Being Inspired, maybe - 67
A picture paints ... well, as many words as you like. For instance:
I never considered Madeline as the sort of woman who would venture anywhere without some from her family being with her. I was never quite sure why she didn't have nor apparently want that individual streak in her like most of the girls I knew.
But, coming to Hong Kong on her own was just so out of character for her, it showed me a whole new side of her that I don't think anyone else had yet seen.
Was this the reason Suzanne had sent her to Hong Kong, to become a new independent version of herself? If it was, it was working.
It led me to consider what the reason was to send me. Was it to break my all work no play routine? It certainly couldn't be just to meet Madeline.
On the way to the tram station, we stopped at one of the souvenir stores where Madeleine was looming at some pandas. Cute, and relatively inexpensive, if my mental currency conversion was correct.
I could see the store owner hurrying over to press the sale.
"You can probably get those cheaper down the bottom of the hill. This place has tourist prices which are generally twice what they were elsewhere."
"Prices cheapest in Hong Kong," the Chinese lady said, giving me a withering starè.
Madeleine put the bear she was holding back on the shelf and smiled at the lady. "Just looking."
"You not find cheaper anywhere else," the proprietor had snatched up the bear and was following us out into the walkway.
Madeleine stopped and said, "That may be, but like I said, I was just looking. Thank You."
Then she took my hand in hers and with a gentle tug, said, "let's go."
I put it down to the fact she didn't was to get separated from me because the number of people had grown and the walkway was quite busy until we got outside the building.
From there, is was a short walk to the queue waiting to return to the bottom of the hill. The queue here was not as long as that waiting to come up.
"They all seem to be like that," she said, Then quickly adding, "The shopkeepers, I mean. Even in Hong Kong itself, they either grab you as you walk into the store, or are on the pavement trying to drag you in."
"We're tourists, it's kind of stamped on our foreheads. It can be annoying, or you may ignore them."
"Even when they follow you up the street? So far they've implored me to get hand made clothes, Rolex watches, Gucci handbags, and goodness knows what else."
"I should be miffed, I didn't get asked about a Gucci handbag."
The queue started moving as another tram had arrived, and in the middle of disgorging its passengers, so now those returning could line up to board.
We were lucky enough to be in the front and be the first two to get in. That still didn't mean we'd be first onto a seat because people virtually ran the moment they stepped foot on the carriage.
This time it was a little more orderly than it had been at the bottom. Madeleine and I got to a seat easily, and where Madeleine could look out the window. Both of us had a seat on the aisle on the way up.
After the tram began its descent she said, "Do you know why Suzanne asked you to come here?"
"Suzanne is full of surprises, and this is but another of them. My father wants me to humour her, hoping it'll lead to something more beneficial."
I didn't say what it was, but Madeleine knew what I was talking about.
"Marriage? Who gets married these days, unless it's to make a statement."
She was talking about the people we knew, not marriage in general, and was familiar with the concept of marrying advantageously, those not for herself. She'd told me once her mother had suggested a number of boys that were, in her opinion, acceptable.
Acceptable to whom?
"I don't think that's what Suzanne has in mind for us. We've had that discussion."
"Yet, you're here."
"It's what my father calls taking responsibility, but I'm not sure what the context is, in his mind anyway. But now I think about it, Suzanne's little byplays are usually fun, in a sense, and not something I'm used to, nor brought up to partake in. So, who knows what might happen?"
"Well, this is the first time for me. To be honest I mulled over the invitation for quite some time before I agreed to it. It's about the fourth or fifth time she's asked. I told her it was not something i normally did, and she simply said, it was time I started to live my own life. But I wouldn't be surprised if my father hadn't sent someone, or hired someone here to watch over me."
Interesting possibility, because I was beginning to think there was someone following us. I was going to mention it, and, considering the effect it might have on her newly found independence, I decided not to. Not yet anyway.
We arrived at the bottom of the hill and were practically last to leave, everyone else seemed to be in a hurry.
It served another purpose, for me at least, that I could check to see if Madeleine did, in fact, have a guardian angel, and I'd been surreptitiously looking for anyone similar to that of seen up the peak.
Two men fitted the description, one English, the other Chinese is an expensive suit. My money was on the Englishman. He was keeping his distance, and, what for me was a tell take sign, didn't start following us until after we'd moved off.
But we didn't get far.
Standing outside the exit was Suzanne, resplendent in tropical clothes, the sort I thought you only saw in old Hollywood films.
"Hey, you two," she said.
Madeline went over and gave her a hug.
"Finally, you made it. A bit late to go up and see the peak."
"Seen it." She pulled an envelope out of her handbag and gave it to her. "Your next mission. A little early, but, nevertheless, you'll love it."
"Is Sam going too?"
"No. He has to take me to dinner. Your limousine awaits," she pointed to a white Mercedes parked no far up the road.
She came over and gave me a hug. I was not sure what Suzanne made of it, but one thing I was sure about, she was surprised.
"Thanks for the escort. Perhaps we'll meet again."
I watched her walk to the car, get in, the drive off.
Suzanne appeared beside me. "You like her?"
Was that a question or a statement. It was hard to tell with Suzanne.
"What's not to like."
It might have been my imagination but I thought I detected a tinge of jealousy in her tone. Given our understanding, it was a surprise.
"Now, what have you got for me to do. I'm not sure it's simply taking you to dinner."
"Believe it or not, it's my birthday, and, yes you are. You have no idea how much of a relief it is to escape my mother's idea of a birthday party."
I could imagine. My mother had booked a whole nightclub for my sister's eighteenth, and it was far too over the top.
Another car arrived to replace the white Mercedes, a green rolls Royce. Wherever we were going it was in style.
As we got in the car my cell phone buzzed, an incoming message.
I closed the door and we eased our way into the traffic.
Then I looked at the message. From Madeline.
"Something not quite right. Keep your phone near JIC."
© Charles Heath 2019
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