Monik despised procrastination, that sneaky little pilferer of time and opportunity. Besides, she liked a project. Her love of projects had caused her to walk down the aisle on two occasions because she couldn’t resist planning a new phase of life after the sad demise of a husband. It was time, however, to look to the needs of others.
Natalia needed a man.
At the novena the following week, there was the usual shuffling monotony about everything. Then a voice from the recesses of the church: “For all those who are lonely. We petition Thee, O Heavenly Father, to look upon them with pity. Saint Anthony Wonder Worker, pray for us.”
Could it really be? After all these years? It did sound a bit like him.
It was. Mathias Faleiro had returned.
After the service, he came up to her. “My dear Monik…”
“Mathias, how absolutely wonderful! When did you get back? Is it for good?”
“A week ago. Ah yes, we’ve returned at last to glad Goa.”
Glad? A man who smelt of camphor and old coats probably turned every celebration into a happy requiem. Still, here was a man. But just a coconut-plucking moment. “We’ve returned? You mean you got marri…?”
“Oh, no, no.” Mathias looked at his toes. “I mean Barkis, my trusty canine friend, and I. I retired from teaching five years ago. Then we lost Galileo, and it was a little too painful to stay on. Besides, the ancestral place here was falling to pieces.”
“I promise to drop by sometime, Monik, as soon as I can get my place fit for habitation.”
Poor, ignorant man. He had no idea that he was going to be dragged to Villa Rosa. On-a-leash.
“Mathias, do. Please.”
In the recesses of the Villa Rosa kitchens, Monik, with her hand in a glove made of an old sock, stirred an amber mess of guava cheese in a chatty pot. “I found out it’s Mathias’ birthday next week. We could have high tea at my place. It will really be the two of you. I don’t suppose there’s a single romantic bone in that body of his, but perhaps I’m mistaken. He did talk about loneliness…”
Natalia, squirrel-eyed, looked at Monik. “Won’t it seem pointed to invite him over with just two ladies for company?”
“We could always throw in Tony Braganza. Make it potluck and tell Tony to bring a dozen pigs in blankets as his contribution.” “What do I bring, Monik?”
“Your own sweet self. And a dozen red roses. I’ll bake the cake. Just a mo, I need to make two phone calls.”
Monik made for the drawing room in hip-rolling haste, while Natalia wandered about the kitchens like a soul in purgatory. What would Stanley feel? She hadn’t let too much grass grow over his grave before she had tacitly agreed to let Monik steer her down the aisle again…
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