Hannah nudged me awake. I blinked into the morning sunshine, and regretted the shaft of light that drilled into my head. In fact I regretted even opening my eyes in the first place.
‘Lady Mary call you many times.’
Despite my ailing condition, that made me chuckle. All I needed was a good old English fry-up, and I’d be right as rain. I peered around, noting that I lay under a sheet in a horizontal position on a thin mattress in a small room decorated with teddy bears on the walls and glittering stars on the ceiling. Add an empty cot, a wardrobe next to an open window, and a chair stacked high with clothes, some of which were mine.
Some of which were mine?
I pulled up the sheet to reveal my naked groin, which conjured up a whole new set of images as to my condition the previous night. While I was contemplating what could have been, what might have been, or what happened, Hannah nudged me again and handed me my phone.
‘Meester Charles. Who is Lady Mary?’
I turned to her. She appeared freshly groomed, brushed hair tied back in a bow, a touch of face paint, wearing a blue T-shirt and skinny jeans. She looked good, smelled good, and her moist lips were close to mine.
She edged away when I raised my hand to touch her.
I sighed. ‘Lady Mary is a friend of Madam. Her daughter is dead and she wants me to attend the funeral.’
A baby’s cry outside saved me the bother of trying to explain. Hannah got up and pointed at the door.
‘Bathroom. See you later.’
The gleam in her eyes and her amused expression told me she’d seen enough last night, and I prayed any mental flashback of mine didn’t include the picture of Mama-Witch undressing me.
Later that morning after my khazi visit — a cold shower and sit-down pan in a cubby hole — and wearing a fresh set of clothes, I toured the house that lasted all of two minutes to cover. Two small rooms with a kitchen attached, and a small outside patio with a clothes line stretched across.
Beyond the patio a grassy area where a few chickens and a rooster were pecking at, and behind them a swath of leafy palms so thickly entangled that my sight was obscured. Humbled by their obvious poverty, I pledged to repay Hannah for her Christian charity as soon as I could get back on my financial feet.
I stepped back inside the house having given up on her returning early from the doctor’s surgery, but before she left with the baby, she instructed Mama-Witch to take care of me. My allotted carer surprised me by fussing around, asking me in very broken English with a lot of arm waving at cooking pots steaming on the hob if I was hungry.
I deduced the good old English fry-up wasn’t on the menu, but the spicy aroma tempted me. I nodded. ‘Thanks,’ I said, also with a lot of arm waving, ‘whatever you’re cooking.’
It turned out to be a bed of rice on a dinner plate, with a piece of chicken smothered in chilli sauce on top. I’d tasted hotter and, in any event, I was in no position to complain.
Without asking, Mama-Witch — whose status now elevated to Mama-White-Witch — kept my water glass topped-up. A familial scene that somehow reminded me of my earlier times with Celia...
‘…We can always stay in, tonight, darling. Have a take-away among the bubbles.’ Impish smile on her face that augured amour, later.
At the time we were having an illicit affair. Her then fiancé wasn’t up to it, as she put it. I suppose it was natural she’d choose me instead — after all I had the breeding, a military magnetism and, at the time, a Mayfair apartment.
Mine, with a Jacuzzi — erotic stimuli — and big enough for two.
I glanced at the restaurant cards by the kitchen phone. ‘Indian or Chinese?’
She puckered her lips, poked out her tongue. ‘Surprise me.’
I ordered two ultra-hot phall chicken curries, expecting her to take a mouthful and then abandon it. And she did, but got her own back by making me devour the lot while she filled her mouth with a different ultra-hot dish...
...Once satiated, and with nothing better to do than dredge up memories of happier times, I returned to the baby’s bedroom and laid my head back on the mattress, only for my phone to ring. The display was more blurred than usual, which reminded me I’d left my monocle back at the House. But it could only be Mary calling.
‘Charles. At last. Where are you?’
I hadn’t the strength to resist. ‘I’m residing on a mattress in a baby’s bedroom somewhere near a lake in the middle of Sumatra suffering from a lack of clean underwear and a lost memory.’
‘Charles, be serious. I need you here with me for the funeral.’
‘Well that’s as maybe, but I’ve mislaid my magic wand.’
It went quiet. Had I lost her? But then her voice softened. ‘Jane would have expected it.’
‘Jane? I don’t understand.’
‘Oh Charles. You really don’t know, do you?’
‘Mary, you’re losing me.’
‘Do you remember that night of the early-season ball? The day you ravaged me.’
My mind was in turmoil. Mary’s next words seared my very soul.
‘Charles. You fathered Jane.’