Bloom And Tell: 3 minute read
by Farriz Mashudi 22/06/2020
Photo by Magda Ehlers

Nothing like an office where at the appointed hour you could count on people who would seek you out, wait for you, or make sure you had plans. It wasn’t just the eating, and even if it was just convenience, the camaraderie or whatever the purely platonic rapport amounted to, meant a great deal. Not until it was missing in other places where she worked, was this fully appreciated.

“Lunch?” Brian asked, popping his head round the door.

“Where? … Some place different today?” she countered.

“Sounds good.” And they were off.

Their ‘usual’ was the food court downstairs. An icon, their building stood on bustling Jalan Sultan Ismail, a main thoroughfare smack in the heart of downtown Kuala Lumpur. The secretaries said the chicken rice in the building behind was worth checking out. Their verdict: so-so, decent at best, they’d had better, but it wasn’t bad.

On the walk back, they bought cut fruits to snack on later, to tide them past 6 p.m. for another long haul.

There was a display of art for sale in the lobby. Not looking to buy anything (It was close to the end of the month), she browsed waiting for Brian, deeply engrossed in a pair of red, almost mauve, painting of orchids, his eyes burning.

“A bit dark?”

“Exotic, more like…”

Brian’s thoughts seemed to drift with his words. He didn’t strike her as being an art collector, but was awfully taken with the orchids.

“For Meghan?”

“Yeah…” he nodded dumbly. It wasn’t a word usually associated with the firm’s rising star. Maybe it had a special meaning. Orchids at their wedding, or on their honeymoon? Should be all right then.

“Get them,” she said, knowing Meghan loved flowers, surmised from the painted furniture Meghan produced, which littered their house. Stools, benches, side tables, mirrors, anything not too large — was all covered in woodland berries and wild flora. It was a skill picked up in Australia while studying at Monash, which was where they met.

Brian’s purchase neatly wrapped in brown paper and tied with white string, they sauntered back to the grind.

Six months on, it was him. Their offices weren’t doors apart down the same corridor anymore, but across town.

Bored with Conveyancing and Banking, she’d moved on. He needed to talk: “Lunch?”

“Where?” popped out in reflex. Thinking twice, she suggested after work instead. “TGI Friday’s on Sultan Ismail, 5 p.m.? Not been there in a while.”

“Bad idea.” Besides traffic, Brian, for reasons still unbeknownst, preferred that they not be seen, and the popular watering hole was a favourite hang-out of the old office. “KFC opposite, on the hill. No one goes there after hours. Look out for the parking at the bottom. Easy to miss.”

Curt. Whatever it was, it couldn’t be good.

Not eating, sipping iced cokes, at the stone tables under the trees, looking down on homeward-bound gridlock, Brian didn’t know where to start.

Wait… Those orchid paintings, where did you hang them in the house? Not in the bedroom, I hope? Of course, that had to be where Megan had wanted them, above the twin drawers flanking their bed. “That’s the worst ever place for them, Brian! I’m coming over. They have to be moved, pronto.”

Flowers in a couple’s bedroom cause the male partner’s affections to wander. All old wives, aunties, and aunties-at-heart of all ages knew this.

Photo by Caio

AND, as it turns out, the female turning Brian’s head was as exotic as those orchids. She knew her personally. — Stunning, clever, ‘Orchid Woman’ was quite the catch. Punching above his weight, she couldn’t help feeling a bit proud of him, despite herself. Maternal? Sisterly? Whatever it was, still… she had to recommend that he do the right thing.

That made for one marriage saved. Only, however, for another eight years. Speaking to her from his bachelor pad in Singapore, Brian complained about the nightmare costs he was continuing to pay for Meghan’s dream house; and how their son: the adorable toddler at the time of the orchids, now turned difficult teenager, wasn’t talking to him.

If they’d called it quits back then, courtesy of those deep red orchids – both the painted ones, and their human embodiment– might they have been happier, she wondered; or a little less miserable at least?  

Then there was Kate, from boarding school who was as pretty as she was smart. Like Jaclyn Smith on Charlie’s Angels, everything about Kate was perfect. A 100 meters expert, Kate was upright even when running. The perspiring kind, Kate didn’t sweat anything. Or so it seemed.

Not a dozen years after marrying, ‘the call’ came. “I think I need a lawyer. Are you free for Lunch?”

Turns out darling hubby had been cheating from the get go. And he blamed her, for not catching him out. This latest affair, the umpteenth, was ‘the one’, he said, wanting a divorce.

“Any flower-print wallpaper in the bedroom? Or on floral curtains; and flowers in paintings, or on the bedspread, or carpet?” Clinical, devoid of emotion, she did her best to make the questioning sound random.

Photo by samer daboul

 “Oh yes, lots. How did you guess? Everything’s Laura Ashley. I have flowers everywhere in there, even on the lamps.”

Need she say more?

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