WRIT LARGE: Ch 9, Part 1
Treasures of the Orient
Previously: in Chapter 8, Olivia acquired matching gaming jackets for herself and Lucas, and Olivia cleaned up at the poker game. At the game, Tuah and Putera suggested that Lim Kok Thay was interested in Lucas writing his biography. At the conclusion of the game, the pair invited all attendees to travel to Gentings Resort with them and they all agreed.
In this part Lucas speaks with his wife about the trip and gets ready to leave Singapore.
I am awake early. Despite the excitement of travelling to Resorts World Genting, Malaysia today, the practical part of my brain has kicked in and is working around timetables, diary appointments, and Friday night’s celebratory dinner with my wife, which was planned the day after the New York Times article. Theoretically, I should have been back home with several days to unwind prior to the celebration, but now, I realise, I have no idea how long I will be staying in Malaysia as a guest of Lim Kok Thay.
Last night, I was swept up in the contagious buzz of a collective adventure. This morning I have remembered that real life continues to move outside this luxurious impulsive bubble I find myself in.
I check the time on my phone. 7am Singapore time. It will be 9am in Sydney, so I hit the green button to call my wife.
“Hi, honey!” she picks up on the second ring.
Her voice warms me inside and I am overwhelmed by how much I miss the sound of it whenever we are apart. Listening to her speak is like eating apple pie and ice cream, while watching reruns of Friends. Ann is my oxygen, and although I exist and function perfectly well when business demands that I am away from home, it is only when we are reunited that I feel completely myself again. I don’t tell her this – she already knows.
We met at college. Some lads were carrying her about on their shoulders with placards strapped to her chest and back painted with the words:
MY NAME IS ANN.
DON’T TOUCH. I HAVE FEELINGS.
And written in tiny letters in the bottom right-hand corner: AND I BITE.
I caught her eye as they ferried her in and out of my English class and she winked at me. After, she claimed to have no recollection of even spotting me in the centre of the room, but I never believed her. She told me then that feminism was the wrong word for what she was supporting. Why should women have to fight to be treated like human beings by men? Why should a woman think herself lucky to find a man who treats her well? Surely that was common human decency. She opened my eyes. My mum had brought me and my brother up to treat women with respect, but it was Ann who made me realise that not all men were the same, and that women were made to feel uncomfortable by men more often than was acceptable.
I take a deep breath, try to breathe in the sound of her from the other end of the line, and tell her that I miss her.
I can picture her smile, the way she tips her head back and gazes out of the window at the garden which will be overflowing with Gardenias, Banksias, and other native flora.
“I miss you too. You’re not coming home today, are you?”
I say that she would not believe where I am flying to today and she says, “Try me.”
I tell her all about the Doubles Poker game, the conversation with Tuah and Putera regarding Lim Kok Thay’s biography and his absolute conviction that a Netflix biopic will follow, and how they surprised us all by arranging for us to be their guests in Malaysia.
“All of you?” she asks. “Even the children?”
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It is a question I will be asking of Olivia when I meet her later this morning, but I tell Ann that I can only assume the children will accompany us, as Bernard is also joining us there. I prompt my wife to cancel our restaurant booking for Friday evening, as I do not know if I will be back in time and apologise for this week’s unexpected turn of events.
“Hey,” she says, “I told you I had a good feeling about this trip. This is all once in a lifetime stuff and I’d be so disappointed for you if you felt you had to turn it down. We can go out for a meal any time.” I sense her shrug at the other end of the call.
Ann did indeed tell me before I flew to Paris for the book launch, that she had a premonition about this trip, that she felt it was going to take me in directions I would never have dreamed possible. My wife has always had this uncanny sixth sense. Not so much predicting the future – she isn’t a clairvoyant or medium – but for sensing extraordinary events before they happen. She has never yet been wrong for predicting the sex of an unborn child, whether the expectant parents are friends, acquaintances, or celebrities.
“You will make the right decision, at the right time. Remember, we are always where we are meant to be.”
When I tell her that we will be staying at Resorts World Genting, she says, “You must ride the cable car, if you get the chance. And pick up another camera.” She laughs when I tell her that I brought a couple of spares with me from Paris. “So, did Leann accept the Cathie Wood assignment?” she asks.
I explain to her the chemistry between the two women and how I am confident that Leann will produce an outstanding biography. I confess my uncertainty about whether I should accept Lim Kok Thay’s proposal when I have yet to begin working with Bernard Arnault.
“You will make the right decision, at the right time. Remember, we are always where we are meant to be. It’s just a shame I’m stuck in Sydney. I would be so intrigued to meet Olivia.”
I suggest that she would love Olivia – everyone seems to – and that I would not hesitate to write her biography.
“Sounds to me like you have your next MC right there,” she says.
I end the call telling Ann that I will let her know when we land in Malaysia.
“Go touch the clouds, honey,” she says.
I stare at the black screen for several moments after the call, the hollow inside my chest expanding once more with my wife’s absence. It is the reason I prefer to message her rather than call when I am away from home, because the separation is easier to manage when I am not reminded of what I am missing.