Comfort Food susmita bhattacharya
i Xian cracked an egg and dropped it into the boiling soup. She stirred and it spread like a cobweb, clinging to the sides of the stew pot. The chicken was getting tender, and the Pandan leaves left a sweet fragrance in the air. Li checked the rice on the other hob. Almost done. She smiled and looked at the time. Seven o’clock. The food would be ready in fifteen minutes. On Friday nights, her husband usually entertained business associates. It was the night she liked to spend by herself, reading, or just sitting by the window and watching the traffic and the city lights. She ate by herself, and always made her favourite dish, chicken rice. The telephone rang in the living room and she clucked her tongue with irritation. Li did not want interference of any kind. The answering machine came on: it was her husband urging her to pick up the phone. He wanted her to meet him for dinner at the Crystal Jade. He had a crucial business dinner meeting with Mr Boon, the ship-owner. If he could convince the man to buy his company’s ship, a promotion would surely be on the way. Mr Boon’s wife would be there as well; Li was to give her company. And, if she wore that black chiffon dress, it would look very elegant. Li took a deep breath and then exhaled. She couldn’t say no to him. He had worked hard for this promotion, and it was close at hand. Her chicken rice would have to wait. She dressed with care. Her alabaster skin complemented the black chiffon perfectly. The jade bracelet added colour to her tone. She brushed her thick, black hair and added a hint of gloss to her lips. Simple yet stylish. She wondered what the ship-owner’s wife would be like. The Crystal Jade had pearly, ethereal lighting. Water reflections from the fish tanks rippled on the ceiling and walls. Paper lanterns and bamboo screens divided the restaurant into distinctive seating arrangements. The ashtrays on the tables were made of crystal; the napkin rings of bamboo and mother-of-pearl. A Feng-shui fountain bubbled in the centre of the room. Teo Xian escorted his wife into the restaurant. His smile showed he approved of her dress and bearing. Mr Boon’s wife had a gold tooth. They were seated in a secluded area, beside the bay windows, and Li could see Singapore laid out in front of her. Beneath her feet, Orchard Road throbbed with Friday night intensity. She touched the cold windowpane, and she felt the vibration. The gold tooth glimmered as Mrs Boon
Published on Feb 1, 2014
Issue 11 features 11 short stories, 12 (or 16, depending on how you count) poems, two essay features, and an interview with the co-founder o...