Saturday, December 23, 2006


By Zuraidah Omar

Sarah first saw him one morning when she was driving past the guard-house into the club-grounds. He was standing on the slope of the hill, oblivious to others, surveying the scene before him. She was mesmerised by his looks and the dignity with which he carried himself.

She saw him very often after that. He was usually at what must be his favourite place in the club, standing all alone by himself at the same spot on the hill-slope and looking as if he hadn't a care in the world. Who is he, she wondered.

It didn't take long for Sarah to find out. One day, she ran into one of her friends at the club's cafe. Ella was a longstanding member of the club and her level-headedness had made her the de facto counsellor in her circle. People turned to her for help, advice or just someone to talk to. Nothing went on in the club without Ella knowing about it. Sarah and Ella knew each other well enough not to stand on ceremony or indulge in small talk, so after ordering herself a teh tarik, Sarah joined Ella at her table and cut to the chase.

"Oh, him. That's Kelly," Ella said. "Why? You like him or what?"

"He's quite a looker," Sarah replied.

Ella smiled and squeezed Sarah's arm reassuringly. "I'm so happy to see you up and about again. I know that relationship of yours with Terence was a bit of a disaster."

Sarah grimaced, thinking of the rocky time she had with Terence, a trying time that stretched for almost a year. They had started off well enough when she first met Terence but it wasn't long before he showed his true colours. "I really did my best, you know," Sarah explained. "But he was so unpredictable and temperamental. I tried hard to love him. I think that he didn't trust me enough. I just couldn't cope in the end so I had no choice but to call it quits."

"It's like that sometimes," Ella consoled. "Some things work out and some don't. But don't let it get you down. Don't give up."

"I won't," sighed Sarah, thinking of yet another failed relationship after Terence. "There was Pancho, remember?"

"Oh yes, I remember. We thought you had a lot of guts-lah. First an Australian, and as soon as you pulled yourself together, an Argentinian. What happened with Pancho anyway? It was so short-lived. I thought you liked him."

"Yeah, one of those things. In Pancho's case, I got along fine with him but then someone else came into the picture and I didn't have a chance. I was quite miserable. That's why I stopped coming to the club for a while, and when I did, I saw you-know-who."

"Poor you but never mind, you will have better luck with Kelly. He's available but it won't be easy getting to know him. He's got a very protective mother and what she says, goes. She dotes on him like nobody's business. She's got to like you first before anything else."

"A mama's boy, eh?" Sarah became a bit unsure because that would just complicate things. But Kelly's magnificent image came into her mind and she knew what she had to do. "Never mind. I'll just go with the flow. Can you introduce me to his mum?" She asked Ella.

"No problem. She swims at the club-house very often. I'll call you when I see her. Just relax for now. He's not going to go anywhere."

Ella was true to her word. The next day, she called Sarah on her mobile phone. "Are you in the club? Kelly's mum is by the swimming pool. Come over quick." Fortunately, Sarah was nearby and she was by Ella's side in next to no time.

Ella pointed out to a petite lady with short hair sitting in one of the deck chairs. "She's quite a chilly padi, you know, so watch your step. Come on, let's go and meet her." The two of them sauntered over to the lady.

"Hi Sue," Ella called out. "How are you? Long time no see."

Sue looked up and countered, "What are you talking about? We just had lunch together not long ago."

Ella sat down on the deck chair beside Sue's. "Getting old already-lah. So many lunches, can't remember when or with who. Done your swimming?"

"Yeah, did a few laps. Got to go soon. What's up?"

"I want you to meet my friend Sarah," Ella said as she gestured to Sarah, who had been standing a little apart, to sit beside her. Sarah extended her hand to Sue and the two shook hands. "Pleased to meet you. Have you been a member here long?" Sue asked Sarah, who replied, "Quite some time but I don't swim much."

"Right! Let's not beat about the bush-lah," Ella interjected. "Sarah saw Kelly the other day and she has taken a liking to him." Sarah felt her face going red. Good grief, she thought. Doesn't Ella have any finesse? How could she just say it like that? She could just see Sue look at her in an appraising manner.

"He's quite good-looking and really tall," Sarah blurted, feeling more embarrassed and admonishing herself in her mind. What a stupid thing to say. That will really earn you points with Kelly's mama.

"That's what a lot of people tell me," Sue said.

"Just right for you-lah, Sarah," Ella cut in. "All your previous ones are rather short, if you ask me. Someone your size needs something bigger."

"Ella!" Sarah blushed again, feeling suddenly self-conscious about her weight.

Sue laughed. "Ella's quite a joker, isn't she? Anyway, Kelly has only just come to Malaysia, you know. He has been overseas all this while."

"Oh, no wonder I've not seen him around before," Sarah was still feeling tentative, not sure of what Sue was really thinking about Ella's sudden revelation.

Sue looked hard at Sarah. "I suppose Ella must have told you about Kelly and that I'm looking for someone for him," she said. "But he's very particular about people, you know. I am too. Ella and I have been friends a long time and I trust her judgement. So if she thinks you and Kelly suit one another, I'm okay with it. He's solid and steady. You'll feel very safe with him."

That's fast, Sarah thought. She hasn't gotten to know me well enough yet. "I think you will like Kelly," Sue continued. " But like I said, I'm very particular. I have to know that you're serious about him and that you'll take care of him the way I take care of him. He's very special to me."

The conversation was going too far and too fast for Sarah's liking. She just wanted to get to know Kelly and it was beginning to seem as if she was committing herself to a long relationship. Why is Sue in such a hurry to get Kelly out of her life? "Is there anything I need to know about Kelly?" Sarah asked carefully, hoping not to annoy Sue with her question.

Sue shrugged her shoulders. "Nothing really," she replied. "Being a big guy, he needs his space. But as long as you treat him right, he'll be good to you. I'm getting very busy with my business these days and don't have much time to spend with him. It's nice if he can have someone else in his life."

"I really should meet Kelly first, don't you think?" Sarah tried to bring the situation under control. "For all you know, he might not like me."

"Don't worry-lah," Ella assured Sarah. "I'm sure Kelly will like you. You are such a gentle person, with a lot of love to give." She then turned to Sue, "I fully recommend Sarah to you. You don't have to worry a thing about her. She's a very caring person."

"I'm sure you are, Sarah," Sue smiled and patted her on her arm. "But you're right. You must meet Kelly first. What about tomorrow at about 10am? I'll meet you at the cafe."

Sarah couldn't wait for the day to be over. That night, images of Kelly floated in her dreams. Sarah was sure that she and Kelly were kindred spirits, even soul-mates. She had sensed it when she first saw him. True, he had ignored her when she drove past him, standing on the hill-slope. Perhaps he had things on his mind. Well, they would be meeting one another very soon and he wouldn't be able to ignore her then.

Sarah was at the cafe well before 10am the next day, but when the appointed time came, there was no sign of Sue. Sarah wondered if Sue had changed her mind. She didn't want to order a cup of coffee in case Sue turned up, so she just sat at one of the tables, anxiously checking her watch every few minutes.

Sue walked into the cafe some time later to find an anxious-looking Sarah. "Really sorry, dear, to keep you waiting. Come on, let's go and meet Kelly. He's just outside." Sarah got up so quickly that she almost knocked the chair down. Sue laughed, "Don't worry, he won't run away."

And there he was, standing outside the cafe - the handsome hunk who had caught Sarah's eye. He looked even better at close range. He was tall but there was a calmness and steadfastness about him that was reassuring to Sarah. Kelly looked at her tentatively as she walked up to him. She reached out slowly and put her hand on his shoulder. His brown eyes softened.

"So Sarah," Sue asked. "Would you like to ride Kelly now or do you want to fix another time?"

Sarah nodded; she had met the horse of her dreams.