The tulips were delivered to Miss Izzy’s doorstep once a week without
fail, all wrapped in cellophane and tied with a bow. I looked for them
every Tuesday morning when I walked Puppy to the park.
No knew her name. She seemed like an Isadora, so in my head I
addressed her as Izzy for short. I added Miss out of deference for the
liberal dusting of silver on her crown.
Miss Izzy lived by herself in the house at the corner of Clover Court, with
a cranky cat who fumed and hurled itself at the front bay window
whenever Puppy and I passed by. An orgy of weeds wandered all over
the walkway and her grass hadn't been cut for as long as I could
remember. She wore her hair in a knot at the nape of her neck, or in a
wispy braid hanging over her shoulder. In the summer she hid under the brim of a
floppy old hat, squatting on a wooden stool and plucking away at
the sea of dandelions buttering her lawn.
It irked me to keep walking past with never a word of acknowledgement,
so one day I attempted a cheerful ‘Good morning’. Miss Izzy made no
response and I supposed she was fated to end her days alone.
The dog days of summer yielded to fall temperatures. Autumn weather
flung mantles of flame all over the maples guarding the sidewalks of
Clover Court. Puppy pranced in piles of dry leaves, always pausing in front
of Miss Izzy’s bay window to perform his three-legged ballerina act
against her fire hydrant and drive the cat into a foaming frenzy. Miss
Izzy still sat on her stool and tugged. I wondered how she would pass her
mornings when a blanket of white froze her lawn.
I became reluctant to venture out as the cold crept in. Puppy played in
the backyard, and I reconciled myself to picking up and disposing of
bushels of lapdog waste when spring returned. Then came an
unexpectedly mild day when I was inclined to walk again with a delighted
doggy in tow. We approached the battlefront window just as Miss Izzy
emerged from her garage, lugging a recycling bin.
I covered the distance between us at a brisk trot with an offer of
assistance. “Miss Iz … er …ma’am. Let me help you.”
She straightened up with a sigh and nodded, murmuring, “Yes. Thank you.”
I stooped to pick up the plastic bin which overflowed with newspapers,
magazines and bundles of letters secured together with rubber bands. I
caught a glimpse of faded foreign stamps.
“I’ll hold the dog,” Miss Izzy offered. I handed the leash over, and bent
to examine the contents of the box.
“Miss … ma’am, these stamps might be of some value. Are you sure you
want to throw them out?”
“Do you want them?”
“Oh, I do!” I couldn’t believe my luck. “What about the letters? They
should be shredded, you know.”
She shrugged. “Keep them, toss them out. As you wish. I don’t care.”
Miss Izzy held on to Puppy while I dragged the blue box to the kerb. She
gave me a plastic bag for the letters.
“I live across the street at number twenty six,” I said, fishing the
discarded mail out of the box.
“I’m Lou,” she replied.
Miss Izzy stood head and shoulders above me. I had never seen her on
her feet before. We smiled at each other, now officially acquainted.
… xx … xx ….
Miss Izzy’s correspondence was dated between 1964 and 1975. The
letters were from Quintus Lim, addressed to Lou-Lou LaMaie, all
unopened and in their original condition. I sorted the aerogrammes,
greetings cards and tissue-thin notepaper in airmail envelopes by date,
and arranged them in piles on the kitchen table. The missives were short,
no more than a handful of lines written in elegant copperplate with
curlicues and flourishes which made the handwriting difficult to
decipher at times. Postage stamps from every corner of the globe were a
philatelist’s dream come true.
I spent the evening working my way through the stack of letters.
There were several like these -
Quebec City, June 18, 1964
Happy birthday to the prettiest girl I know.
Paris, June 18, 1966
Happy eighteenth. Will you marry me?
Tangiers, June 18, 1970
When we were ten you said you would marry me one day.
PS: Happy birthday!
Singapore, December 1975
Another Christmas in the Orient. No snow, just heat and mosquitoes.
You are probably married by now. I have given up hope of hearing from you.
I’ll keep writing anyway, just in case.
The messages were succinct, quite childlike in their simplicity.
There were about three dozen in all. I felt like a peeping Tom, completely caught
in the threads of this romance-that-never-was.
Bedtime came, sleep would not. I was too involved.
Who is Quintus Lim?
The voice of curiosity nagged. An inevitable midnight Google search
ensued, revealing enough to satisfy an immediate thirst.
I scribbled some notes -
Quintus Lim: Born in Hong Kong, 1945. Graduate of York
University, Harvard Business School. Scholar, author,
globe-trotting entrepreneur. Retired. Founder QL
Enterprises - Importers, Exporters, Online florists.
… xx … xx …
Miss Izzy waved from her doorstep as Puppy and I availed ourselves of
another mild day. The cat commenced its demented dance, his owner got
distracted, missed her footing and fell. She hit her head on a concrete
paving stone and landed with one leg folded at an ugly angle beneath her.
I reached for my cellphone.
The ambulance arrived within minutes. Miss Izzy came to as they
strapped her to the stretcher. She reached for my hand with anxious
eyes. “The key’s on the hook behind the door. Feed Quintus, please.”
I bit my lip to keep from laughing out loud and assured her I would care
for her pet.
She named the brute Quintus …
Miss Izzy had a broken hip, a fractured femur and a long road to
recovery ahead of her.
… xx … xx …
Winter rode in with stiff winds and endless dumps of snow. The
neighbours rallied to take turns shovelling Miss Izzy’s driveway.
Quintus Cat rubbed himself against my leg when I set down his bowl of
food every morning. Puppy smelled the odious fragrance of feline on my
clothing and backed reproachfully away. Quiet weekday afternoons took
me to the orthopaedic wing of the local hospital.
Miss Izzy and I grew quite fond of each other. I suspect I was the first
person in years to exchange more than a passing word with her.
“My name is Louanna Lim, by the way,” she informed me.
“But the letters were addressed to …”
“Lou-Lou LaMaie was my stage name when I danced at the Amber
A go-go dancer!
My mind boggled at the unexpected revelation. “With feathers and high
kicks … and everything?”
“And everything,” Miss Izzy agreed. “I had top billing in my day.” She
reached for the bedside drawer and retrieved a tattered newspaper
clipping from her wallet, holding it out for inspection. I examined the
cutting with interest.
A high kicking showgirl alright, and quite a beauty too …
I brought Miss Izzy the get well card signed by the residents of Clover
Court who were intrigued to finally know her name. It took an entire
Saturday afternoon knocking at doors card in hand, to solicit signatures.
The neighbours asked how they could help, and some of them made cash
contributions towards a gift of flowers. I ordered an arrangement of
“I love tulips. How did you know?” Miss Izzy enquired when I set the
vase of blooms on the window sill by her bed.”
“I guessed you might,” I replied.
The Tuesday tulips, of course …
I guided the wheelchair out of the elevator and into the hospital lobby
where we found an unoccupied corner to relax and chat. We were now
good enough friends that I could pose all sorts of questions without
sounding nosey. Miss Izzy was always eager to talk.
“What happened to your family, Lou?”
The grey eyes clouded over. “My father was old school Chinese, a
difficult man. He disowned me when I chose the stage. To have a
dancer for a daughter was to lose face in the community. Mama was
French. Her family was hard-nosed and didn’t approve of her marriage to
a foreigner. I left home when I turned seventeen. I never talked to my
“But surely your mother …”
“Under Papa’s thumb. She did as she was told. There was no choice.”
So sad …
“Your brother?” I almost gagged.
“No, no! Quintus Lim, my best friend. Father’s cousin, many times
removed. An orphan. Papa was his guardian. We grew up together.
Lou-Lou LaMaie was his nickname for me.”
I exhaled, relieved. “What happened to Quintus Lim?”
“He had a falling out with Father. They were constantly at loggerheads.
He just got up and left one day. It broke my heart to see him go.”
“The letters …”
“I never read them. They were in a box under Mama’s bed. I found them
after she died. A lawyer contacted me about my inheritance. She
passed on twenty years ago. She outlived my father.”
“Why didn’t you read the letters, Lou?”
“I don’t know. I thought it was too late, I suppose. Life passed me
by. I chased a dream, it dissolved, vanished. I was alone and growing
“Did you ever see Quintus again?”
“He came to the Amber a couple of times in the early years. I had many
beaux, you know. Quintus was a short man. Very short. And I am a tall
woman. Such things matter when one is young. They shouldn’t, but they
do. I saw a newspaper announcement -- he married a Miss Mercedes
“Flamenco dancer?” I quipped.
Miss Izzy chuckled. “His secretary, I believe!”
“Would his height matter now?”
Miss Izzy took a deep breath and examined her hands. “No. Not
anymore. I wouldn’t care a fig.”
I changed the subject. “Who sends the tulips?”
Miss Izzy looked startled. “Tulips?”
“The tulips on your doorstep. On Tuesday mornings.”
“You’ve seen them? I have no idea. They started coming a year ago. There’s a
business card stapled to the wrapping. It says QL Enterprises. Nothing else. No
address, no phone number.”
Her eyes widened. “Oh, I know. I guessed. The telephone directory
revealed nothing. I didn’t know where else to look, to find him.”
I persisted. “Did you try the internet?”
She shook her head. “I stay away from computers. I’ve managed just
fine without them.”
I did another Google search that evening and made more notes –
Mercedes Sanchez: Married Quintus Lim. Co-founder of
QL Enterprises. Deceased, 2013.
… xx … xx …
Mr Lim turned out to be a tech-savvy septuagenarian, unlike his
Lou-Lou LaMaie. I located him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. He was
also a rather dashing dude if the profile picture was anything to go by.
I sent him a message on Facebook -
I’m Louanna Lim’s neighbour. Please call …
My mobile phone went off within minutes.
.. xx … xx …
The immediate neighbours and I prepared a week’s worth of meals for
Miss Izzy’s freezer. She grudgingly acknowledged that a change might be
in order, and allowed me to trim and blow-dry her hair. I might be able to
persuade her to apply a touch of lipstick when she goes home tomorrow. Her
table is set with old silverware and fine china from the cabinet by the bay window,
candles and a darling centerpiece of tulips. Dinner for two will be delivered at
Quintus Lim Esquire, is scheduled to arrive at Clover Court in time to welcome
his beloved Louanna when I drive her home from the hospital. He hopes she will
accept a ring he purchased fifty two years ago and never disposed of.
… xx … xx …
Spring is definitely in the air. Puppy and I have resumed our morning walks. My
canine companion seems more staid these days and the window-cat less crazy. As
for me, I cannot cease to marvel at the metamorphosis of Miss Louanna Lim. I
have been called a meddlesome creature, I know. Can I help it? I’m a woman