Balance of this part, which was somehow cut off when posted.....
I jumped out of bed and showered while Tinh, put on her make-up, dressed in her clothes but saying she would have to go home and change into new ones, and so we left the room together; Tinh, kissing me fleetingly, putting her fingers to my lips as I was about to speak – what could I say? – She whispered “See you soon, Anh.” She turned and headed down the back staircase, and I went to the lift to go for breakfast downstairs. As I entered, a voice called ‘Please wait!” and I held the doors for the young woman running up the corridor; an elegant, body-clinging grey dress, and beautiful legs I noticed, before moving my eyes to her stunning, smiling face: oh god, it was my ex-wife, Ha!
“Ha? Ha-oi, it is you – what are you doing here?” “Hello, Anh,” she answered in English, “I came up here for a couple of days, business, before going to Ho Chi Minh to stay with my mum for a while. How are you, you look well – and you looked well on your balcony last night also!” I was confused and stupidly just stared.
God, she was beautiful; “Ha, you look beautiful!” I blurted, then realized I was probably looking like a forlorn puppy, “Sorry, you took me by surprise.” I paused, thinking; “That was you on your balcony last night? I couldn’t see your face; you are so slim compared to last time I saw you; ah, you look very well, em.” I reverted to Vietnamese and addressed her as I always had, “I didn’t know you were coming over; how is Yen.” “Sally is fine, Anh; doing really well, and she is so looking forward to coming over at the end of term break, another month. She tells me you and she became ah, re-connected, when she was here last, just as you two always did when she was your young daughter. That’s sweet – but please don’t do anything to hurt her, Anh. Who was the young lady you were with?” I took the point before answering “One: Ha, I would never hurt Yen – you know I never call her Sally – and two: the young lady works for the same Company as me, and her cousin is a good friend of Yen’s, who asked them to ‘take care of me’ in her absence; Yen knows as we talk now and again, and you know me: I never lie to people I love.”
I let that hang in the air; it was true and always had been, whereas Ha had lied constantly to me during our 7 years together, when I was too much in love to consider she was telling me anything other than the truth. “Are you going to breakfast, Ha?” “Yes, Anh, but only for toast and tea – and yes, I have exercised and dieted since we last met, and I intend to stay this way. Do you like my new shape?” She twirled around in front of me, the clinging dress fitted every curve and crevice as if a skin, and while I knew her breasts had been surgically augmented – after all, I had paid for them – she was magnificent. I could only answer breathlessly “Yes, Ha, I do.” She leaned to my face and kissed me on both cheeks as the elevator, after a seemingly interminable trip, stopped at the ground, and the doors opened. I was in a daze; ‘Yen, why didn’t you tell me your mother was coming’ was on my brain.
As we left the elevator, Linh was waiting to enter; she said “Good morning, Anh Steve; are you going home today? I hope we see you again soon – Tinh and I, and I am sure, Liem also.” She smiled as I said I expected to be back often to the office, and I wished her well. Ha and I entered the dining room and were seated, Ha ordering as she said she would, while I opted for an omelette and coffee. We talked about Yen, about my job a little and I asked what business interests she had here – she was a southern Vietnamese, and had never particularly cared for the north; after all, her mother had needed to hide under the kitchen table when the bombs fell, when pregnant with Ha, as the north began their final assault and soon-to-be victory.
She said she had invested some money – mine? I wondered – in the fledgling stock market, both here and more lucratively in the southern bourse in HCMC, and she was here to just check on things with her broker. She had always been a canny businesswoman, even with only schooling to end of primary level, before having to leave and help her mother to earn a meagre living for them both – her father having run off when she was born – and, had we still been married and had I still had my old job and salary, I had no doubt we would have been very wealthy indeed. However, thoughts of wealth no longer played any part in my life, if indeed they ever had, as I followed the King of Thailand’s ideals of ‘sufficient is enough’. But for Ha, I understood: brought up with nothing or little, given a chance when she met me she seized the opportunity, and she did very well from her marriage to me; it seemed Yen was correct: Ha had more than enough from our time together, and I could only wish she was also happy.
I asked if she was married in Australia; she looked down, before replying “No, there have been some men; some Australians, some Vietnamese-Australians, but nobody I wanted to marry – not since you, Anh.” She appeared wistful, and then she added “I don’t know why I left you, Steve; you were the best husband I could ever have found and the best man as a father for Yen there could ever have been – she is a wonderful daughter, and a lot of that is because of you, perhaps even more than me. But, for me, I regret what I did, driving you away. I have been sorry ever since, but it has taken me a long time to accept this thought: I needed to blame you, but that was wrong. I am sorry, Anh.” She swallowed some tea, asked if I could settle the bill – of course! – And she said maybe she would see me in Ho Chi Minh before she flew home. I held her hand and said “I hope so, Ha; as for the past: I was never so in love as I was with you before, Ha, and I never ever regret those years; I was so happy with you, and with Yen, and I have no bitterness nor regrets - but sadness?
Yes, I have sadness, but that was a past life and now you and I have new ones. See you soon, em”. I kissed her hand, as I had done a thousand, thousands times in the past. “Oh, I wish I had my camera, to capture this; photo you, Ha: I don’t have any of you, and only one I keep secret of Yen at our photo wedding time; well, until she was here in January, but of our years together, I have only that single one of Yen. But now, this moment, I would love to have another one of you.”“God, I loved you, wife of me!” I sadly, strongly, spoke, using the Vietnamese for ‘wife of me’; she smiled, also sadly at my use of the term which I had said so many times in the past to her, and to her alone.
She walked out, and I didn’t know how she felt: not really; not about the past, the present, or even, maybe, the future. I didn’t know. But I couldn’t forget her. Never.
I ate a little, drank my caf?nd had another, then returned to my room to pack my bag and wait for my car. I checked out, paying my bill, and seeing Linh yet again; then my mobile rang, and Ha said “I will see you in Ho Chi Minh, Anh…chung em” I couldn’t talk; her use of the words for ‘husband of her’ left me crying, and I couldn’t do anything but sob into the phone before disconnecting the call. What was I to do now? I asked myself. I had never stopped loving her, but now I loved her daughter.
(End of Part 6)