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'What if...'

'What if...' by Susie Chong - Page 3

Susie Chong

‘I’m sorry.’

‘Don’t be. At the start, our relationship was wonderful and we were invited to fabulous parties and do’s. Things are not so glamorous now, but I manage.’ She stares ahead. ‘I’m always thinking about my son. What he does? Does he have a family?’ The light in her eyes is gone. ‘He would be around your age.’

‘You aren’t that old.’

‘Yes, I am.’ I choke on my latte when she reveals that she is 55. ‘Recently, I found out that he is living somewhere here.’ Her eyes are moist. ‘I’m looking for an investigator.’

‘If you need more help, let me know.’ I’m not sure why I offer, as I haven’t time.

‘Yes, that would be wonderful.’ She leans closer. ‘We should catch up soon. I cook a divine traditional curry and other Sri Lankan specialties. We can discuss things then.’

I can’t believe she has just asked me out. Suddenly, I gasp. Nayana’s hand is pressed into my thigh. Her fingers reach higher. ‘No!’ I gulp, pushing her hand away. People look up and stare from adjacent tables. I lower my voice, ‘What are you doing?’ Immediately, I feel scorched by Nayana’s eyes. That’s when I remember a young woman bailed up in village laneway in Pakistan. The crowd were taunting her. She was accused of adultery. Her green, oval eyes challenging a man to throw the first stone… My friend and I were eager to get away.

Nayana hangs her head. ‘Please forgive me.  I don’t know what I was thinking.’ Her eyes are now red and watery. ‘I just need… I miss my son.’

I stuff the laptop into a satchel and race out the café door.

* * * * *

Weeks later, I’m rushing across the railway bridge and pass a woman who is huddled against the barrier wrapped in a long shawl and flowing pants. Her hair is woolly and unleashed. For a second she stares, her eyes vacant, but familiar. She turns away. 

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