Qualified Entry: Fiction Category
By: J.R. McRae
The door still shuddered from her leaving. He stood, watching from the widow, till the last faint sound of her departure faded and only the memory hung, like exhaust fumes in the cold air.
Angela had not agreed with his decision. He understood why. Everything was not enough for a girl like Angela. And he was selling off the new apartment block. “You SAID the penthouse was MINE!“ she had hissed and stormed out. “No!” he called after her, put out at her all encompassing self-absorption, ”I merely asked if you liked it!”
How he loved her or, more accurately, everything about her. The way she moved, so graceful, her long legs gliding the polished parquetry floor and her hands gesticulating in artistic curves and waves that echoed her slender form. He wanted so much to give her all she wanted and so much more. It ached and even the ache thrilled him.
He hung his head and his eyes drifted back to the small, ornately carved coffee table with its dragons and peasants inlaid with mother of pearl. He reached across and picked up again the postcard with its picture perfect photo of Fujiyama captured by cherry blossoms. Fuji, she would pick Fuji… Their apartment window on their honeymoon, this exact view. He grimaced, reread the scrawled words and stuffed the card into his coat pocket.
It seemed incredible that Julia had survived the full fury of tsunami. He shook his head. He could not find the feelings that had faded like her photo over the many years since her disappearance. The last time he saw her, they fought. They never fought. She yelled and cried indecipherable stuff punctuated with Japanese. He had not listened. “I saw you, with my own eyes, arms around each other. “ He thrust the private detective’s report under her nose. “Four times, arms linked into the hotel!” Julia, caught red-handed consorting with some Asian gent and, no, not just ‘any’ hotel, the jewel in his chain, Julia said nothing! She just walked out.
After he cooled down, he had tried everything to find her. In the end, it was just too hard and he listened to friends and family, divorced her in absentia and moved on. How long ago was it? Ten years, no, it must be eleven. Their son, Robert, was fourteen now.
His son, Robert, Julia’s only child, was another part of him that Angela had not wanted. Her argument was easy enough to accept. The boy did not accept Angela; he was moody, resentful and even rude to her. Boarding school had seemed a good solution, his own old school in Sydney. It was far enough from Melbourne to let him enjoy Angela unhindered and, who knows, maybe she would have married him in time. He smiled to himself. Once such a liaison would have been impossible. Unthinkable. Times and people changed. He had moved with the times.
Now, at the most inconvenient moment, here was his ex-wife, somehow resurrected from the debris of the coastal village she had fled to after leaving him. Why hadn’t he thought of Japan? It seemed so obvious now, her Honours Degree majoring in languages, Japanese the most beloved by her, the books of Japanese literature still lining the shelves of the carved ebony bookcase in his study. She needed him, more accurately, she needed his money.
He smiled. Angela loved his money. She loved it draped over her youthful figure, she loved it plunging, glittering, between her shapely breasts, she loved it swinging off her long arms and when her dainty foot planted hard on the pedal of his latest present.
This was the thing. Neither woman loved him. He had suspected this but admission finally liberated him to make his decision. He looked in the mirror briefly and straightened his tie, smiled approval as he passed through the hall to the access stairs for his four-car garage. He did not look his age but the postcard had made him think. He acknowledged, yes, he was old enough for it to matter how folk remembered him.
He glanced across the line of prestige cars, selected the Jag and climbed in. He sat a moment. Something niggled at him. A substantial sum, lodged with his solicitor, was already on its way to his ex, to her village, to help. He’d done his duty, hadn’t he?
He drew out the postcard again. He read it more carefully. It seemed to imply she had family over there. Well, he’d moved on, could hardly blame her for doing the same. But there was this neat Japanese script below Julia’s sprawling hand. He wondered if her old tutor might be still alive in her little unit near the campus colleges. He’d dropped Julia there often enough. He started the car, still finding pleasure in the soft roar of its engine waking.
On the pavement outside Ms Henrick’s semi detached, he paused, flicking the postcard back and forward with his fingers. Late afternoon, she would be cooking dinner, hardly the polite time to call. About to turn and climb back in the car, a familiar voice, somewhat more crinkled at its edges, pulled him up.
“Come in, Sir David. I’ve wondered why you never came. What took you so long?”
He glared at the effrontery of this shriveled academic, but Ms Henrick was pushing and pulling him through the narrow front door and he didn’t want a scene with students milling about the street.
“I won’t take much of your time, Ms Henricks. Silly really. Small piece of translation.” He proffered the card.
“She kept in contact you know. Hoped you might drop by, talk to me. She never asked would I, you know, go intermediary. Too proud. But I would
have!” Ms Henricks’ piercing blue eyes let nothing escape. He felt their censure acutely and prickled visibly.
“Just this. If you would be so kind.” His nail embedded under the brief piece of Japanese script. “And I’ll be off.”
“Her half brother, Ito Kosai.”
“What?” he blustered, “Julia had no `family’!”
“That’s what she thought. But after her mother died, when little Robert was about three, she got a letter from her father’s solicitor in the US. Her father had a woman when he was he was stationed in Japan post war. Never told Julia’s mother, evidently…” Ms Henricks’ shook her head of wiry steel grey curls, “When they divorced he tried to find this woman again. He finally made contact with her not long before his death. They had a son he never knew. Ito. Her father’s will was split between the two. Ito came out here briefly, to meet his sister. “
“WHY ON EARTH!?”
“You were so stuffy,” Ms Hendricks’ laugh was dry and merciless as crackling parchment. “Julia knew you’d be scandalised, a brother on the wrong side of bed! You were going for Parliament, remember.”
“Yes, Japan, to be with her half brother.”
Too dazed to even acknowledge a service rendered, Sir David stumbled back to his car.
“Serves you right, you stuffed shirt!” Ms Henricks’ parting words speared in beside him as he shut the car door.
He drove home the long way, thinking what to say, how to say it. Robert, being dropped off from footy practice, looked up blankly as his father pulled in. “Japan, Robert, I’m pulling you out of school for a couple of weeks. I found your mother.”
Robert’s bland ‘wait and see’ expression told him he had work to do. The problem of Angela was easy fixed. Money. The rest, time would tell. He took out the postcard again and smiled. Maybe he had been wrong, at least about some things. Julia had picked a very special view of Fujiyama.