The Struggle Continues - Part 1 - The Reunion - 5 - The Questions
My introduction was not returned, except for a quick acknowledgement, before my companion got the same BA greeting. Two hands, with long blood red-nailed fingers delicately took the champagne, nuts and towel and spread them all on the arm-rest between us. Only then, did she reply properly. 'I'm Jaqueline, usually known as Jaq. Spelt rather preposterously for a woman of my age with a q!' She giggled at what she had just said.
'So you are admitting to being older than I thought then!' She was a difficult woman to age. She could have been thirty dressing to be forty or even a well preserved and maintained sixty dressing to be much younger. But then if you are slim like she was then it adds greatly to the variation in the answer. Even her eyes didn't betray her and she didn't have the taut skin of those who'd resorted to the knife!
'How do you mean older?' She smiled at my statement. 'Let's say I was born before the Coronation and leave it at that!'
'That's a surprise.' She acknowledged my compliment. 'I was too! To be more exact I'm possibly one of Midnight's Children!' I've still not read the book, so I don't know whether it's actually true, but it's no more than one day either way!
'As in Salman Rushdie? That's August nineteen forty-seven.' She was right! 'Can't remember the day!'
'Yes! India was born on the fifteenth, whereas I was born a day later!'
'So you're a Leo then!' She leaned towards me as if to be confidential. 'I'm a Libra! That makes me diplomatic, romantic, charming and idealistic.' She came in closer and lowered her voice. 'But I'm also rather gullible and flirtatious.
'What am I supposed to be then?' She obviously knew her subject, even if I always think the science behind it is entirely bogus.
'Let's say you are generous, creative, broad-minded and faithful for a start. Do you like those?'
'Yes! I'll gladly accept all that!' I suspected some downsides were coming.
'On the other hand, you're probably bossy, pompous, patronising, interfering and intolerant.'
I tried to combine as much of the characteristics as I could into how I framed my reply. 'Of course I'm not at all like that!'
We both laughed loudly. It was now looking that this was going to be a most enjoyable flight!
Within minutes after take-off, we were offered most things we could have wanted, in any order that we might wish. But many around us had already decided to give up and go to sleep. Jaq picked delicately with those long fingers at some prawns and I declined her offer of a taste. I stuck with some smoked salmon and she accused me of being conservative, unadventurous and boring. The good champagne flowed.
'So how long were you in Hong Kong?' She asked the question, as the steward cleared the last of the food away.
'Just about three months!' I remembered the cold London I had left just after New Year. It would be a lot warmer now as it was early April. 'I was programming and installing a computer system to detect and track money-laundering and other fraud.'
'Oh!' She drew back. 'That sounds very technical and totally beyond me.' She smiled and grabbed my hand. 'But I saw that it paid well! I would say very well!'
'And that was only for one system!' I thought of a possible second installation in the sun. 'I'm doing the same in Australia next winter.'
'That is very lucky! Can I join you? I'd love another warm winter!' She held my hand warmly to emphasise it, but wasn't adding any details about herself. All I knew was her name, her rough age and that she was a Libra.
'Now what were you doing in Hong Kong?' I asked a direct question.
'Get me some more champagne and I might tell you!' She was being a flirtatious Libra.
As if by magic, a steward appeared with a large bottle, opened it and then retreated with thank yous from both of us.
I leaned towards her. 'Can you tell me now?'
She turned, pouted her lips at me and shook her head. 'I need to find out everything about you first.' She reached over and picked up my left hand. 'You are wearing a ring! What would your wife say?'
'Ex-wife! Yes! Alice, my ex-wife!'
'That's what they all say!' She shook her head again.
'It's true! We got divorced three years ago.' I pulled the ring with my right hand. 'I just can't get it off! Perhaps, it's because it has been there for nearly thirty years!'
'A likely tale!' I picked up her hands in turn and noted that she wasn't wearing anything at all like a wedding ring.
'So would I spend three months in Hong Kong, all by myself if I wasn't single?' I paused for a possible reply. 'And perhaps more importantly, would a wife, such as Alice, let her husband spend three lonely months in the east? You know what happens.'
'I do! I do! Little do you know!' She laughed again.
'If you don't mind me asking, what was it caused the divorce?' Jaq smiled wickedly at me. 'Did you stray? Did she stray? Money? Children? Interfering mothers-in-law? Or did you just wander apart and break up?'
'Alice is a barrister! And a good one!' I thought about Jaq's questioning. 'You're not another one are you, with all this cross-examination?'
'Heavens! No!' She repeated the smile with an even wider and more wicked grin. 'I just like to know everything about who I am dealing with! Call me nosy as you did, but why did you get divorced?'
'If I said it was over an office block, would you believe me? You didn't before!'
'This sounds like another likely tale! But...' She paused. 'Tell me the whole story.'
'Shall I start at the beginning?' I asked.
'Yes!' She grinned and cuddled down over the common armrest. 'I told you I want to know everything about you!'
'In early 1990, I sold out my previous company, that created boring but safe, auditing software to banks for a very nice sum.' Jaq nodded to approve what I had said. 'It should have been enough to see us both through for the rest of my life!'
'But it wasn't?' She broke in.
'Oh! Yes it was! Well it should have been! But I was told by my financial advisers to invest in the building of a new office block in Basingstoke. All hi-tech and smoked glass, you know the thing! I would provide finance and a builder who was a client of my accountant would build it!'
'I thought property was always safe! My little house has been good for me!'
'It should have been for us too! But the block was badly designed, in the wrong place and virtually unlettable. So the builder went bust, the bank then repossessed the building and we lost all our investment. Alice and I argued and fought a lot about blame and then we got divorced. It was probably all my fault. But looking back, we trusted the advisors and the accountants too much!'
'That wasn't a safe investment!' She giggled. 'Sorry, I shouldn't have laughed.'
'No matter! Alice got back to work in Cambridge and I moved to a flat in the Barbican and wrote the new software. Life goes on!' I grinned. 'And not too badly!'
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