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Amy Gallow
June 24th, 2010, 08:48 PM
“Her Brother’s Keeper” began as a teaching tool in the regular short courses I conduct at one of our universities for our adult education system. It is always difficult to find a book everyone in the class has read, so I solved the matter by screening a single scene from a forgettable movie involving Ashley Judd and Hugh Jackman and showing how you can build a story from this very ordinary moment. This established a story for the whole class and I wrote some thirty thousand words of it over the years to illustrate various points of story-telling, such as the beginning, the ending and the use of a mentor/companion to introduce concepts beyond the main character’s experience. About a year ago, one of my groups ganged up on me and extracted a promise that I would write the whole story and the end result was very different to the simple linear story of the teaching tool. The reaction of the group to the final version has been universally good, so perhaps it was worth the time…
Heather stood in front of the mirror examining what she’d achieved. She turned her head to check Abigail’s work with her hair. It was shorter than Richard liked, but would have to do. She’d bought the emerald green dress last week with this night in mind. Her shoes, bought the same day, matched it perfectly, as did the earrings and necklace. Even her lingerie was new, not the most expensive, but delicate enough to make her feel special.
“Are you ready?” Richard had grown tired of waiting and come to see what was keeping her.
A moment’s pause to check the perfection of her makeup and she hurried to the door, opened it and stood before him.
His response was perfect. A sharp intake of breath, eyes wide in wonder and a smile to warm her soul. “You are very beautiful,” he said. “I’ll be the proudest brother in the world tonight.”
Heather wasn’t sure why she thought his reference to their relationship unnecessary.
Abigail enthused over their appearance. Richard’s lightweight suit was Italian cut and fitted him perfectly, his tie a neutral color that complimented her dress more subtly than openly. “You look made for each other,” she said. “I’m very proud of you both.”
Richard was quiet on the drive into the city and Heather remembered belatedly he probably hadn’t slept much on the ten-hour flight from <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /><st1:City w:st="on">Kuala Lumpur</st1:City>. “Are you tired?” she asked, turning in the passenger seat to study his profile.
“Not noticeably,” a smile accompanied his quick glance. “There were spare seats and they shifted us round to make sure we had plenty of space.”
He’d shaved, because there was a fleck of foam caught behind his left ear lobe. She reached out and wiped it away, drawing another smile and breathing in the traces of deodorant, after-shave and the cologne he favored. Underlying them was the faintest hint of the personal odor she always thought of as his alone—a malty sweetness associated with the wholesomeness she’d never found in anyone else.
The sensation of her nipples budding caught her off-guard and she looked down to see the material of her dress tented noticeably, the delicate lace of her bra imposing no restriction. It embarrassed her and she deliberately turned her thoughts elsewhere, looking determinedly out the passenger-side window until the sensation passed.
The invitation included a car valet service so Richard drove directly to the front entrance. The concierge himself assisted Heather, holding the door open and offering his arm while gesturing for a uniformed attendant to take the keys from Richard. A glance at the invitation in Richard’s hand elicited instructions how to reach the Drawing Room on the second level and he palmed the folded banknote with practiced ease. Richard’s guileless expression gave no hint of the transaction and he appeared genuinely surprised when the man insisted on escorting them to the lifts personally.
“Thank you,” he said. “You are very kind.”
“My pleasure, Sir.” The Concierge bowed Heather into the lift and stood smiling until the closing door hid him from sight.
“You’ve done this before.” She was smiling too.
“A lot of my business stems from the impression the client receives from others. It’s a good investment to have hotel staff on your side.”
“You’d have a logical reason for which side of the bed you rose from.” She was laughing, Tony gone from her mind. She hugged Richard’s arm, thanking him for the miracle as the lift door opened at the first level and Gloria stepped in.
“He’s new,” she said. The senior partner’s PA, Gloria was impossibly glamorous, intelligent, efficient and armed with a razor tongue.
“Richard, this is Gloria James.” Heather chose the order of introduction deliberately. She didn’t like Gloria. Office rumor had her as the bearer of tales.
Richard seemed oblivious of the atmosphere, exerting himself to charm their companion as the lift continued its journey. By the time they exited, Gloria had claimed his other arm and was talking animatedly as they walked down the passage to the Drawing Room venue. Once inside, she stayed with them for an unconscionable time and left only when Charles Stuart, the senior partner, beckoned.
“You’ve made a conquest there.” Heather didn’t like the way her voice sounded.
“I would think her a very useful ally.” Richard’s response was mild. “She feels her position quite acutely.”
She’d never seen this side of Richard. He’d graduated with honors and followed the bigger money to Malaysia, working as an expatriate for Petronas, the state-run oil company, for five years before forming his own company in association with a Malay national at its head to get around the affirmative economic policy for ethnic Malays. He was successful, for Abigail’s home was fully owned and Heather’s studies had incurred no debts, government or otherwise, yet Heather had never really considered how he’d achieved it until now.
She was learning.
He had the knack of listening. Seldom asking a direct question, he could prompt his companion of the moment into speaking of their interests and opinions, inserting just enough of his own to make them feel comfortable in continuing. People joined their group easily and left reluctantly, few analyzing why.
Charles Stuart did. Gloria brought him over and he stayed until the clients arrived and his duties took him away. He claimed Heather’s attention for a private word before he left. “That’s a very interesting man, Heather,” he said. “You could learn a great deal from him.”
She felt a little guilty skirting around the fact of their relationship, speaking only of his recent return from <st1:country-region w:st="on">Malaysia</st1:country-region>. If Richard noticed, he did nothing to compromise her position, which made her feel worse. Not enough to change, but more conscious of the anomaly. She was proud of her brother, but didn’t want to explain why he was there rather than Tony—or so she justified her lack of candor.
“Richard.” It was Gloria again. “Some of our clients would like to meet you. They would value you opinions on <st1:country-region w:st="on">Malaysia</ST1:p</st1:country-region>, post Doctor Mahathir.”
Heather found herself drawn into the upper echelons of the firm on Richard’s coat tails, welcomed into the group of senior partners and clients because she came with him. Not required to contribute much in the beginning, she could watch him unimpeded as he guided the conversation through the complexities of the Malaysian political system, the unusual affirmative policy affecting ethnic Malays considered Bumiputera and its effect on doing business there, somehow drawing contributions from everyone. When he deliberately involved her, saying “Heather would know much more about this than me,” she found her opinions listened to with interest.

June 25th, 2010, 12:24 PM
Her Brothers Keeper sounds very good...

Amy Gallow
June 25th, 2010, 08:47 PM
I enjoyed writing it, but had some trouble devising a background that would give the hero, Richard, the skills and attitudes I needed. I experimented with various options and remained unsatisfied until the memory of a transit lounge conversation came to my mind. Out plane was diverted due to bird strike and we had to wait for several hours in a near deserted airport in Cambodia. It was the very early hours of the morning and we were all tired and my particular traveling companion had sampled more of the aircraft liquor than was entirely wise and wanted to discuss his Vietnam war experiences at the top of his voice. He'd been involved in covert operations reaching into Cambodia and I had to keep distracting him back to his training for the role and learnt more than I wanted to know at the time.
Still, it provided a perfect background for Richard.

June 27th, 2010, 12:41 AM
Other than the drunk part it would be interesting to hear the stories, I love listening to my grandfather's stories. He served in navy during WW II in the south Pacific... :)

Amy Gallow
June 27th, 2010, 03:41 AM
At the time, I was more interested about our temporary host's statute of limitation on the 20 year-old illegal acts he was boasting about.