Read Rich People Problems Online

Authors: Kevin Kwan

Rich People Problems (6 page)

Finding the topic of unattractive children to be appallingly distasteful, Luka tried to steer the conversation in another direction. “I think Monsieur Lucas and Mademoiselle Colette will have beautiful children. She's so pretty, and he's very handsome, you know.”

“Well, good for them,” Kitty said in a merry tone. “Now, all this baby talk has made me want to look at some daytime outfits for Gisele. Can we do that? And do you have anything fun and unisex I can dress Harvard in?”


Oui,
madame.
” As he headed back into the main showroom, Georgina took him by the arm. “Tell me, Luka, do you live on the second floor?”

Without missing a beat, Luka replied with a grin, “Yes, mademoiselle, I think you've seen me before.”

Wandi and Tatiana stood by the doorway watching as Kitty lingered for a moment longer by the dress. As she turned to leave, she grabbed the back of the precious Klimt-inspired skirt and gave it one quick, forceful tug—ripping it clear down the middle.

*1
See Wong Kar-wai's
The Grandmaster
. I much prefer Wong's
In the Mood for Love
to this film, but the set design was amazing.

*2
Or third or fourth or seventh richest, depending on which financial tabloid you trust.

*3
Kitty has only lived part-time in Singapore for two years, but like so many other immigrants from Mainland China has taken to referring to it as home.

*4
Mandarin for “second-generation rich,” this label is akin to “trust-fund kids” and carries all the scorn and envy it implies.

*5
Actually, Keanu Reeves was born in Beirut, Lebanon, to an English mother and a father of Hawaiian, Chinese, and English ancestry.

CHAPTER SIX

11 NASSIM ROAD, SINGAPORE

Winding through the heart of Bukit Timah, Nassim Road was one of the few long, picturesque streets in Singapore that still retained a feel of graceful, Old World exclusivity with its parade of historic mansions converted into embassies, tropical modern bungalows on crisp manicured lawns, and stately Black and White houses left over from the colonial era. Number 11 Nassim Road was a particularly fine example of Black and White architecture, as it had only changed hands once since it had been built a century ago. Originally commissioned by Boustead and Company, it had been purchased by S. K. Leong in 1918, and every original detail had been preserved and lovingly maintained since then by three generations of Leongs.

As Astrid pulled up the long driveway lined with Italian cypresses to the home where she had grown up, the front door opened, and Liat, the majordomo, gestured for Astrid to come down. Astrid frowned—she was picking up her mother to visit Ah Ma at the hospital, and they were already running late for the morning briefing with Professor Oon. Astrid left her dark blue Acura in the arched porte cochere and entered the foyer, bumping into her sister-in-law Cathleen, who was seated on a rosewood stool lacing up her walking shoes.

“Morning, Cat,” Astrid greeted.

Cathleen looked up at her with a strange expression. “They're still eating. Sure you want to show your face today?”

Astrid figured that Cathleen was referring to the Isabel Wu fiasco the other evening. With all the attention focused on her grandmother, the incident had gone unmentioned by her parents, but she knew that wouldn't last long.

“It's now or never, I guess,” Astrid said, bracing herself as she walked toward the breakfast room.

“Godspeed,” Cathleen said, grabbing her battered Jones the Grocer shopping bag
*
as she went out the door.

Breakfast at Nassim Road was always served in the glassed-in summer porch adjacent to the drawing room. Boasting a circular marble-top teak table from the Dutch Indies, wicker chairs cushioned in whimsical monkey-print chintz, and a profusion of hanging ferns from the Tyersall Park greenhouses, it was one of the loveliest rooms in the house. As Astrid entered, her elder brother, Henry, gave her a dirty look and got up from the table to leave. He muttered something under his breath as he passed by, but Astrid couldn't make out what he said. She glanced first at her father, who was sitting in his usual wicker chair methodically slathering a piece of toast with gooey Marmite, and then at her mother, who sat in front of an untouched bowl of porridge, clenching a wadded-up ball of tissue in her hand, her face red and puffy from crying.

“My God, did something happen to Ah Ma?” Astrid asked in alarm.

“Hnh! I think the question should be: ‘Will you finish your grandmother off with another heart attack when she reads
this
?' ” Felicity chucked a sheet of paper onto the marble-top table in disgust.

Astrid grabbed the sheet and stared at it in dismay. It was a printout from Asia's most popular online gossip column:

DAILY DISH FROM LEONARDO LAI

THE BEWITCHING HEIRESS AT THE CENTER OF THE ISABEL WU SOUPGATE INCIDENT!

For those of you who have been following the scalding
scandale
involving tech billionaire
Charlie Wu's
wife
Isabel
that almost caused an international incident between Malaysia and Hong Kong, fasten your seat belts, because boy do I have some shockers for you! We all know that Charlie and Isabel announced their separation in 2013, and informers tell me they've been privately negotiating the terms of their divorce ever since. At stake is a share of the Wu family fortune, their heritage mansion on Peak Road, and custodial rights of their two daughters. But a close friend of Isabel tells me, “It's been terribly hard for Isabel. She suffered her recent breakdown because of the emotional stress of the divorce and
that other woman
involved.”

Yep, you heard that right. SHOCKER NUMBER ONE: Daily Dish can now confirm that
that other woman
is none other than
Astrid Leong Teo
, the model-pretty wife of hunkalicious Singaporean Venture Capitalist
Michael Teo
(who I think missed his calling as a Calvin Klein underwear model) and mother to a seven-year-old boy,
Cassius
. Yes, Charlie and Astrid have been having a torrid, secret affair for the past five years, and in fact, SHOCKER NUMBER TWO: that incredible
Tom Kundig
–designed house currently under construction in Shek O that everyone thought was
Leo Ming's
new private museum is actually going to be Charlie and Astrid's love pad once they can legally shack up! (Astrid and Michael Teo are apparently headed to divorce court too.)

The stunning seductress Astrid may be an unfamiliar name to Hong Kong readers, but she has an extraordinary backstory: According to my trusted Singapore insider, Astrid is the only daughter of
Harry Leong
, who officially is the chairman emeritus of the Institute of ASEAN Affairs. Unofficially, he's one of Singapore's most influential political power brokers who—my sources tell me—also happens to head S. K. Leong Holdings Pte Ltd, the secretive corporate behemoth that is rumored to own the Bank of Borneo, Selangor Mining,
New Malaysia Post
,
and Palmcore Berhad, one of the world's largest commodity traders. And that's not all—Astrid's mother,
Felicity Young
, hails from one of Singapore's most pedigreed families. “The Youngs are in their own stratosphere. Cousins to the T'siens, the Tans, and the Shangs—they are related to practically everybody who's anybody, and Felicity's mother,
Shang Su Yi
, owns Tyersall Park, the largest private estate in Singapore,” my insider reports.

Schooled in London and Paris, Astrid moves in the most rarefied circles and counts among her friends deposed European royals, A-list fashion designers, and celebrity artists. “How can Isabel compete with that? Izzie isn't some filthy-rich heiress—she has an important career as a legal advocate for Hong Kong's poor and downtrodden and is busy raising her two daughters, not jet-setting around the world, sitting in the front rows of fashion shows. No wonder she would suffer a breakdown! Of course Charlie would be swept up by the ultra-glamorous life of Astrid—he was seduced by her once before.”

Which leads us to SHOCKER NUMBER THREE: Back in their college days, Astrid and Charlie
were actually engaged
, but the union was broken off by her family because the Hong Kong Wus weren't deemed worthy enough by those snooty Singaporeans! It seems like the star-crossed lovers have never gotten over each other, which has led to this big ugly mess. Stay tuned to Daily Dish for more shockers to come!

Astrid sank into a chair, trying to collect herself after reading the incendiary column. She was so upset, she didn't even know where to begin. “Who sent you this?”

“What does it matter who sent it? The news is everywhere now. Everyone knows your marriage is on the rocks, and that you are at fault!” Felicity moaned.

“Come on, Mum. You know it wasn't my fault. You know how careful and discreet I've been for the past couple of years as we've been working out the divorce. This article is nothing but a stream of inaccuracies and lies. When have I ever sat in the front row of any fashion shows? I'm always backstage helping out. Look, they even got Cassian's name wrong.”

Her mother looked at her accusingly. “So you're denying everything? You're not having an affair with Charlie Wu?”

Astrid let out a deep sigh. “Not for the past five years! Charlie and I have only been together for about a year and a half—and this was
after
I left Michael and Charlie filed for divorce from Isabel.”

“Then it is true!
That's
why Isabel Wu would go berserk and try to attack you! You broke up her marriage…you broke up her family!” Felicity muttered through her tears.

“Mum, Isabel Wu's marriage to Charlie has never been a happy one. I had nothing to do with their breakup. If you want to know the truth,
she
has been cheating on him for many years, with numerous men—”

“That still doesn't give you any excuse to be Anna Karenina! You're still being unfaithful! You're both still married to other people under the eyes of the law and God! Goodness me, what will Bishop See think when he gets wind of all this?”

Astrid rolled her eyes. She didn't give a rat's ass what Bishop See thought.

“So now what? You're going to move in to that ‘love pad' with Charlie after the divorce and live in sin?”

“That's the other lie…it's
not
our love pad. Charlie started building that house long before we ever got together. He bought the land after his first separation from Isabel—four years ago!” Astrid took in a deep breath and steeled herself—it was the time to come completely clean with her parents. “But I suppose you should know that Charlie and I
do
intend to get married when our divorces are finalized, and I will likely be spending more of my time in Hong Kong.”

Felicity looked at her husband in horror, waiting for him to react. “You
suppose
we should know? You're planning to get married this year and you only tell us now? I cannot believe you would actually marry Charlie after all this. Disgraceful…so disgraceful!”

“I really don't see what's so disgraceful about this, Mum. Charlie and I are in love. We've both acted entirely honorably throughout a very difficult time. It's just unfortunate that Isabel had another breakdown, that's all.”

“That breakdown! Those obscene things she said about you in front of the whole world—I have never felt so humiliated in all my life! And those poor ladies! How can I ever look the Sultan of Perawak in the face again? We almost killed his poor mother.”

“Auntie Zarah is just fine, Mum. You saw it yourself—her hijab was so encrusted with diamonds, hardly anything got through. She was more in shock because the
laksa
wasn't halal.”

“That Charlie Wu—this is all his fault that our names are being dragged through the mud!” Felicity continued to rage.

Astrid sighed in frustration. “I know you've never liked Charlie or his family—that's why you broke us up in the first place all those years ago. But things have changed now, Mum. No one cares about their lineage and all that nonsense anymore. The Wus are no longer considered nouveau riche. They are an establishment family now.”

“Establishment my foot! Wu Hao Lian's father used to sell soy sauce on a bicycle!”

“That may be how they started out, but they've come a long way since Charlie's grandfather's time. Charlie has created one of the most admired companies in the world. Look at your new phone—the screen, the casing, I'm sure at least half the components are manufactured by Wu Microsystems!”

“I
detest
this phone! I never know how to use this stupid thing! I swipe and swipe and instead of making a phone call, some silly video of an Indian granny singing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star' keeps appearing on my screen. I have to ask Lakshmi or Padme to make every damn call for me!” Felicity was seething.

“Well, I'm sorry you still don't know how to use your smartphone. But that has nothing to do with how the Wus are perceived these days. Look how much money Mrs. Wu gives to that church on Barker Road—”

“Those Wus are frightfully common, and they prove it all the more by giving an obscene amount of money to that church. They think their dirty money can buy their way into heaven!”

Astrid just shook her head. “Stop being unreasonable, Mum—”

“Your mother is
not
being unreasonable,” Astrid's father cut in, speaking up for the first time that morning. “Look at what's happened. Until today our family was able to enjoy the privileges of total privacy and anonymity. The Leong name has never appeared in the gossip columns, much less something as silly as this…this…I don't even know what to call this idiotic Internet thing.”

“And you're blaming Charlie for this?” Astrid shook her head, not seeing her father's logic.

“No. I am blaming
you
. Your actions, however unconsciously, have led to this. If you had never gotten entangled with these people, our lives would not now be under the spotlight.”

“Come on, Dad, you're making a mountain out of a mole—”


SHUT YOUR MOUTH AND DON'T INTERRUPT ME WHEN I'M TALKING!
” Harry banged his fist on the table, startling both Astrid and her mother. Neither of them could recall the last time he had raised his voice like this.

“You have completely exposed yourself! And you have exposed and compromised your family! For more than two hundred years our business interests have never been scrutinized, but now they will be. Don't you see how this affects you? I don't think you truly realize how much damage has been done, not just to us but to your mother's side. The Shangs were mentioned. Tyersall Park was mentioned. And all at the most inopportune time possible, when your grandmother is so ill. Tell me how you plan to face Uncle Alfred when he arrives this afternoon?”

Astrid was momentarily dumbfounded. She hadn't thought about the repercussions of this gossip site, but she finally said, “I will face Uncle Alfred myself if that's what you want me to do. I'll explain everything that happened.”

“Well, you can thank your lucky stars you won't have to. This column and this whole ridiculous website have been taken down.”

Astrid looked at her father, momentarily surprised. “This article is really gone?”

“Erased from the face of this planet! Although enough damage has been done—there's no telling how many people must have read this rubbish before it was taken down.”

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