What do her friends call her? Alba?
— Alba can. Daroh can. Up to them.
More than serviceable English unexpected, learnt from her husband. Not a business type; psychology major, Malaysian with PR. His second wife. Alba visits from Surabaya a week or two every year. Husband very busy. Alba very understands. Very understands. (Uncertain whether Alba assumed bafflement or what.) Two late-teen kids.
Startled initially at the lifts and making a dash for the stairs, rapid sandal-slapping echoing.
Catching up directly afterward outside the car-park, the mention of the husband warding-off.
Fair enough. Unseemly talking to a strange male, foreigner to boot.
From the over-developed sense of propriety one could draw only one conclusion. Oh well, never mind. If that was how the lady felt.
Second time riding the lift suddenly easy and relaxed. Scarf loosely wound—it had been tightened for protection the first morning.
Hair short, dyed a deep red. Black dress and blouse patterned flowers and swirls.
(NB. no white for meetings. Muslim colour of mourning, from the Sarajevo and Srebrenica footage, if that was right.)
Dark eye-lined glances bestowed sparingly—flashed like in old novels from a period that accorded here in this community on the equator.
From inauspicious beginnings, rapid progress in the opposite direction before one knew what was happening.
Lady of her own mind Alba, straightforward as much as ardent finally. A surprise.
The lofty and wary had been given a short run; not to be guessed that first morning outside the lifts hearing the stair-hammer.
Inevitably one could only follow where a woman such as that led.
Geylang Serai, Singapore
Previously published in hard form by the Australian magazine Gargouille, (#6 2017).
Australian by birth and Montenegrin origin, Pavle Radonic has spent eight years living in SE Asia. Previous work has appeared in a range of literary journals and magazines, including Ambit, Big Bridge, Panoply, New World Writing and Citron & Antigonish Reviews.