By Heng Siok Tian
Martin, full-blooded male that he was, made no bones about his attraction to Cherry, who took all his advances in her own stride, although she was confused and nervous about the whole dating game with a much older, single expatriate who had no lack of willing coquettes or sarong party girls throwing themselves at him.
Martin was not going to jeopardise the prospect of a wholesome, meaningful relationship with Cherry. He had sowed enough wild oats to recognise the value in Cherry - her as-yet untainted, uncynical, trusting nature, her intelligence and willingness to learn, her unspoiled ways, given her orphan background, which also meant no meddling, troublesome in-laws. What a breeze that would be!
He had also gained sufficient experience to suspect that she would be one of those who would be impressed with a man willing to cook for her and, for that matter, likely too to appreciate healthy foods. So he had decided to start his seduction by cooking for her.
Thanks to his bachelor days and backpacking travels as an undergraduate, Martin was able to whip up simple meals. His best bet though would be salads. He had a choice of two salads Ė actually, the only two he knew. He could impress Cherry with an old-fashioned potato salad or a mixed-greens salad. He decided to err on the side of prudence with Cherry and made up his mind to prepare both salads for her.
Martin had gone to some length to ensure that their first evening together at his apartment would make some indelible mark on Cherry. He had done his grocery shopping two days before the evening, bought all his vegetables and ingredients at the neighbourhood supermarket, and taken a few hours off from the office to get back early to the apartment to prepare his salads. He would only grill the steak after Cherry arrived so that she could see him in the kitchen.
Cherry found her way to his apartment with little difficulty given his ability to give clear instructions. Dressed in a casual smart white tee, trendy and body-fitting, as well as her signature pair of Levi's jeans, Cherry looked like a pin-up model when she stood at his threshold of the door. His first instinct was to hold her by her slim waist and lift up her nubile body just to gauge how much effort he would need if he wanted to hold her up. Fortunately, he had just enough wits about him at that point to control himself and welcomed her with the demeanour of a well-bred rascal.
He offered her a glass of apple juice as she declined any alcoholic drinks, although he joked that she should start learning to take them. Maybe later, she had acquiesced. When he asked if she preferred old fashioned potato salad or mixed greens, she joked that she would like Caeserís salad instead. For a split second, he was taken aback but when she smiled, he recovered, and regained his composure when she said she would eat either of the salads.
When he started to put his marinated steak onto the grill, she joined him in the kitchen and offered to set the table. Every of her movement sent some thrill rippling through him. He had to focus very hard on getting the right ingredients in at the right time. He could feel the heat close by. He was psyching himself not to do anything that might blow the evening away. Cherry in her freshness did not help when she hovered close and watched him watched the grill, brushing by him ever so softly when she turned here or there. She would ask questions about his work, his travels which he answered innately but all the while had to restrain himself from wanting to reach out and grab her body towards him.
Things improved for him at dinner as he became more relaxed with his drink and food. Cherry enjoyed his salads, which pleased him very much. Then she suggested watching some TV. The evening ended most pleasantly for both of them after Martin took Cherry home in a taxi.
He also began to visit Cherry at her guardian Aunt Leeís home. Six months later, Martin popped the question to Cherry, who agreed. Aunt Lee gave her blessing on condition that Cherry go on to complete her University degree while she was married to Martin, to which he was perfectly agreeable.
On their honeymoon in Bali, Cherry was the perfect Asian bride that Martin had always fantasized about - sweet and petite, intelligible and intelligent English, accommodating, unbrash, a virgin. As a couple, they made heads turn because she carried herself so well next to his middle-age bulges.
After the honeymoon, they returned to Martinís apartment, where married life would begin.
After they had settled in, when the flush of idyllic, edenic romance became a subdued tinge of blurry-eyed memories, Martin, slouching on the couch watching TV, turned to look at Cherry, who was at the kitchen table completing a term essay for her university course. As he watched the small screen, he reminded her of their first date, when he invited her over and cooked her salads, and she didnít make a choice of the two salads but ate both. He confessed it was his way of seducing her, and smiled to himself obviously pleased with his triumph. Cherry remained quiet.
Later in bed, after their love-making, as he turned over to sleep, Cherry snuggled up to him and said he really neednít have tried so hard to seduce her with salad. Salads would not have impressed her. She had already made up her mind to marry him, for Aunt Lee had approved of him when she had met him as the new expatriate in the office where she was one of the secretaries and where Cherry was a part-time front-door receptionist.
When Martin shut his sleepy eyes, he said to himself, so this was to be his story, after he had spent years escaping the clutches of commitment by backpacking and running away from his suburbia ennui and highschool sweetheart to discover the frontiers of exotic Asia.
QLRS Vol. 2 No. 2 Jan 2003