for today, son?” the elder Ahmad asked. Rickie thought for a moment, going over the schedule in his head.
“I have a follow up meeting with Raine in the morning, and I need to check our waterfront warehouse today as well.”
The elder Ahmad smiled. “Can you go check Compliant Tower # 3? Reports say the structure is almost complete and the drillbit and drillstring should be in place to Wednesday afternoon. I would like to have a pair of eyes visually inspect everything.”
“That shouldn’t be a problem, bapa,” Rickie said, “I’ll take lunch on the road, and be back late tomorrow night. Don’t hold up dinner for me.”
His father nodded. “If you need to stay overnight, that would be fine, too.” Sethe snorted; Rickie quickly looked at her, but she was busy wiping her mouth. JoAnne smoothly interjected into the sudden silence.
“So, Rickie, how is your harem going?”
“I don’t like that name,” he groused over his eggs.
JoAnne laughed, unperturbed. “That’s what you get for being the only male in the office. Is everybody working together well?”
“It’s only been a week, but it’s a good team. I think the BKN will find it useful. We already ruled out government activity and are now focusing on the corporate environment.” Rickie turned to his father.
“About that employee in Thailand. What is happening?”
His father quietly replied, “We have contacted the grandmother, and have made arrangement for the body once it is released by the Thai authorities. She wants everything shipped to Cameroon, so we are arranging someone to collect her personal objects for shipping as well. I expect everything will be in place by next week.”
Rickie nodded. After finishing breakfast and saying his goodbyes, he headed out to his vehicle.
“Well, I have to get ready for this evening, so I’ll see you two soon.” Sethe walked over to her father’s wheelchair and bussed his cheek. He patted her arm, and she headed up the stairs.
JoAnne clucked as she watched her leave. “I hope you know what you’re doing,” she told the smiling man as she wheeled him down to his office.
“I want grandchildren while I’m still able to enjoy them,” he said. “Sometimes you have to give a push in the right direction, in love and in business. He’s just like me, you know.”
JoAnne chuckled. “This is going to be interesting to watch.”