Three Years Later
The sun was shining. There were no clouds in the blue, blue sky. A gentle breeze blew across the garden, bringing with it the beautiful scent of blooming flowers.
A number of guests sat in chairs on the lawn, under the sunlight, enjoying the breeze.
The groom stood at the altar, awaiting the arrival of his beautiful bride.
His hands shook as he reached up to fix his tie, and he took a deep breath to calm his nerves.
He had loved this woman for many years, and finally . . . finally she was going to be his.
. . . . . . . . . . . .
Something was wrong.
He could feel it.
Xiao Qiao raced through the rooms of the mansion.
She had to hide. He would be here soon.
He was chasing her. She could feel him closing in.
She was in a strange place, and couldn’t find her bearings.
She didn’t know how this had happened.
One moment she had been talking, and now this.
She could here his footsteps. She had to escape. She wasn’t ready to be caught.
“Xiao Qiao, where are you?” his voice sang out in the next room. “Come to me, people are waiting.”
She knew he didn’t care about the waiting guests.
Leaning out, she saw that the coast was clear. Making up her mind, she raced out the door and down the hallway.
The harsh sound of her breathing was the only sound in the empty hallway
She heard the pounding footsteps behind her.
He was getting closer.
She almost got away. Almost.
Hands came out to grab her, arms wrapping around her waist.
She let out a shriek, startled at being caught.
She was swiftly turned around.
“Mei Zhuo, stop it!” she cried, getting angry from the shock he had just given her.
“This is neither the time nor place. They’re waiting downstairs, you said that yourself. If we’re late, what would everyone think,” she argued vociferously.
“I don’t care,” he mumbled into her hair. “You shouldn’t have told me that you had been given the okay by the doctor before we left.”
“I thought you would be happy,” she argued.
“I was. I am. I’ve been waiting for a long while for this Xiao Qiao,” he shouted, pouting at being put off once more.
Mei Zhuo thought back to the last few months.
It had been two years since their marriage. Xiao Qiao had wanted to take her time planning her dream wedding.
She had insisted on having a LOT of time to plan their wedding.
He had argued that she had already waited for him for ten years, and she didn’t need to do so anymore.
But she had argued back. Yes, she had waited for ten years. And in that time she had dreamt up the perfect wedding.
She wanted everything to be perfect for their union. And if she had waited ten years, he could wait at least one for their wedding.
By luck, he had been able to convince her to marry earlier, when another one of their brother’s had been about to cancel his wedding plans.
Their wedding day had been the happiest day of their lives.
But it just kept getting better and better.
They had found out nine months ago, that she was pregnant with twins.
Mei Zhuo had been over the moon. He had gone out and bought out a children’s toy store to stock the nursery for the upcoming arrivals of their children. Never mind that she was only two months pregnant.
But . . . there was a but. Her pregnancy had been difficult. After giving birth to the twins, it had taken her two months to recover.
Recuperation meant no hanky panky.
Which meant no husband and wife time.
Which meant a very . . . very . . . very frustrated Mei Zhuo.
This morning, she had finally gotten the green light, and had shared the good news with Mei Zhuo without a second thought.
She hadn’t realized HOW frustrated he had been.
He had tried to convince her at home, on the way here, and when they had arrived.
She had almost given in, multiple times. But she had pulled away. This last time had been the hardest. They had been getting ready in the room reserved for them, when he had begun to seduce her once more. Something . . . a loud thud, maybe, had brought her out of the trance. And without a second thought she had run. Escaping. Knowing that she had to be the sane one at this moment.
“Mei Zhuo, stop it. People are waiting. The groom is waiting. I think people will notice if we don’t get there on time,” she finally moaned.
His lips had begun to trail down from her lips . . . down her neck and farther south.
He didn’t say anything for a while, just stood there inhaling her wonderful scent.
“Fine,” he sighed, “but you owe me,” he finally mumbled.
“Tonight,” she said.
“Promise?” he asked doubtfully.
“Promise. Whatever you want. We’ll even leave early,” she agreed, smiling.
Reluctantly he pulled away, grabbed her by the hand and led her downstairs.
They were on time. The ceremony hadn’t started.
The groom stood under the blue, blue sky.
He saw them traipsing in. They were late.
But it was okay. The bride hadn’t arrived yet.
He nervously fixed his lapels.
His hands twitching them back into position.
He took a deep breath, trying to calm himself down.
They had known each other long enough that he could depend on her word.
She had said that she would be here. And he knew that she would keep her word.
But something was still missing.
Shan Cai sat in the beautiful, guest room, cradling the love of her life in her arms.
She hadn’t really known what love was until she had met him.
She had thought she knew love when she liked Hua Ze Lei.
She thought she knew how beautiful . . . how pure . . . how fulfilling love could be when she fell in love with Dao Ming Si.
She had sacrificed to be with him. She had chased him. She had weathered all the pain and sorrow for the chance to be in his arms once more.
He had sacrificed his wealth . . . his family . . . everything to be with her.
He was an honorable man, a loving man, a stubborn man, and he had chosen her.
She smiled softly, leaning down to kiss the one in her arms.
But that love was nothing. That love wasn’t as pure, as protective, as this one.
She wanted to cradle this being in her arms forever. She wanted to look out for him. To always care for him.
“Shan Cai, you stupid woman, what are you doing in here?” a loud voice suddenly shouted in the silent room, startling both mother and child.
“You pighead! You have any idea how hard it was to put him to sleep? Do you know how long it’ll take now? We might as well just miss the wedding,” she began to shout, getting up so suddenly that the rocking chair fell back, knocking into the wall with a loud thud.
Their little boy began to cry out of frustration at being awakened. He really was Dao Ming Si’s son.
She looked down at their crying child, sighing.
Her love for him almost surpassed her love for Dao Ming Si.
But that was okay.
Because Dao Ming Si’s love for their son almost surpassed his love for her.
That was how it was meant to be.
They had married five months after Dao Ming Si’s proposal. It seemed that their night together had not been quite as safe as either one had thought, and had brought an unexpected, but much loved addition to their little family.
Dao Ming Xing was two and a half years old, but he still insisted on falling asleep on mommy’s lap.
Shan Cai had surprised everyone by fainting four months into their engagement. The gang had been planning the Dao Ming wedding, which was to be held in a year.
Ah Si had been beside himself with worry. He kept on yelling at the stupid woman to wake up and stop worrying him.
It was left to Lei to take charge. He had told the others to call the doctor, and had ordered Dao Ming Si to carry the unconscious Shan Cai to Lei’s car.
The groups’ worries had only disappeared when they found out the good news. Dao Ming Si had to be convinced over and over again that Shan Cai did not have some life-threatening illness that would take her away from him forever.
Dao Ming Si had then gotten angry at Shan Cai, calling her a stupid woman for having a skinny body that couldn’t even “ripen” correctly. It seemed that Shan Cai had the type of body that didn’t show any evidence of the pregnancy until the latter months.
They had fought over the name of the baby. Shan Cai had insisted on Ah Xing.
Ah Si had refused, wanting to forget the moments they had been apart. And the name would only bring back those memories.
Shan Cai had continued to argue and had won.
She wanted to remember that Ah Xing. He had been a hardworking, smart, mild-mannered, loving man.
The only thing was that he hadn’t loved her.
She wanted Ah Si to remember that he was more than his parents’ wealth. He had survived and thrived without their money . . . And that he didn’t have to be angry all the time.
She had cried tears of joy the day Dao Ming Si had come back to her. He had fought God that day, telling Him not to hurt them anymore. He had started a fight with her.
His temper was back.
HER Ah Si was back. But she didn’t want them to forget the man he had been for a brief moment in time. That would have meant Ah Xing’s death. And death to any part of Ah Si was a horrible thought.
She had become emotional. She had cried crocodile tears. And he had relented.
Both of them had suffered through the pregnancy and labor.
Actually, he had suffered through the pregnancy. He had the morning sickness. The cravings. The backaches. He suffered through all the symptoms. The doctors had said that this was normal, sometimes the connection between husband and wife was so strong that he was empathetic to all she might be going through.
But he had never complained. He loved her too much.
And Shan Cai had been symptom free. Only her changing body had been the proof of her pregnancy.
She had suffered through the labor, cussing him throughout, yelling that she would never let him touch her.
When he had argued that she had initiated the bout of lovemaking that had resulted in their child, she had smacked him on the head . . . hard.
He had slipped, fallen and lost consciousness in the hospital room.
He hadn’t regained consciousness until a few minutes after the delivery.
Both had been relieved at his good timing.
Dao Ming Si and Shan Cai had calmed down a lot after the child’s birth.
They still quarreled, but didn’t take every opportunity to fight. They chose their battles.
Ah Si decided that this wasn’t one of those times.
He took the crying child from Shan Cai’s arms, beginning to croon to him.
In a while, Ah Xing fell asleep in his father’s arms.
He flashed a smile at Shan Cai, proud of this.
“Hhmmph,” Shan Cai snorted, and stalked out of the room, leaving Dao Ming Si to follow.
He caught up with her at the entrance to the garden.
His hand came out to catch hers, and they both walked in together.
The groom stood near the altar, shifting from foot to foot.
He should be over this nervousness. They had taken their time, they had learned about each other. And when he had proposed she had immediately said yes.
There was no doubt that she would be here. There was no doubt that he would be getting married.
There was no doubt that he would be spending the rest of his life with the woman he loved.
But this was a beginning of a new life. Together. The beginning of an existence where he would be truly united with another person.
This time it would be forever.
His hands nervously pulled up a sleeve to check the time. She was 15 minutes late.
He fixed his cuffs. And straightened his back.
He had waited for years, he could wait a few more minutes.
Jing walked out of the bathroom. She was finally ready.
Her eyes sought Lei. He had been standing at the doorway.
He was no longer there.
She looked around the room, until they finally landed on the bed.
Really. Why had she bothered looking anywhere else?
Sighing, she walked over to the bed.
She looked down at her sleeping husband.
Her hand came out to softly touch his face, tracing his eyebrows, the arch of his nose, his lips.
She wondered how their child would look. Whether he or she would be more like her or him.
His lips puckered to kiss her fingers.
Reaching up, he pulled her down to kiss her on the lips.
Jing murmured a protest, and then succumbed, allowing him to pull her down to lie next to him.
They had been married for six months now.
She had received her law degree, and had had six months to plan the wedding and set up a career.
There were moments when she had wanted to explode from the pressure, but Lei had always been there to calm her down.
His willingness to postpone the wedding to allow her time had only made her want to work harder.
He had waited long enough.
Their marriage had been a fairytale. All the others had taken part as groomsmen and bridesmaids. Little Ah Xing had been the ring bearer.
Unfortunately, he had lost the ring. But Lei had brought a backup just in case.
He had been prepared. He just had a feeling.
Not only was the child too young, he WAS Ah Si’s son.
Jing pulled back from the kiss, and lay down next to him, her head pillowed on his shoulder.
“I have something to tell you,” she whispered into the silence.
“Hmm?” he sleepily asked.
Reaching over, she took his hand and placed it on her stomach.
Lei looked at her, at his hand, and back at her.
He couldn’t voice his thoughts. He let his eyes do the speaking.
“I’m pregnant. We’re having a baby.”
He cleared his throat, but his voice was still hoarse when he asked when the baby was due.
“Six months from now,” she replied, smiling.
“When did you find out?” he finally asked.
“Yesterday,” she replied. She had wanted to tell him, but had waited so that she could do so face-to-face.
“That’s it, I’m moving our head of operations over here. I can’t go back to Japan and leave you here all alone,” he abruptly decided.
“Thank you,” she replied, sniffing. Tears came into her eyes. Not for a moment had he contemplated asking her to move there and give up her career.
Leaning up, she kissed him on the lips.
A kiss of gratitude. A kiss of joy.
Reaffirming all their promises of love.
“We have to get up now,” she said, finally pulling back from the kiss.
“Why?” he asked.
“We have a wedding to get to,” she answered, pulling him off the bed.
They quietly entered the garden, and sat down next to the others.
Their eyes went to the groom.
He stood there. Quietly. Calmly. His eyes focused on the back of the garden, awaiting his bride.
There was nothing he could do now, but wait.
No amount of anxiety would persuade his bride to come sooner.
It seemed that she had decided to make him wait. Again.
His eyes had exhausted themselves searching for her appearance.
She had yet to arrive.
And he was tired of waiting.
Xiao You stood quietly in the room.
She looked into the mirror.
The nervous face looking back at her tried to smile.
It didn’t quite succeed.
But the modest wedding dress looked beautiful.
The hat, perched stylishly, was the finishing touch on a charming ensemble.
“You look beautiful, Ma,” Xiao You complimented, finally breaking the nervous silence.
Her hands came up to hand her the flowers.
“Dad will be waiting,” she said. “You yourself said that you had made him wait long enough. That it was time that BOTH of you were happy.”
“Xiao You . . . I’m nervous,” Auntie finally admitted softly.
Xiao You could only smile in understanding. She thought back to her wedding day almost two years ago. They had married right after Mei Zhuo and Xiao Qiao.
Ximen had taken charge of the wedding, allowing only minimal input on her part.
He had insisted that he knew exactly what she wanted, and he would do his utmost to get it for her.
Surprisingly, he had known all her dreams.
It had been a magical day. And a magical night.
Their wedding night had been a true act of love.
Over the past two years, she had overcome her fears. And she had learned to trust him when he told her that she WAS worthy of his love.
His loving words, and, more importantly, actions had washed away all her insecurities because she had come to see herself through his eyes.
Ximen saw a beautiful, hardworking, intelligent, incredibly sweet woman. She truly was his every woman. And not for a moment did he let her forget.
And she no longer doubted.
Her hands came up to cup her pregnant belly.
She only had two weeks to go, and she couldn’t wait to hold their baby in her arms.
Ximen had surprised her. His excitement over her pregnancy had been heartwarming.
He had become extremely protective, and had insisted that she stop working from that moment on. It had been irritating at first, but he had known how difficult it had been for her to work as the pregnancy had advanced.
She bit her lip as another contraction hit. They were coming closer and closer. At first it had been only a slight twinge every hour, but they were increasing in frequency and in pain. She just hoped that she held out for the wedding.
“Xiao You,” Ximen spoke softly. He had seen her grimace of pain.
“I’m fine,” she softly assured him, walking over to kiss him on the lips.
“Please, this is their big day. Look at how nervous your mom is. We can’t abandon her,” she softly pleaded.
Ximen looked down at the woman in his arms. His hand came out to touch their baby, resting in its mother’s womb.
They had been married for almost two years, and he never regretted it for a moment.
She had given him so much love. He awoke every morning with a smile on his face.
They worked together. They lived together. And they loved together.
He had come to know so many different sides of her.
He had known her insecurities at first. Her naiveté. Her sweetness. Her feelings. Her courage. When she had returned the first time, he had learned of her persistence.
But it was the second time that he had allowed himself to open up to the possibilities. And it was then that he had seen her strength. Her intelligence. Her diligence. And her love.
Her pure, never-ending, unbelievable love for him.
Yes, he had a reason to smile every day.
Because he had Xiao You.
Sighing, he kissed her on the forehead, and walked over to his mother.
Holding out an arm, he placed his hand over hers when it tentatively came to rest on his sleeve.
“Let’s go Ma. No reason to wait anymore, right? Your love awaits.”
He stood at the altar, his eyes trained on the doors.
They finally opened.
Out came Xiao You, her hands carrying flowers.
He smiled as he saw his daughter-in-law. He was grateful that he had met her. That he had brought her back so that she could meet his son.
She was the perfect wife for him, and the perfect mother for their grandchild. And her entrance into his life had been a harbinger of Xian Ning’s return.
He had won points with Xian Ning for bringing this sweet woman into his son’s life.
He still remembered the day she had returned.
He had been unable to believe that she had chosen to do so.
But over time their initial awkwardness had vanished to be replaced by an easy friendship.
He had taken his time to court her, something that he had never done before. Where there had been only force, there was now gentle persuasion.
And she had taken her time making up her mind.
But in the end, she had found a way to love him. Despite their past. Despite all the mistakes he had made.
She had loved him despite the fact that his behavior had caused their eldest child to run away. She had assured him that while he had made him run away, it was their son’s decision to stay away. They had done everything to find him when he had first disappeared. But he wasn’t a Ximen for nothing. He had wanted to remain hidden, and he had remained so.
All they could do now was change the home he had run away from. Where there had once been a cold, lonely house with no happiness, no trust, no love, there was now love, trust, and laughter. That lonely old house was now a loving home. They had done all they could. It was up to him. All they could do was hope that he would return one day.
Despite all that, she had said yes. She had agreed to accept him into her life. She had given him another chance to make his case.
He didn’t question those miracles.
He reveled in her love, and thanked the almighty for giving him this chance.
His eyes finally saw what they had been waiting for.
Xian Ning, on his son’s arm, smiling at him.
He could breathe easily now.
He looked around. There were only a small number of guests.
His son’s brothers were there. He felt that they somehow fulfilled the void his older son had left behind.
He accepted Xian Ning’s hand from Er Lang, and turned to the priest.
Everything was as close to perfect as it could get.
He had waited years.
He had many mistakes.
He had hurt her countless times.
But she had returned.
She had forgiven him.
And they would finally be together.
“Dearly beloved we are gathered here today . . .
. . . . . . . . .
“I pronounce you husband and wife. You may now kiss the bride,” the priest concluded.
He leaned in for a kiss.
“Ximen . . .,” Xiao You’s voice broke the solemnity of the moment.
“We need to go to the hospital . . .
. . . . . . . . . .