Mel was sad, too. She’d hoped to get to know Hiroko better.
“Makso’s parents have invited us over. It is an honour, as his father is very rich and has little time, but he has made a gap in his schedule. I would rather stay here, but I must go.”
“No problem. We’ll do it soon, whenever suits you.”
Mel chatted to Hiroko, trying to make her feel better, and even got her to laugh a couple of times.
They were debating which of the men might have had a little too much to drink, when a bustling diminutive Japanese man hove into view.
It might do Hiroko good, Mel thought, to chat to one of her own countrymen in her own language for a change, and as the gentleman nodded in a friendly manner as he went by, she introduced them.
“Hiroko, this is Mr Taganika, he is from Osaka. Mr Taganika, I’d like you to meet Mrs Hiroko Yurcich.”
“Konnichiwa,” the man said, bowing politely.
There was a sudden uncomfortable silence while he stayed with his head bent.
Hiroko bowed her head, too, but no sound came out of her mouth. The man said something else in Japanese and waited expectantly, but still Hiroko didn’t speak. In fact, it was almost as if the young woman hadn’t understood him.
Mel was mystified. She didn’t know what to say or do, she felt so bad for Hiroko. Was it just nerves which meant that Makso’s wife couldn’t even speak to a stranger?
Post-natal depression could do strange things to women, and in Hiroko’s case it seemed it had given her the most crippling social phobia.
Suddenly, Mel felt awful for having been the instigator of Hiroko’s embarrassment. The poor woman was standing looking for all the world as if she simply wanted to run and hide.
Makso then appeared and put a heavy hand on Hiroko’s shoulder.
“My dear, you look tired.”
She looked up, giving him a weak smile.
“I fear . . .” he turned to Mr Taganika “. . . it is hot in here. Excuse us while I take my wife outside. I think she is feeling faint.”
Mel stepped in to save the situation.
“Perhaps, Mr Taganika, you would like to see some of the Japanese art we have on display?”
She steered the man away from Hiroko. She could have kicked herself for exposing her to such embarrassment.
Nevertheless she did wonder at Hiroko’s extreme reaction. She had never seen that in someone with post-natal depression – the poor woman had been dumbstruck. No wonder she didn’t come out of her shell much if that was how difficult it was for her.
Mel resolved she would find some way of helping Hiroko to overcome her problems.
“You’re looking very thoughtful.”
Mel looked up and there was Ryan.
“People are filtering out into the garden to make the most of the night air. Makso’s got some folk musicians in. They’re really very good. Would you like to join me?”
As she and Ryan listened to the music, people went off into huddles, obviously debating the merits and prices of the pieces they had seen that evening and deciding on which ones they might buy.
She followed Ryan round the swimming pool and to the edge of the garden where a delectable perfume of lavender hung on the air like a scented mist. Ryan inhaled deeply.
“Well, have you enjoyed the party?”
“In the end, yes.” She couldn’t say it, but it was mainly due to him that her evening had been a success instead of an ordeal.
“I wanted to ask you something,” he went on.
“I hope it’s not about the artwork. I’ve used up just about all my limited knowledge.”
He turned and smiled. He looked so relaxed and handsome in his smart suit, leaning against an olive tree, with his carefully cut beard and dreamy eyes.
“I’d like to see you again.”