"I should have listened to you," she says.
The soft sigh is only just audible. She looks out of the restaurant window but her eyes do not seem focussed on anything in particular. The gleam of tears pooling down the corners of her eyes can be clearly seen. I feel like holding my hand out to wipe those tears away but I am not sure how she will react. So I remain still... and silent.
The small boy sitting next to her happily munches down a slice of pizza. He doesn't bother his mother much, just occasionally asking her about this or that ingredient he finds on the topping. Seems like the first time he is tasting pizza and he is liking it.
She turns her head to look at me and continues, "He divorced me almost one year after I gave birth. He said that his first wife gave him an ultimatum. Either me or her. Of course I lose out. The family of the first wife is rich. They are the ones who support his business. If he leaves her, his business will go down."
"And what do I have? Compared to her, I may have youth and beauty... but that counts for nothing now. I am not rich. I cannot compete with the first wife on that. So I try other ways... I wanted to be a good wife, I treated him well, I loved him as much as I could. But in the end, the power of money beats everything."
"Men are only concerned about themselves. About their own comfort and happiness. About short-term gains. They don't care if they make life miserable for others!"
There is now a bit of sting in her voice. I don't want to add fuel to the fire so I continue to remain silent. She turns to look outside again... biting her lip as if trying to stop herself from further outburst.
I look closely at the son, slowly chewing on his food and oblivious to his mother's anger. Very well-behaved young man. He is around 4-years old, slight build towards skinny and with very fair skin. A thick crown of hair with facial features undoubtedly oriental. I have met the boy's father only once before but it is as clear as day that the boy has his father's looks.
"I know what you're thinking," she says as her eyes dart from me to the boy and back. "Every time I go out to the local market with my son, people will always say the boy looks like his father... anak Salim Apek. He has taken everything from me. Even my son cannot have a bit of my look in him!"
I let time pass by a bit before finally responding, "Looks are not everything... but I guess you do not believe me. You place too much importance on looks. Did you not use your looks to catch his attention in the first place?" The next sentence in my mind is, and look where that has taken you. But I leave that part unspoken.
She shoots a spiteful look at me and say, "You are cruel, you know... but very kind." A hint of smile is finally evident, but it disappears almost instantly. She shakes her head and repeats, "I should have listened to you, all those years ago."
"So what do you want to do now?" I ask.
"I am broke," she says. "He has not given us any money for the past two years. After the divorce, he provided the maintenance quite regularly but then he started to slack. Business problems, he said. I had to go back to court to get him resume paying. The judge has already given the order but he gets away with a thousand of excuses. I cannot afford to pay the lawyer any more to fight him."
"You know, the last time he came to see his son was during hari raya last year? The boy was just 3-years old then. Look at him now. I don't think the boy even knows that he has a father."
"I need to find work. But at the same time, I can't afford to pay someone to look after my son."
She looks lovingly at the young man, pats him gently on the head and with an unwavering voice say, "I am going to give him up."