The Confessions of a Singaporean Gangster in London – Chapter 10 “The Flamingo Hair pin”
Posted by inspir3d on February 15, 2005
The next day, the third wife called on the Lam’s in their family mansion in Hampstead Heath – she had earlier expressed to the elder Lam ’s wife during the garden party, her desire to acquaint herself further with Jeannie, she had remarked,
“I see her as a little sister and I do hope she will come to see me as her older sister – we women must really stick together in a man’s world”
Mrs Lam felt somewhat flattered by the attention bestowed upon her only daughter by the third wife. So that afternoon for tea, the servants prepared the south facing verandah with sweet meats, cakes and candy made from frosted yam, lotus seed desert and other delicacies to honor her visit – she arrived promptly at half pass two with the rest of the old man’s wife’s, who appeared more interested in the food than the company.
When the third wife saw Jeannie, she gave her the gold flamingo gold pin and remarked –
“this will go well with your cheong sam – I noticed you like flamingo’s”
Jeannie was of course too excited to wait and insisted on trying it out there and then – so when the third wife volunteered to fix her hair into a bun – both of them retired to the parlor.
In a while, Jeannie Yu rejoined the rest of the women in the verandah sporting the flamingo hair pin – though the other ladies managed a smile, many of them later gossiped amongst themselves,
“though the third wife could always be relied upon for her elegance and good taste – this simply proves, even the best of us can sometimes get it quite wrong.”
Everyone seemed to be aware of this faux pas – except Jeannie and even Mrs Lam seemed quite embarrassed that afternoon and when these two ladies were seen smiling to each other like sisters seated at one discreet far corner of the verandah chatting – the other wife’s began to gossip. They remarked amongst themselves.
” After all she (third wife) has a good heart, so we should not fault her for giving the Lam daughter a hair pin only village folk often find fashionable – perhaps these two with their preference for bad taste will really get along like a house on fire after all” One of the wife’s joked.
With these words, the rest of the ladies burst out into rapturous laughter and when madam Lam turned to them and asked what they were laughing about. The Ist wife of the old man, remarked,
“how suitable the match is between these two sisters – they do have so many things in common after all – it must be destiny” and again they laughed, leaving madam Lam quite perplex to even laugh along with them.
When the third wife heard this she simply smiled and lowered her head demurely in silent agreement. Just about this time, I walked into the verandah with the elder Lam. Earlier on in the day, Jeannie had been quite insistent that I should make an effort to be present for tea – if not for the whole tea for a small part of it – to pay my respects.
So there I was – looking at Jeannie and her ridiculous hair pin – to say I did not know what was going on would be to say, I was a man who did not understand the ebb and flow of the tides . I knew exactly what was happening, it was all too evident in the slight smirk of the third wife, when her eyes first met mine when I entered the scene.
“Now your little servant whore is complete, right down to the hair pin” her eyes expressed.
But I allowed the matter to past – had I acknowledge the insult, it would not only have put be me in danger, but also the third wife and I must say, that afternoon, I cared more for her than I did for myself – enough to even look to one side when she said later on,
“look how beautiful she looks. Don’t you agree Huan Guan?” her eyes almost teasing me to anger.
Later on during tea, the third wife recounted to the amusement of the other ladies – the incident how she has missed her footing on the cobbled stones steps on the bridge in Hyde Park. She even went to great lengths to exaggerate the story further by saying how, I had been gracious enough to jump over a freshly painted picket fence to save her just when she was about to fall, thereby ruining my summer jacket. So when she offered me the gift, even the rest of the ladies felt nothing was amiss, not even Jeannie who seemed quite insistent on me trying on the jacket in front of all the ladies.
That evening after leaving the gift at the Lam’s – later I received a phone call from a very distraught Jeannie, she explained how one of the maids had mistaken the jacket for common linen and proceeded to wash it ruining it completely. Though Jeannie was quite sadden by the entire episode, she resigned herself to look for another similar jacket, only to be told by the sales clerk in Austin Reed, it had been a limited edition and they had all but run out of that model this season.
Fortunately summer took the turn for the worst and soon the skies turned the usual grayish overcast color of dried mud – with this change in weather so did my wardrobe and, neither the third wife or anyone asked why I was never ever seen in the summer jacket – One day after lectures on a particularly cold evening, I thrust my hands as I usually did into my coat pockets. Hardly had I done this, I remembered the pearl earrings – I had left them in the pockets throughout the summer, and. When I searched frantically for them, I realized, they were gone. Judging from the size of the hole in one of the coat pockets, the earrings must have wriggled themselves out only to fall out – this saddened me.
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