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She's my 'first' love

Unlike Mr Wong, who is now trying to rebuild his life with his family, this hawker is looking forward to his new life.

One that has given him renewed vigour, he insists. One that is built on love, not lust nor money.

When approached, Mr Liu Zengfai, who sells fishball noodles at a food centre in Jurong, refused to speak to us. He claims that he is a "very private man" and "does not like kaypohs prying into his life".

That is, until the new woman in his life says: "Go ahead, tell her our love story. Otherwise those people who don't know how to mind their own business will say, 'See, they are scared of the scandal,' when there isn't any."

But first, Madam Sun Lili, 38, who is from Shanghai, asks: "How did you get to know about us?"

When told that it was a reader of The New Paper on Sunday who had tipped us off, she says loudly: "It must be one of those 'duo guan xian shi de ren' (busybody in Mandarin) here.

"But never mind, my 'ai ren' (lover) will talk to you."

Mr Liu, 59, has filed for divorce from his wife of 30 years, and hopes to hold a wedding ceremony in Madam Sun's hometown when the proceedings are finalised.

Mr Liu and his wife, also 59, had a son who was killed in a traffic accident several years ago.

He says: "I know my neighbours here (the other stallholders) think that I am a fool or feel that I have wronged my wife.

"But after our son died, we lived together out of routine and not because of love. And our marriage was matchmade."

Which is why, he says, Madam Sun is his first love. They had met soon after she came to Singapore with her son, who is in secondary school. The mother and son were regular customers.

He says: "I was attracted to Lili right from the start. I felt that she was someone I had known maybe from my previous life."

Madam Sun declines to be interviewed.

She says: "I am just an innocent party who was wooed by a man madly in love with me. So, he is the best person to tell you our love story."

She hovered near Mr Liu during the interview, and would often stroke his shoulders lovingly in an open display of affection - which he admittedly appreciates.

He says: "This woman loves me, an old man, and is not afraid to show it even though she knows that the people here condemn her.

"Sometimes, I feel very sorry that my lover has to suffer just because of the prejudice that Singaporeans have against Chinese study mamas."

Mr Liu refuses to share details of how he courted Madam Sun because "I don't think it is anyone's business".

His wife could not be reached for comment.

A sugarcane juice seller at the same food centre says that Mr Liu's wife did not seem too shocked when she learnt of the clandestine relationship from another hawker.

She says: "Many of us here feel sorry for her, especially since we have heard that all she has is an old auntie who lives in a home for the aged. But this is their 'jia shi' (family affair) and no one can intervene."

Mr Liu confirms that his wife's parents have died and she has no siblings.

He insists that his wife will be well provided for after the divorce.

"I know her pride will prevent her from asking me for any help, but I have told her that Lili and I will always be around for her if she should need us," he says.

"But I cannot stay married to her just because I feel sorry for her. Lili has taught me to view life in a different light, to enjoy it while we are still able.

"After we marry, her son will take my surname. She has also promised me that she'll try to bear another child of our own.

"She has not asked me for anything and she has not stopped me from wanting to provide for my wife.

"She is different from other study mamas."

"This woman loves me, an old man, and is not afraid to show it..."

- Mr Liu Zengfai, 59, fishball noodle seller