He Found Grèce

It was the end of March. Three more months left and then, he would be returning to Hong Kong. He broke the surface of the water and ran his fingers through his hair, closing his eyes and sighing heavily. Why did he have to return to his life there when he longed to remain here? What if he told his father that he wanted to extend his stay here or asked to be transferred here indefinitely? Even as he thought about it, he knew that his father wouldn’t agree to either option. It was at that moment when he wished that he wasn’t Tony Cheung.

Anthony (Tony) Cheung was the only son and heir of Leslie Cheung, a wealthy businessman from Hong Kong. Tony was sent to the best schools in Europe and was being groomed to take over the family business when his father retired in a couple of years. In the meantime, Tony was engaged to Vivian Chiu, the beautiful daughter of one of his father’s closest associates. Vivian was a virgin and wanted to remain so until Tony and she were married. Tony didn’t object. There were other women who were more than happy to satisfy his needs.

It was January now. The wedding was in September. He wasn’t dreading it but he wasn’t looking forward to it either. He didn’t love Vivian although she was in love with him. They met a year and a half ago at a mutual friend’s dinner party. Vivian must have mentioned their meeting to her parents because the next thing he knew, his father was pushing him to date her because, “She’s a lovely young woman and she’s the daughter of Arthur Chiu, one of my closest associates.”

To please his father, Tony agreed to date Vivian and when his father urged him to propose to her because, “You’re twenty-eight. It’s time for you to settle down and with whom better than Vivian? She would make an excellent wife for you.”

It was no point telling his father that he didn’t love Vivian. He wasn’t even convinced that his father loved his mother and sometimes wondered if he was cheating on her. He hoped not. One thing he couldn’t stand and that was a cheating husband or wife. Aren’t you cheating on Vivian right now? a traitorous voice asked. We aren’t married and the only reason why I’m sleeping with other women is I’m a man and I’ve needs. Once Vivian and I are married, I wouldn’t need to look elsewhere for my needs to be satisfied.

He tried not to think of what marriage would be like to a woman he didn’t love and tried to convince himself that maybe, in time, he would grow to love her. She was a very nice person and they got along well. They had a lot in common which helped but, still, he jumped at the opportunity to spend six months working out of his father’s company in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He had always wanted to visit Africa and this was his chance. His mother wasn’t pleased. “You’ll be gone for half the year.”

“Don’t worry, Mother. The six months will go by very quickly.”

“I’ll miss you,” Vivian told him.

“You’ll be too busy planning the wedding.”

“I’ll visit you in April or May.”

The night before his flight, they had dinner together. His father arranged for the company car to take him to the airport. Soon, he was on his way to Kinshasa. When he got to the apartment where his father had arranged for him to stay, he called to let him know that he had arrived safely. He took a long, hot shower before he called Vivian. Then, he decided to get familiar with his surroundings, beginning with the apartment.

It was a fully furnished with a  large generous living area. It had an upgraded Italian kitchen and an ensuite bathroom. At his disposal were a fully furnished lounge with modern and high-quality Malaysian furniture, a fully equipped kitchen, an electronic safe, a 55″ Smart Television. A gym was located on the top floor of the building. He was pleased to see that it had a wide range of fitness and cardio equipment including a yoga room overlooking the Congo river. The building was a short distance from Ndjili International Airport.

He spent the day and the weekend getting acquainted with the area and the city. He explored the area on foot on Friday and went on a sightseeing tour on Saturday. On Sunday, he went for a swim in the river. It was quiet, peaceful and the water felt really good on his skin. He felt as if he was the only living human being on the planet at that moment. He wished he could stay there for hours but the sun was going to set soon. He swam for a while longer and then, he came out of the water.

After making sure that no one was around, he removed his swimming trunks, quickly dried his skin and got dressed. He returned to the apartment, showered and then made something for himself to eat from the well stocked fridge and cupboards. Living on his own, he learned how to cook and had gotten quite good at it. Vivian still lived with her parents and they had a private chef who prepared all of their meals. She had already told Tony that when they got married, they were going to have a private chef and housekeeping staff. She didn’t intend to cook or do any housecleaning. “And when we have children, I think we should hire a nanny. I want to be able to work or volunteer.”

Tony didn’t like the idea of having a private chef or a nanny but he let the matter rest for the time being. Vivian was so different from his mother. Even though his father had suggested that they hire another live-in cook after Yuki who had been with the family for years left for health reasons, his mother had insisted that she wanted to prepare all the meals herself. “None of the women in my family ever had a cook. They cooked all the meals and I want to do the same now.”

Tony wondered what she would say if she knew that Vivian didn’t know how to cook and had no intention of learning. He fixed himself one of his favorite dishes–Instant Pot Bolognese (Hong Kong Style) went outside on the terrace and ate it while he watched the sun set. He spent a quiet evening after he got his clothes ready for the week and turned in around 11.

The following day, he went to the office and the director of the company, George Lai introduced him to everyone before he got Tony settled in his office. The staff was very friendly and they made him feel very welcome, although he couldn’t help wondering if it was because of who his father was. He told George that he didn’t want any special treatment and the older man assured him that he didn’t have to worry about that. “You’ll be treated like everyone else,” he said.

Tony found that he enjoyed working there more than he did at the head office in Hong Kong. And he liked the fact that for the first time in his life, he was working with Africans. He had lunch with them and after some evenings after work, he went with them for dinner or to a bar. On the weekends, he went with them to clubs. Nightlife in Kinshasa was rocking and he loved it. He met a lot of interesting women but he didn’t have more than drinks with them. He never took any of them home to his apartment even though he was tempted.

It was at one of these nightclubs where he first met her. She was there with a group of friends. Her hair was braids and she was wearing a knee length tight fitting black dress with high strappy sandals. His friends suggested that they go over and ask the girls to dance. “The one in the black dress is mine,” he informed them.

“Sure, but don’t forget that you’re engaged,” Assani told him.

Tony nodded and they all got up from the table. They headed over to the four girls. He walked up to the one in the braids. “Hi,” he said. “May I have this dance?”

She looked him over, smiled and nodded. “Yes.”

They danced several dances and then, they left the dancefloor. “How old are you?” Tony asked her.


“May I buy you a drink?”

She nodded. They went to the bar. After he asked her what she wanted to drink, he ordered two drinks and then, they went back to the table. His friends weren’t there. They were either still on the dancefloor or at the bar.

“What’s your name?” He asked the girl when they sat down.

“Grèce. What’s yours?”

“Tony. Do you have a boyfriend, Grèce?”

She shook her head. “No.”

“Good. I don’t have a girlfriend but I’m engaged.”

Her face fell. “You’re engaged?”

“Yes. The wedding is in September.”

“Oh. Is your fiancée here in Kinshasa?”

“No. She’s in Hong Kong.” He didn’t mention that Vivian had mentioned that she would visit in April or May.

“Is that where you’re from?”

“Yes. I’m here in Kinshasa on business until the end of June.”

“And then, you return to Hong Kong?”

“Yes. Are you in university, Grèce?”

“Yes. The University of Kinshasa.”

“What are you studying?”

“Dentistry. What kind of company do you work for?”

“Dentistry. That’s great. I work for a mining company.”

They talked for the rest of the night and then, it was time for her and her friends to leave. “Thanks for the drink,” she said to Tony as she stood up.

Tony rose to his feet too. “You’re welcome. I’d like to see you again, Grèce. Here’s my card. My private number is on the back.”

She took the card although she hesitated at first.

“If you don’t call, I’ll understand.”

“Goodnight, Tony.”

“Goodnight, Grèce.” He watched her as she walked away, hoping that she would call him. Perhaps, he shouldn’t have told her that he was engaged.

Several weeks went by and then, she called him. “I wasn’t going to call,” she admitted. “because you’re engaged to be married.”

“Why did you call then?”

“I wanted to see you again.”

“Have dinner with me tonight,” he said urgently.

“All right.”

He told her where and when and asked for her address. She lived with her aunt. Her father died from a work related accident and her mother died from ischemic heart disease. She was eight when she was placed in her aunt’s care. They talked for a long time and then, she said she had to go and finish her chores. He hung up. He couldn’t wait to see her. Ever since they met at the nightclub, he hadn’t been able to stop thinking about her or aching to be with her again.

At exactly seven, he was at the apartment in Gombe. She answered the door with a big smile and a very warm greeting. His gaze traveled eagerly over her, thinking how amazing she looked in the red dress with the spaghetti straps. After they exchanged greetings, she took him into the living-room to introduce him to her aunt. Her aunt was a tall, buxom woman, with a wide, heart-shaped face framed by chin length braids. She had big, inquisitive eyes which peered at him from behind large spectacles. She looked to be in her late forties. “Hello,” she said in French.

“Hello,” he replied in French and shook her outstretched hand.

She said something to Grèce in Lingala. Grèce smiled and replied before she hugged her. “Let’s go,” she said to Tony.

Tony waved goodbye to her aunt and followed Grèce out of the living-room. They left the apartment and walked down the hall. “You look amazing,” he told her.

“Thank you,” she replied. “And you look very handsome.”

“Thank you.”

“My aunt said you look like the Hong Kong movie star, Tony Leung Ka-fai.”

Tony smiled. “I’m flattered. He’s one of my mother’s favorite actors and a four-time winner of the Hong Kong Film Award for Best Actor.”

At the restaurant, he learned that her aunt was a Finance & Administration Officer at a manufacturing company. She was a widower. Her husband died ten years ago from a respiratory infection. They didn’t have any children. He told her about his parents and his years at Cambridge. She didn’t ask about Vivian and he was relieved.

After dinner, they went to a bar and lounge where they enjoyed alcohol free cocktails and live music before he took her home. It was around 11:30 when they were standing outside of the apartment. After she had unlocked the door, she turned and faced him. “Thanks for dinner,” she said quietly.

“You’re welcome, Grèce.” His expression was tense as their eyes met.

“Goodnight, Tony.”

Instead of saying goodnight, he caught her by the waist and pulled her roughly against him, making her gasp. She stared transfixed as his face got closer and she closed her eyes, pressing against him and wrapping her arms around his waist when she felt his hungry mouth on hers. For several minutes they exchanged passionate kisses and then, she jerked herself away. She braced against the door, trembling and trying to catch her breath. Breathing raggedly, he tried to take her back in his arms but she shook her head vigorously. “Grèce…” He was so aroused, he could hardly think straight.

“This was a mistake,” she cried. “You’re engaged.”

He dragged his fingers through his hair. “I shouldn’t have kissed you. I’m sorry. I promise you it won’t happen again.”

“We can’t see each other anymore, Tony.”

“But, I promised that I wouldn’t overstep the boundaries again.”

“Please go now and don’t call me or text me anymore.” She turned away abruptly, pushed open the door and went inside. He heard the latch slide into place. Heartbroken, he moved away from the door and walked slowly to the elevators. That was two weeks ago. He wanted to call her several times but he respected her wishes not to contact her anymore.

The ringing of the phone jolted him back to the present and he jumped up from the sofa, hoping that it was her only to be bitterly disappointed when it turned out to be one of his co-workers inviting him to join him and a few other people for drinks at a bar/lounge where they had live music. He declined and asked for a raincheck.

For the next several days, he agonized over what to do, then, after asking to take a few days off from work, he called the airline and booked a flight to Hong Kong. When he arrived in Hong Kong, he headed straight over to Vivian’s family mansion. She was very surprised to see him. “Why are you back in Hong Kong?” she asked.

“I had to see you.”

“But I was going to come to Kinshasa in May.”

“After what I’m about to say to you, you’ll change your mind about Kinshasa and me.”

They were alone in the mansion. Her parents were on a 14-night Asia Cruise. Vivian and he sat facing each other on the sofa. Half hour later, he was walking out of the front door with her engagement ring in his breast pocket. After he left there, he went to his parents’ home to talk to his father. His mother was surprised but delighted to see him but after he told her why he was there, she became very worried. “Your father is going to be extremely upset,” she told him.

“I know, Mother, but it’s my life and I have to do what’s best for me.”

“And you’re sure about this girl whom you’ve only known for a few months?”

“Yes, I’m sure. I love her and I want to marry her as soon as she graduates from university.”

His mother hugged him. “Your happiness is all that matters,” she said.

“Thanks, Mother.” Tony leaned over and kissed her on the cheek and then, he excused himself. He went to the study where his father was. After the older man recovered from his surprise, he rose from the desk and they hugged.

“Why are you here, Son?” he asked.

Tony took a deep breath and then, he told him everything. When he was finished, there was a long silence but he could tell from his father’s red face that he was furious. After yelling at him in Cantonese, he jumped up from his chair, marched over to the door and wrenched it open. “Get out.”

Tony got up from the chair opposite the desk and walked over to the door where his father stood, holding the doorknob, glaring at him. “I’m sorry, Dad.”

“You’re sorry! I’m the one who’s sorry. I’m sorry that I have a son who has turned out to be a big disappointment and a disgrace for me. I didn’t send you to expensive schools and to Cambridge so that you could throw it all away because of a damned African teenage girl. When you return to Kinshasa, clear out your desk and clear out of the apartment. You’re no longer working at the company. Now, get out of my sight.”

Tony left. He didn’t bother to say goodbye to his mother. He went straight to his apartment. For the remaining days he was in Hong Kong, he went online and searched for jobs in Kinshasa and even Brazzaville. He applied for several of them. When he returned to Kinshasa, went to the office, cleared out his desk, bade farewell to everyone and left. He moved out of the apartment and rented another elsewhere. He heard back from all of the companies he applied to. After going for interviews which all went very well, he decided to accept the Engineering Manager job at a mining company. His first day was the following Monday.

It was Friday night. He was sitting on the sofa. The television was on but he wasn’t really watching it. His mind was on Grèce. He missed her terribly and ached for her. He reached for the phone and called her on her cell.

There wasn’t any answer but he left a message. “Hi Grèce, it’s Tony. I just wanted to call and let you know that I broke off my engagement. I couldn’t go through with the wedding because of you. I want to be in a relationship with you and if you want the same thing, please call me.” He left his number and hung up.

An hour later, Grèce called him. They talked for hours and he invited her over to his place for lunch. When she arrived, he was so happy to see her that he pulled her into his arms and hugged her tightly. She felt so good that he didn’t want to let her go but reluctantly, he did. “Lunch is ready,” he said.

“You cook?”

He nodded. “Yes. I learned to cook when I moved out of my parents’ house.”

They had lunch on the balcony. “You’re a very good cook,” Grèce told him.

“Thanks.” He took the dirty dishes into the kitchen.

istock Photo

When he returned she was standing and looking over the balcony but turned when she heard him. She leaned against the rail. “You have a great view from here,” she said.

“Yes. It’s much better than the view from the other apartment.”

“So, you’re back in Kinshasa for good?”

“Yes. Everything I want is right here.” He walked over to her and stopped inches from her.

She smiled up at him. “There’s nothing to take you back to Hong Kong.”

He shook his head. “No.” He slipped his arms around her waist and pulled her against him.

“Good.” She reached up and held him by the arms.

“Nalingaka yo, Grèce.”

Her smile deepened. “Nalingaka yo mpe, Tony.”

Heart pounding in his chest, Tony slowly lowered his head and kissed her.

Sources: Yummly; Ultimate Wild Safaris; Wikipedia; Quartz; Riverside Suites; BBC; Wikipedia; LinkedIn; CDC

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