WRIT LARGE: Ch 4, Part 3
Louis Vuitton Island
Leann smiles at me indulgently and checks the time on her watch. I know a little about watches as I have a modest collection myself, and it looks like a Grand Seiko Snowflake to me with its delicate, snowy, rippled-effect face. “I must make my apologies; I have another appointment that I could not defer. But I am sure you gentlemen will have much to discuss regarding Bernard’s project.” She kisses first Bernard, and then me, on both cheeks, and rises to leave. “Have a safe flight, Lucas.” She crosses the courtyard and nods to a member of staff who has been watching from behind a column.
“Where are you going?” asks the youngest of the two boys.
I reply that I am travelling home to Sydney and that my flight leaves at 7pm so I am a little pushed for time.
“Oh,” the boy’s expression changes. “You will not be coming to Sentosa with us tonight.”
“Lucas is a busy man,” says Bernard.
“But we have to swim.” The boy pushes away his plate and stands. Olivia hands both boys a pristine waterproof bag with a fish print which obviously contains their swimsuits. “Are you coming in, Lucas?”
I shake my head as I didn’t think to bring swim shorts with me, as a member of staff approaches the table. He coughs politely as Bernard gestures in my direction. The man offers me a package wrapped neatly in white tissue paper and tied with string. The man nods and walks away before I can ask what is inside.
“I took the liberty of obtaining a swimsuit for you,” says Bernard. “It did not appear that you had come prepared.”
The youngest boy takes my hand and leads me to the changing cabanas, and I wonder if they have been here before and if I was entirely mistaken about the Big Mac and fries.
At first, we are tentative in the water, the boys because they do not know me well enough to be themselves, and me because … well because their grandfather is Bernard Arnault and I have a flight to catch. But the water is soothing for my skin and my soul. I lean back against the side of the pool, my arms floating away from me, and close my eyes against the sun which always feels different when it appears in another sky above another land.
Water splashes my face and I instinctively drop my arms, my eyes wide open. The youngest lad is giggling at my reaction, his brother sneaking a glance at their grandfather. I follow his gaze and note that Bernard has his back to the pool and is clearly on a telephone call.
Without warning, I scoop both hands into the water and splash the youngest boy. He shakes his head like a puppy in the rain and splashes me back. Water clings to his eyelashes and his cheeks are pink with excitement. I turn to his brother and splash him so that he doesn’t feel left out of the game. It very quickly degenerates into a game of ‘see who can splash the furthest’ which only ends when Bernard catches on the sleeve of his jacket, the tail-end of a splash of epic proportions generated by the eldest lad. Bernard glances at us over his shoulder and leaves his seat to put some distance between us while he continues his telephone call.
Being underwater is the easiest way to forget an impending flight
I tell the boys not to worry, that it is only a bit of fun and teach them how to do handstands in the water. Being underwater is the easiest way to forget an impending flight, I discover, but a flight schedule must be adhered to nonetheless and so I make my way to the side of the pool to dry myself and change back into my clothes.
“Do you have to go?” asks the youngest boy.
I tell him that the flight is booked and will leave without me if I am not at the airport on time. Then, on a whim, I ask him to tell me something about his grandfather that I don’t already know.
The boy thinks about it. “He has a painting of a monkey on the wall in the family room. He says the monkey can see everyone and everything.” The boy smiles. “It’s ugly.”
We are in the back of a chauffeur driven stretch limo when Bernard announces that we are taking a slight detour – emphasis on the slight by the distance between his thumb and forefinger which he holds up to show me – to his Louis Vuitton store at Marina Bay Sands.
My heart settles a little when I hear the store’s situation. A speedy elevator ride from there, and I will be in my room and packing away my toothbrush within minutes.
I ask if I am permitted to take some pictures and wave my disposable camera at them.
“Can I see?” asks the youngest boy. He examines the camera as though it is a dinosaur fossil, which I guess to a boy of his few years, it might well be considered almost Jurassic. He snaps a photograph of me before his brother snatches it away from him and hands it back to me. I tell him that I am sure my mother will appreciate the photograph.
The boutique is certainly spectacular, appearing to float on the water’s surface. “It is an island,” Bernard tells me. “Because of its position on the water, we gave it a nautical theme and made the best use of the natural light surrounding it.”
I ask him how much input he had with the store’s structural design.
“A great deal. I worked with my father in the construction industry when I was younger. I am not only interested in the leather shoes and diamonds, although my wife’s favourite movie is Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which is rather appropriate.”
I get the impression that something has shifted between us in the short space of time that we have spent together. I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that his grandsons have formed a buffer of sorts between the business venture that Bernard might have regarded initially as the basis for his biography, and the creative process that I have already set in motion. I intend to capture my thoughts on my laptop during the flight home.
I mention the ugly monkey on the wall of his family room at home.
Bernard smiles. “We all view beauty from our own hearts.” I suggest that I might use that as a quote in his biography. “I am happy that you will be taking on the difficult task of getting to know me,” he says.
I say that it would be difficult for me to write what I can’t see, and by that I don’t necessarily mean the interior of his incredible store, but that I feel I have already caught a glimpse of Bernard Arnault.
“Choose something, Lucas.” He sweeps the interior of his grand boutique with one hand. I tell him that I couldn’t possibly take advantage of his extremely generous gesture and he replies, “It will be my pleasure.”
The youngest boy hands me a pair of sunglasses. “These will stop the creases around your eyes when you squint at the sun.” I thank them both. The boy reaches for his grandfather’s hand and says, “Please can Lucas come to Sentosa.”
I check my watch for the fiftieth time this afternoon and reiterate that I must be heading to the airport shortly. I still need to arrange a taxi. Finish packing.
“Do you have a pressing engagement that you must attend tomorrow?” asks Bernard. “My private jet can be made available for your use.”
Knowing that I have cleared my diary for the next few days, I make the mistake of hesitating.
“We are going to Universal Studios,” says the boy. “Grandfather is scared of the rollercoasters.”
Bernard and I realise the implication of this innocent statement at the same moment.
I grin at the boy, enjoying the creases at the corners of my eyes, and the tug of excitement in my chest, and tell him that I will consider staying another night and going to Sentosa with them, if they can persuade their grandfather to ride the tallest rollercoaster with me.
The boy and I shake hands to seal the deal.