“Ethan, is something troubling you?” Annabelle asked. It was one of our stolen afternoons and we were both lying in a posh hotel room, naked.
“I'm sorry, was I bad today?” I asked, rather alarmed. This had never happened before.
“No, you were fine, just a little distracted,” she replied, trying to reassure me by stroking my cheek.
“We can try again if you want,” I said, holding her close to me. I whispered in her ear, “I'll make sure you're completely satisfied.”
“Don't worry about it,” she said, giving me a peck on the cheek. “What kind of project are you working on now?” she asked, making an effort to sound nonchalant.
“Project?” I said. Annabelle knew about my other shenanigans but she always hated hearing about them. Although sometimes curiosity got the better of her. I preferred to keep my projects from knowing about each other. She probably doesn't consider herself a project, since we have been together for so long.
“Annabelle, have you ever had a pet?” I asked, hoping to somehow change the subject.
“A pet? No, it's too much trouble,” she said. “Unless they become a trend in the socialite circle. I see miniature brown poodles becoming more popular lately.”
“But what happens when they go out of trend?” I asked.
“Either I leave them in the backyard where the maid takes care of them or I'll send them to the animal shelter. I can't be seen with something out of fashion, Ethan,” she said, ruffling my hair. “Don't worry, having a younger lover never goes out of style.”
“Thank you, not that I'm worried,” I replied.
“Do you want to get a pet?” she asked. “There is a pet shop in the shopping mall near here.”
“If you don't mind, I'll want to visit it,” I asked, getting out of bed.
“No, I don't mind. I want to take a look at the miniature poodles too. They may match my style.”
And soon we were both linking arms and walking along Orchard Road on a crowded Saturday afternoon. Annabelle had her big Gucci sunglasses on and wore a short black sheath dress. With her killer Prada heels, she was almost a head taller than me. I was just proud having such a beautiful woman by my side.
We entered the pet shop and I was immediately drawn to the baby rabbits. A few of them were in a glass enclosure and varied in colours (white, brown, black and white). Annabelle had went off to look at the puppies and one of the pet shop workers, a girl in her teens came to attend to me.
“Are you looking for a bunny?” she asked.
“Not really. They all look so innocent and fragile” I said. There was one white bunny that looked so cute, chewing on a piece of lettuce. “Do you feed them bread?” I asked, suddenly.
“Bread? No, I don't think bunnies are supposed to eat bread,” she replied. “Would you like to hold one?”
She lifted the cover of the enclosure and carefully picked out the white one. She smiled and passed it to me. I cuddled the fluffy one in my arms. I felt a strange warmness in me as the bunny nestled against my chest.
“Rabbits make very good pets and need a lot of affection. They can be very responsive as well, even though they don't make a sound, you know how they feel by their actions,” said the shop worker
“I see.” The little bunny was now asleep in my arms.
“Have you ever had a pet before?” she asked.
“No I haven't.”
“Pets are also able to sense hurt in humans. Those are the times when your pet will come close to you, hoping to comfort you,” she said, coming closer to me.
“Pets are amazing,” I said, passing the rabbit back to her.
“Ethan darling, let's go,” Annabelle called out to me. She was standing at the entrance looking bored. I guess the poodle didn't match her fashion sense.
'Is that your sister?” asked the worker.
“No, she's my lover,” I replied. I enjoyed seeing the teenage girl gasp in shock.
“Darling, you know I asked the shop owner if he had the poodle available in gold and he seemed extremely annoyed at my request. I don't understand what's so impossible about having a gold poodle when I saw a pink one on the Internet some days ago.”
“But are you serious about getting a pet?” I asked, rather amused.
“It does sound like a hassle, doesn't it? Probably not. Let's look at some real gold then,” she said, shrugging her shoulders. She linked her arms in mine and said, “I have a socialite friend who wants to start a jewellery business. But the thing is, she has yet to find the perfect shop space yet so she has a few collections at her house. It's just nearby at one of the condominiums. I have been wanting to visit it.”
“Sure, if you want to. I do have a question though, is it alright for you to be walking with me in public like this?”
Annabelle laughed at my question. “Well, my husband is not in Singapore now and unless I bump into my mother-in-law, no one else really cares. Anyway we are just shopping, right? But if my friend were to fancy you and wants to see you for personal reasons, you are to say 'no', okay?”
I smiled and nodded. We soon reached the apartment where Annabelle introduced me to her friend, Yumi. Yumi was Japanese but had married a Singaporean businessman and she was now selling jewellery on the side. She was petite, fair and had black shoulder-length hair. She was cute in her own way, and she greeted us with a warm smile.
She had a diverse range of jewellery, all by obscure (at least to me) designers and she had converted one of her bedrooms rooms into a showcase. The jewellery were all displayed in glass cases and featured necklaces and bracelets with big gemstones by Gurhan Orha, who hails from Turkey, and long elegant bead necklaces (by Mizuki) in silver and gold. Annabelle was attracted to rings with giant gems and was asking Yumi to show her those that fit her liking. I wasn't particularly interested in jewellery but a gold rabbit pendant caught my eye. It was inspired by a paper clip and the gold outlined the side profile of a bunny. There was a diamond in the place of its eye. “It's so beautiful,” I marveled.
Yumi appeared by my side and said, “It is by Katie Hillier who was rather obsessed with rabbits. A lot of her collections were inspired by them.”
“Do you want it, Ethan?” asked Annabelle. Her fingers were adorned by gold rings topped with various gemstones.
“No, it's alright,” I said.
“I'll get that too,” Annabelle said, pointing to the rabbit pendant. “And all of these,” she added, wriggling her fingers.
We left Yumi's apartment with plenty of jewellery, mostly Annabelle's but I did not know what to do with the rabbit pendant. Maybe I can pass it to Project 13 as a farewell gift.
“Ethan, can you do something for me? In return for that pendant?” she asked.
“You seemed to be interested in rabbits lately. Could you draw a rabbit themed art piece for my gallery? I know you can draw very well.”
“Alright, I will try,” I said, rather uncertain.
“Wonderful! The bigger the painting, the better!” she replied, kissing me on the lips.
Annabelle was in a good mood when we returned to the hotel room. We made love one more time and then we took a bath together. We ended up sitting in the bath tub, filled with bubble foam, facing each other.
“Are you happy being with me?” she asked.
“Of course I am.”
“I wonder who was that idiot who said money can't buy happiness?” she said as she held a handful of foam in her hands.
“Tell me about your project,” she said, playing with the bath foam.
“She is one of those idiots who doesn't believe in money.”
“Well as long as she gives it to you, who cares what she believes in.”
I went over to her side of the bathtub and held her tightly in my arms, “This is why you are so wonderful Annabelle, we understand each other.”
“Ethan,” she said, softly, “You won't like me if I am poor and penniless, would you?
I released my embrace and held her shoulders. “Is something wrong?” I asked, looking at her.
“I mean, the reason why we are similar is because we chose money over love, right? Isn't that the reason I married my husband and why you con women? We decided that money was more important,” she said. However she was starting to get teary. I have never seen Annabelle cry before.
“Darling, what's wrong? Do you want to talk about it?” I asked.
“It's nothing, I think some of the foam went into my eyes,” she said, frantically wiping her eyes. “I need some rest, I will call you again.” She stepped out of the bath tub, leaving me puzzled and concerned.