For a moment Kendra was so shocked to see him she only stared. He was caught up in the argument and hadn’t looked her way. He was still speaking to the old man who was angrily putting on his coat at the door and the waitress who looked very annoyed with both men.
“I don’t understand why you must sell the restaurant! It doesn’t make any sense. Give it to Thiti, she’s the one who wants it. Why are you so stubborn?” Asra was shouting at the old man. Kendra suspected he thought the restaurant was empty since they were in a far corner not easily seen from where they were.
“She’s a woman. Sons should inherit their father’s businesses- not daughters. You think you’re too good for this! To good to run a restaurant. That’s fine. I sell! The decision is made- I sell!” The old man finished buttoning up his coat and snatched up his umbrella.
Kendra watched the scene play out, confused by what was going on. Confused by seeing Asra. He was not supposed to even be in London. And what was he doing here at this restaurant, shouting at an old man?
Asra realised there was someone looking at them and turned to see. He stopped speaking mid-sentence. He looked at Kendra. Two beats passed as he tried to assemble things in his mind, and then he said, “Kendra?”
“Asra? What are you doing here? I thought you said you were in Germany? That you wouldn’t be in London until next weekend?”
“I needed to take care of some things and flew over for a few hours between flights.” Asra looked at Devin and back at Kendra, confused.
Kendra knew what he must be thinking and quickly said, “Asra, this is Bianca’s boyfriend, Dr Devin Taylor.”
Asra walked toward them mechanically and shook Devin’s hand. Everything was awkward but at least the thought that Devin was nothing more than a friend had been cleared from the air between them. Everything else sat between them in a big murky mess.
“Kendra,” Asra said, indicating the old man, “this is my father, Mahu.”
Kendra stood up and walked to the old man still standing at the door with his coat on, holding his umbrella. She held out her hand and the old man shook it.
“Lovely to meet you,” he said but with no smile. He was still hanging on to whatever he and Asra had been arguing about.
“And this is my sister, Thiti,” Asra said indicating the waitress with the green veil.
“Lovely to meet you, Asra has told me so much about you,” Kendra said.
“Really?” Thiti said, “And yet he’s told us nothing about you.”
Kendra stood awkwardly, not knowing what to do, if she should go back to her table with Devin or stay and make chit chat with Asra’s family who looked very much not like people in the mood for chit chat. “I can see you were all in the middle of …something…I’ll just get back to my friend.”
Kendra sat back down, lost by what was going on. So this restaurant, only a few metres away from the Royal Opera House, her place of employment, was Asra’s father’s business? Why would Asra have never mentioned that? He had given her the impression that the restaurant was in Egypt. Had he? Or had she just assumed that?
Also, he’s in London, just next to where she is and he doesn’t even consider stopping in to see her? This despite his talk of how much he misses her and can’t bear to be away from her, how much he loves her? She spoke to him just that morning and he said he was having a layover in Germany and was flying out to Australia in the morning. And now here he was in London. It was all confusing and upsetting. She sat with Devin but said nothing. She didn’t even make an effort to keep things comfortable. And then she remembered his conflicted face after they’d made love. Maybe things were not as she thought. Something was wrong, she could feel it.
As she thought about it all she became angry. If this was not lying, then it was certainly the withholding of important information. And he was the one so adamant about lies. As she sat going through the information, analyzing it, she was getting more and more angry. Feeling more and more like a fool.
The three spoke for a bit longer, in muted, but angry whispers. Then the old man slammed out of the restaurant and Asra came over to the table, leaving his sister still fuming at the door. “Kendra, I didn’t expect you to be here….it was a sudden thing my coming. A family issue. My father is being unreasonable…it was an emergency. I hope you understand.”
Thiti came up to Asra, still obviously angry. She ignored both Kendra and Devin. “You! Always preaching people must do the right thing- now I will lose my livelihood! What do you care? You have a big job. Why couldn’t you have said yes, yes you’ll take the business? What does it matter? It would have meant the same thing, you own the restaurant on paper, but it’s mine in practice, I run it.” She pounded her chest in anger. “It would have made him happy; it would have made me happy! But no! Not Asra! No, he must always have things done his way, the so called proper way. Father must leave behind his ways? At his age? No! No, you’re selfish! You’ll go and I’ll have nothing. The restaurant our parents built- gone to strangers. You’ll be married to Marea, living in Cairo, and I’ll be here with nothing! All because of you and your so called ethics!”
By the end of her speech she was crying. She took off her apron and threw it as Asra, then marched off through the door to the kitchen. Asra stood holding the apron looking at Kendra but saying nothing.
All Kendra could hear, ringing in her ears was “You’ll be married to Marea living in Cario…” . She stood up, ignoring Asra. “I’m sorry Devin, I’m no longer hungry. I hope you’ll excuse me.”
She grabbed her jacket, bag and umbrella and pushed past Asra. She walked out into the pelting rain, still carrying her coat and umbrella, not even noticing she was getting soaked.