“What!!!” cried Gina in shock with a barely stifled shout in the bustling restaurant in Hong Kong Island.
“I’m sorry I had to tell you this now… but I thought you had a right to know.” muttered a mortified Kathy.
“I’m shell-shocked! Five years of sharing space with that woman and I didn’t have an inkling! How did she manage to stay under the radar? She used to work for you, didn’t she? It’s hard to believe you didn’t know anything about this…being a local. I don’t think I can stand to be in the same room with her after what you’ve told me.”
“I swear I had no idea. Calm down, please.” begged her friend Kathy feebly as she nervously toyed with her napkin, shredding it to bits.
“Don’t tell me to calm down. The audacity of that woman to spread rumors about me when she was living a lie for decades! Am I so gullible?”
“It’s not your fault. And this doesn’t affect you.” simpered an embarrassed Kathy as other customers in the busy eatery gave them more attention than usual.
Gina almost rose from her seat when she hissed under her breath, her tone rising a tad. “Excuse me! But how doesn’t it? I’m a foreigner too, if you haven’t noticed. I came to this city for a better life and made an honest living. I have a respectable job that could be at stake if they think I’m an accomplice.”
“I’m extremely sorry. I know how you feel. I felt scared and nervous too. But it’s my responsibility to help her at this dire hour Gina. I’m grateful for your understanding”, responded Kathy as she reached for the lemon tea the waiter had placed on their table.
“You’re damn right I understand. What infuriates me is her attitude all along…the pretence and self-righteousness. To think she came here as a helper and stayed back illegally without ever being caught. Talk about luck of the devil!”. Kathy took another long sip of her drink while Gina vented.
After a pause Gina probed, “Why tell all now?”
Kathy sighed as she began, “That’s somewhat difficult to answer. Who knows? Maybe because she’s nearing her 50s and knows she cannot secure her future here since domestic helpers can’t apply for permanent residency. Maybe it was your influence that eroded her criminal intent. What with your relationship with your family, most importantly with your son in spite of the separation. She did mention her partner wants her to take care of their children or call it quits.”
“Hard to believe it took her 20 years to develop any maternal feelings for a kid she hasn’t seen since she abandoned him as a toddler. Maybe your subtle religious influence did play a part in her decision. Who knows? I must give the street smart woman credit for fooling the system so long and having managed to make money while she was at it.” Gina paused for breath. “I should study that Face Recognition course by Paul Elman…” she mused.
She pushed her plate aside and without missing a beat shot another question at Kathy whose brows wrinkled in a worried frown. “What will happen now that she has surrendered of her own will? Will they deport, penalize, jail her or all three?”
“It will probably be imprisonment and deportation.” Kathy replied.
Gina agreed heartily. “You bet! What with 20 years of being an illegal immigrant and earning more than double than her peers who work their butts off to make their living. She never had to contribute much to her family, like other house helpers who’re barely left with any money after providing for their parents, children, husbands and relatives. I’m positive she does have substantial cash stashed somewhere,” rambled Gina.
“I often wonder why I am not so lucky. Two failed relationships that sapped me of almost everything and I’m still single. But she has lied through her teeth and her partner tolerates her indiscretions. Did you know she had access to all his social media and bank accounts? She kicked up such a fuss when he had changed the password once. To this date I don’t have a clue how much my X earned for a living!” whined Gina with contempt written all over her face.
“Well, life’s a bitch!” commented Kathy and they both broke into smiles.
“However, that explains her bad attitude. Can you imagine how I felt when I found out I was paying more for rent while she acted like my guardian. I’ve even loaned her money on occasions without any interest. What I don’t understand is, why did you pay any attention to her when she complained about my lifestyle?”
“How many times do you want me to apologize, Gina? I didn’t know you well but I was better acquainted with her since I’d employed her before.” implored Kathy.
“You don’t say!” Gina remarked sarcastically. But her demeanor changed as she looked deeply into Kathy’s eyes. “I may have a few secrets of my own but I can assure you no skeletons are gonna tumble out of my closet.” Kathy leaned back with a sigh.
Gina continued, “I’ve figured however daft or naive I feel about these recurring incidents in my life, it’s not my fault. I give people the benefit of the doubt. I’m willing to accept them at face value and that’s the reason it always appalls me when the truth bites.”
“Do you really wanna know Gina?” questioned Kathy. “After all you’ve been through. It’s easier that way isn’t it? Not knowing. It protects you.” She held out her hand to Gina as she wiped at a tear, “It hurts. Each time. It’s not the first time and something tells me it won’t be the last but the lies still hurt. Looking back, It wasn’t a lie for her, it was her life. Anna stopped thinking and feeling guilty about it ages ago. The lie became her.” uttered Gina.
Kathy didn’t have the heart to interrupt as she listened patiently.
“I may not empathize with what she did but I do understand why, at least a tad. It was a good life in many ways compared to a life of poverty and hardship back home. It didn’t matter that she didn’t have many friends or night-outs or couldn’t travel to the Philippines. The money kept her motivated. She continued to enjoy being a mother without the responsibility.” Gina paused when the waiter brought the bill.
“That certainly explains why she was so reluctant to leave. I had put it all down to being independent and living a high standard for 20 years. Whatever it is, I can’t forgive her for keeping me hanging for a year with the promise to leave HK for good.”
“Maybe you’re reading too much into it, Gina”, Kathy remarked as she settled the bill.
“Beg your pardon Kathy. It was I who lived with an illegal immigrant without a freaking clue. Not you!”
GAYATRI DAS is an Assamese in Hong Kong (SAR) who travels extensively, blogs about her sojourns in FERNWEH https://sojourntraveldiaries.wordpress.com and Vlogs her experiences on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/c/DasGayatri when she gets time off from her primary passion; teaching English.
She’s combined her love for both in an Ebook titled ‘Travel. Love. Eat & Repeat’ available on Kindle.