In preparation for an article I was writing, I had interviewed 9 divorced women – each with their own tale to tell. While writing the article, I thought of every single one of them and would hold them in my thoughts while I grieved for them. This is a series of fictional stories, inspired by their lives and strength.
Any resemblance to real persons or other real-life entities is purely coincidental. All characters and other entities appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, dead or alive, or other real-life entities, past or present, is purely coincidental.
Bee Leng’s heart is pumping as she approaches The Trumps, a condominium in Singapore where her daughter is living in. Sarah, her only daughter, just gave birth to a son, and they are all gathering to celebrate his first birthday.
As she approaches the lift to go to the 9th floor, her palms start sweating and she can feel cold sweat trickle down the back of her neck.
It’s been 5 years since she last saw Him and she can’t help but feel anxious about this reunion. When Sarah gave birth to her sweet son, Ben, it was during the first covid pandemic lockdown and people couldn’t do visitations at the hospital. She felt relieved then, knowing she could avoid an awkward situation of bumping into Him.
But when Sarah called her last week to invite her to today’s celebration, she couldn’t make up any excuses. After all, if Sarah is fine with Him being around, after all that he did to them, why should Bee Leng not be?
After putting down the phone, she immediately made an appointment with Karl, her hair dresser. “Karl, I have to meet Paul next week, can you schedule me in tomorrow or the day after please? She asks.
“Oh my goodness. Paul? Like THE Paul?” Karl, who has been her hair dresser the last 10 years is a dear friend who has been there for her through it all. “I’m fully packed the next two days but honey, I got you. Come by at 8pm tomorrow, we will fix you right up. “
It’s a week later, and Bee Leng is ready. Dressed in a white suit, new curly locks and fresh lipstick, Bee Leng takes a deep breath….. and presses the door bell of unit 09-324.
She deliberately arrived an hour late because she wanted to let him see her. She wanted him to take notice of her when she first walked in.
To her surprise, it is neither Sarah nor her husband, Amos, who opens the door. The first thing that greeted Bee Leng’s senses was the overwhelming smell of perfume that Coco drenched herself in. “Bee Leng, it’s youuuuuu” Coco squealed and hugged her. She doesn’t resist it because she has no time to but she feels bile rising up her throat as her face is forcibly buried into Coco’s hair. Bee Leng resists the urge to push her away and instead, immediately places herself at an arm’s length away from this bundle of energy.
Coco is the woman Bee Leng’s ex-husband, Paul, married after he left their marriage. His announcement to leave her and Sarah had come so suddenly. “I’m just not in love with you anymore.” He had told her. That one-line had determined her fate for the last five years. That one-line still haunts her from time to time, creeping in her dreams, day and night.
“Paul and I weren’t sure if you were coming but I told him you wouldn’t miss it for the world. Didn’t I say she would come, baby?” Coco says to her husband, as she ushers Bee Leng by her elbow, into a living room that wasn’t hers, right infront of Paul.
Bee Leng stands up straight, and looks up at Paul. She notices more than a few white strands at his temple, and realizes his neck has gone a little saggy. He looks like he’s aged 10 years even though it’s only been 5. He’s smiling at her, and it’s genuine. He’s happy to see her. 28 years of marriage with him…..she always knew how he felt even before he said anything. She knew before, when he had looked at her, trying to find the words to say “I’m leaving you”. She knows now that he isn’t lying when he says to her, “Hey Bee Leng, it’s really good to see you”.
For a man who’s nearly 60, Paul looks as ragged as a 70-year-old old man. But it was never his looks she fell for – it was his kind heart, soft temperament, and tenderness that she loved. Not anymore. Not since she decided to let him go, just six months ago.
So many things have changed…..since six months ago.
“Mum! Come meet your grandson,” Sarah had noticed the awkward silence between her divorced parents and decided to break it.
It’s only then that Bee Leng is able to take stock of her surroundings and shifts her attention to her beautiful grandson. She takes him in her arms and smells his forehead, and she whispers to him, “Ben my darling, you’re so precious…..so so precious.”
Holding new life in her arms takes her back to when she first held Sarah in hers, 25 years ago. When her water broke, she was alone in the apartment. It was 3 p.m. and she knew he was in a meeting with some big clients so she decided to call upon her neighbor, Sofia, instead.
They had moved into this neighborhood just a year ago, 50 miles away from San Francisco, where Paul had accepted a new job as the CFO of a mid-size company that sold IT components. Paul had said that the new neighborhood would be better than living in the city – the house would be bigger and the environment safer for their baby girl. Soon after, they made fast friends with their neighbor, a single mother with 2 children of her own. Sofia and Bee Leng became best of friends.
“Sofia! Sofia!” Bee Leng knocked frantically on her neighbor’s door. Sofia works from home and she was bound to be in at this time.
The two of them rushed to the hospital, and within five hours, Bee Leng held Sarah in her arms. It was just the two of them in that birthing suite when Sarah was born – all 10 fingers and toes, with a full head of hair and big bright eyes. The minute Bee Leng held Sarah close to her chest, she was convinced that Sarah would save her. She wasn’t even sure what kind of saving she needed, but she knew – that her daughter had saved her life.
Paul came in when Bee Leng was fast asleep – by then it was already 10p.m.
“I’m sorry, I had my cellphone turned off. I only found out when I saw all the missed calls on my phone. I’m so sorry.” He had said.
Bee Leng forgave him. She was sure then, that the three of them would live happily ever after forever. She had been so sure then.
“By the way….since everyone is here….we wanted to announce something,” Coco says.
Bee Leng looks up while cradling her grandson and her gut lurched into a tight knot. The little bump on Coco’s stomach didn’t go unnoticed when she first wrangled Bee Leng into an embrace.
Coco grabs a hold of Paul’s hand, waits for everyone to look at her, then glances back at Paul again, who, at this point, looks a little embarrassed and hesitant. Before he could say anything however, his 35-year-old wife squeals and says, “WE’RE PREGNANT!”
Bee Leng doesn’t startle at this fact but merely observes the looks on the rest of the people’s faces. Sarah and Amos look like deer caught in headlights. Bee Leng’s sister, Anita and her son, Bryan look confused. But the funniest look came from Paul’s own mother, Mary, an 85-year-old woman who has always adored Bee Leng and vehemently rejected the idea of her son leaving their marriage, only to marry someone nearly half his age barely a year later.
Mary didn’t hold back at all and scowled at this announcement. By now, Paul’s face has turned bright red and he polishes off his glass of whisky, leaving Coco to excitedly share details of her pregnancy with Sarah and Amos.
Bee Leng smiles to herself, and walks over to the balcony where Paul is standing on, looking out into the distance.
“So…I guess congratulations are in order?” Bee Leng hears her calm voice speaking to Paul.
“I….don’t even know what to say. I never thought I’d be a father again, at this age.” Paul says , looking slightly bewildered.
The sun is setting now, and clouds are scattered across the sky, light orange hues lining them. It has been 5 years since Paul and Bee Leng stood, side by side, neither of them angry nor shouting at each other. The atmosphere between them now holds only understanding and comfort – a world of difference compared to back then, when they were filing for a divorce. Things had gotten really messy – but in the end, Bee Leng had walked away with what she deserved.
“How are you – Bee Leng?” Paul finally asks, afraid to look up at her as he asks this.
“I wasn’t good for a long time, I have to admit. But I’m much better now, Paul. I can finally say I’m much better now.” She turns directly to him and waits until he summons enough courage to gaze back into her eyes.
Her eyes hold kindness and forgiveness, they look right through him, as they always did. The truth is too much for him to bear, and he peels his eyes away from hers.
An hour and half later, everyone is gathered around the cake and it’s time to take photographs. After Sarah and Amos take a family picture with Ben in their arms, Sarah requests for one with her parents. Paul and Bee Leng look at each other, and go to stand beside their daughter.
As Bryan counts to 3, Bee Leng feels Paul’s arm around her waist and doesn’t pull away. His touch feels familiar and yet completely foreign.
At the end of the night, everyone says their farewell and Bee Leng can’t help but notice Paul’s gaze at her. He’s been stealing glances at her the whole night and Bee Leng doesn’t think he wanted them to go unnoticed. He wanted her to know. He wanted her to feel his unwavering attention on her.
As she gets into a Grab car and sets off for home, Bee Leng can’t help but feel stirring in her heart. “What is this feeling?” She asks herself.
“Be still, my heart.” She whispers to herself.