WRIT LARGE: Ch 13, Part 1
Of All Things Lost
I am approaching the concierge’s glass-fronted office in the resort’s lobby when the IHG guys enter.
One of them, Tony, steps forward and introduces me to their CEO, and we shake hands. I tell him that it’s unfortunate that we did not get to spend some time together as it appears that the three of them are leaving.
“It was only a flying visit,” he says. “I had a meeting with Lim Kok Thay at midday, which was quite refreshing, and now I’m heading straight back to the office.”
“How was the round of golf?”
I tell them that my dreams of ever being a professional golfer have been dashed to pieces but aside from that, it was most enjoyable.
We all turn as the wheels of a carry-on approach us in the grand high-ceilinged foyer. Leann, looking as immaculate as ever in a crisp white trouser suit, is smiling at us.
“You’re not travelling with us, are you?”
I tell Leann that I hadn’t realised she was leaving today – we are both due at the writer’s retreat in a few days.
“I am travelling back to Singapore for my best friend’s hen party which I have had the pleasure of organising. I will be back in time to join you in Langkawi, do not worry.”
It occurs to me then that they will be heading to Kuala Lumpur airport and that, rather than taking a separate vehicle into the city, they might in fact be willing to drop me at the DHL office en route. I explain to them about the package I was expecting to be delivered, and the difficulties I’m experiencing trying to determine the package’s whereabouts. I ask if they have sufficient time to detour into the city for me.
“From experience, your parcel will be sitting in the back of a van while the driver eats his breakfast,” says one of the IHG guys. “I’m sure it will turn up. Sure, we can take you into the city, no problem. There’s plenty of room in the Sprinter.”
Leann smiles. “And you can tell me all about this secret parcel. My guess is that it’s something a little more precious than an extra supply of disposable cameras.”
I don’t have a chance to reply as Olivia enters the lobby from the medical bay with Bernard’s youngest grandson, Gabin.
“Is everything okay, Olivia?” asks Leann, standing her carry-on upright and beckoning them over to join us. As they come closer, Leann places a hand upon the boy’s forehead, and an arm around his shoulders in a gesture so instinctively maternal that I am overwhelmed by the sudden feeling that a hug was exactly what the child needed. Throughout the trip, he, and his brother, have been treated like small adults and I wonder if it is proving too much for Gabin.
“Gabin is feeling sick,” says Olivia, her face pale with worry. It is a huge responsibility for a young PA, I realise. “I was trying to arrange a house call, but the doctor isn’t available until this evening, and I don’t really want to leave it.” She is watching the boy as if she were to blame for him not feeling well.
“Why don’t you speak to the concierge,” says Leann, taking control, “and ask him to locate a medical centre near the DHL office in Kuala Lumpur for you. You might as well join us. It will stop you from spending the rest of the day worrying.”
Olivia’s face lights up with the suggestion. “That’s a great idea. Do you think he will do that for me? I’ll go speak to him now.”
“Be sure to tell him that you are a guest of Lim Kok Thay,” says Leann.
While we wait, I ask Gabin if he feels well enough to travel into the city with us. He raises his face to me, and his eyes seem heavy with unshed tears. Maybe, I add, we could take the cable car on our way back, as I know that he was excited to ride the glass-bottomed car through the clouds. He smiles at me and nods, although he does not move away from Leann’s side.
Olivia returns with a little more colour in her cheeks. “We have an appointment at a medical centre close to the DHL office. Are you sure you are all happy for us to ride with you?”
The IHG guys assure her that it is no inconvenience. Their CEO has moved away from our group to take a business call, but he returns now, checking the time on his phone. “Are we set?” he asks.
“Ready,” says Olivia. “And perhaps we can travel back with you?” I assure her that I have no intention of returning without them and that I have promised Gabin a trip on the Awana Skyway.
“Ooh, that’s exciting. We’d better not tell your brother,” she winks at the boy conspiratorially. “He’ll be jealous.”
“He won’t be,” says Gabin. “Grand-père has promised to take him to the cinema today.”
Instinct is telling me that the child is not quite his usual chirpy self today, but I have seen how close he is to his brother, and I am certain that jealousy is not the cause of his apathy. I offer him my hand, and he takes it, following me outside and into the Sprinter where we take two seats at the rear of the vehicle, saving the table seating for the businessmen. Leann and Olivia take the seats directly in front of us. Both women glance over their shoulders at the boy to check that he is okay.
He is fine, I reassure them.
“You don’t feel sick?” Olivia asks.
The boy shakes his head. I ask Olivia if she brought some sweets or a bottle of water for the child – it might help to quell any queasiness during the journey. I am pleased that the car’s aircon has kept the interior cool.
“I have sweets,” says Leann. She retrieves a tiny box of jellybeans from her handbag and offers them to the boy who takes the whole box.
“They will raise his blood sugar level too,” says Leann.
Olivia nods. “Thank you. He threw up at the indoor theme park earlier, which is unlike him. I saw him on the rollercoasters at Universal Studios, so I don’t think it was motion sickness.”
“Maybe something he ate last night?” suggests Leann.
I tell her that we all ate the same food and that I don’t believe it would be heatstroke as the climate at this height is gentler than the temperatures he experienced in Singapore. I ruffle his hair and say that I hope he isn’t contagious as Leann will not want to miss the hen party she is travelling back for.
“A hen party!” says Olivia. “How exciting. Where are you going?”
“I have arranged it for my best friend,” explains Leann, “although I have entrusted the final details to another friend whilst I have been travelling. My friend is, shall we say, obsessed with the Angelique series of books by Anne Golon. You would not have heard of them,” she adds at Olivia’s puzzled expression.
They were considered to be quite raunchy at the time they were written, I explain. I have read them myself and they are indeed a great series of adventure stories.
Olivia nods. “I’ll have to check them out on Google.”
Leann smiles. “We have constructed a pirate ship by the side of her parents’ pool. It is decorated with fairy lights and blossoms, and complete with a maiden figurehead designed to resemble Angelique from the novels.”
“It sounds amazing,” says Olivia. “You must send me some pictures.”
“I will,” says Leann. “The best of it is that, after cocktails and food, we have arranged for pirates to kidnap my friend from the pool. They will whisk her away in a horse drawn carriage to the airport where we will take a private jet to a tiny pirate-infested island.”
“Not real pirates?” Olivia laughs although she doesn’t appear to be entirely convinced.
Leann shakes her head. “Not real pirates, unfortunately, although wouldn’t that be quite the story. No, we, the hens, will all be dressed as pirates and will spend the rest of our overnight stay making her our pirate queen.”
“And will there be plenty of champagne involved?” asks Olivia.
“That goes without saying,” says Leann. “And pampering also.”
Olivia glances at me. “Not quite tickets to watch the Chippendales followed by karaoke night in Covent Garden, is it?”
I laugh and tell her that I’m not sure watching the Chippendales would be quite my thing.
“Did you have a stag do?” Olivia asks.
I tell her that my stag do was a relatively quiet evening at my local bar in Sydney with family and friends. I was too scared to get drunk in case they chained me naked to a tree and I was arrested. I add that the craziest part of the evening was when we lost my cousin somewhere between the bar and the steakhouse.
“Where did he go?” asks Olivia.
I tell them that he was quite inebriated, having been drinking all day before he joined us, and had tagged along with another stag party thinking that the groom was me, and that we didn’t see him again until he turned up for the wedding two days later.
“Were you worried?” asks Leann.
I confess that we didn’t put out a missing-person call for him because it wasn’t the first time this had happened to him, and that we were confident he would show up again.
“I bet that sobered you up though,” says Olivia.
I notice that Tony has been following our conversation despite the open laptop on the table in front of him and, noticing the wedding ring on his left hand, I ask if he has any stag stories to share with us.
“I actually went lobster fishing for my stag,” he says.
“Lobster fishing?” asks Olivia. “Where does someone go to do that?”
“We were getting married in the Turks and Caicos Islands. I’d always wanted to take a boat out, anchor up, and dive for lobster, so that’s what I did with my brother, my best man, and a couple of pals. We had a few beers – it was all very restrained.”
“That’s not what I heard,” says Keith, the other IHG guy.
Tony laughs out loud. “Well, that’s what I told my wife anyway.”
I notice the way Olivia squares her shoulders and I wait for her to comment.
Instead, Leann asks, “Did your wife have a hen party?”
“She did,” says Tony. “She booked out the resort’s spa for herself and her friends. They all had matching robes and slippers, and a few bottles of champagne. Then they watched the sunset from the beach and had a night-time swim.”
“Well, that’s what your wife told you,” says Leann coolly.
Olivia grins and offers Leann a high-five which she returns, and it is Keith and Jim’s turn to laugh.
“That has to be the first time I’ve ever seen Tony lost for words,” says Keith.
Olivia is thoughtful again watching Gabin, who has closed his eyes while we were talking, his face pale and almost tinged green.
“I am sure he will be fine.” Leann places a hand on Olivia’s arm. “You are doing everything that you can.”
I enjoyed learning more about the characters through their and their friend's past stag and hen parties. It kind of shows their personalities.