Part 5: The Work-in-Progress

     Martin was waiting for me at the hotel lobby. We looked at each other and laughed. 

     I wore my pastel pink Chanel tweed suit, and Martin was in a pink polo t-shirt with beige khaki pants.  I blushed, feeling a tad overdressed.

     “Great minds think alike. You looked gorgeous,” he said, greeting me with a hug and a kiss.

     I lingered at his neck. He smelt refreshingly sharp and reminded me of Earl Grey tea.  Bergamot with a touch of lemon, I mused. 

     He took my hand and led me to the entrance where a car was waiting. “Come let’s go somewhere for breakfast. This place will be full of investment bankers soon. I heard there’s an Investment Conference going on.”

     “Where are we going?” I asked, trying hard to sound casual. He was still holding onto my hand at the backseat; and I was so afraid to move, just in case he let it go.

     “I am going to bring you to this small private family restaurant which serves whatever the chef got from the market at 3AM,” he chuckled.

     “Is it like an underground Supper Club?”

     “You’ve been to a Supper Club?”

     “No. But I heard of it.”

     “Perhaps if you are available for dinner tonight, I can bring you to one.”

     I shook my head slowly. “I am flying home this evening.”

     He looked genuinely disappointed.

     

     The cafe was hidden at a cul-de-sac in a leafy residential area of terrace houses.  It had five coffee-stained wooden tables, black and white mosaic tiled flooring and a huge taoist altar laden with fruit offerings against the side wall.  A zinc roof jutted out into the front yard, sheltering us from the sun’s glare and cawing crows.

     “I hope you like Xiao Long Bao.  The chef used to work in a famous restaurant in Shanghai,”  Martin said as he gingerly lifted the chinese soup dumpling into my bowl.

     I popped the delicate purse of dough with the side of my chopsticks and steaming hot broth flowed out from inside.

     “Why are you cutting your bao in half? That is not the way to eat it!” Martin stared at me.

     “You should scoop it with your spoon and put the whole thing into your mouth.”  He lifted his spoon in the air to demonstrate.

     I flushed.  “I am afraid that the soup in the dumpling will scald my tongue,” I laughed nervously, lifting a slice of pork from inside the dumpling with my chopsticks and blowing on it softly to cool.

     He smirked, “same as my grand daughter. Too scared of burning the tongue.”

     He has a grand daughter?

     I choked into a coughing fit. 

     Martin instinctively reached out and patted my back lightly.

     “You have a grand daughter?” I croaked.  I was certain that he was single when I googled him last night. 

     “Eat slowly,” he fussed and went back to enjoying his bao;  closing his eyes to savour the velvety broth as the bao burst inside his mouth.

     I waited for his answer to my question but he ignored me.

     “This bao has a delicate skin,” I remarked, trying to hide my disappointment.

     He chuckled. “This is an excellent bao. Not too dense that it sticks at the roof of your mouth; or too thin that the ingredients will spill out the moment you lift it up.”

     Martin excused himself to answer a phone call. His face tightened before he stood up and walked out to the front yard to continue the conversation. 

     When Martin returned, his eyes were blazing.  He clenched his jaws. He inhaled deeply and thundered, “How much are they paying you to chat me up?”

     I was stunned.  Confusion raced through my mind. 

    “What are you talking about?” I retorted.

     “Stop playing dumb.  How much is the Investment Bank promising you to sign me up?” he hammered.

     “Nobody is promising me anything. Have you forgotten? It was you that invited me for breakfast.” I snapped.

 

..to be continued

 

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Published by

Andrea Boult

Blogs Malaysian short stories at www.justwritelah.wordpress.com. Occasionally I blog in Manglish.

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