As memory may be a paradise from which we cannot be driven, it may also be a hell from which we cannot escape. (John Lancaster Spalding)
I remember the first time we met.
How could I not?
She was wearing that gaudy dress and the blush on her face bespoke her embarrassment.
I couldn’t take my eyes off her.
. . . . . . .
I couldn’t resist.
Her innocent beauty tugged at me, and, before I knew it, I was introducing myself.
She had been SO nervous. She stared at the ground, stealing glances at me when she thought I wasn’t looking. But after a few moments, the heat in her cheeks was no longer from embarrassment.
She was as aware of me as I was of her.
Shan Cai’s voice had broken the spell. It had a tendency of doing that.
I forced myself to leave . . . knowing that I was leaving a piece of myself of behind.
When that happens for the first time . . .
That isn’t something you forget.
I remember seeing her crying on the sidewalk. Her pain called out to me. And without thinking, I ordered my driver to stop.
Never for a moment did I wonder if I could really help. Never for a moment did I wonder if I belonged there.
My feet carried me to her, and I spoke before I had even thought about what I would say. If you know me, you would know how unlike me that is. I always think carefully before I act. I never let anything overpower my common sense.
That day I left my common sense far behind.
Listening to her pain angered me so much. Once again I let my emotions rule me, and I pulled her into a scheme that would have repercussions long after in ways that I would never have thought of.
I pretended to be her knight in shining armor, and made her ex-boyfriend realize what a rat he was.
For that moment, as I stared into her admiring gaze, my hand gently tapping hers, I felt so proud. It was as if I deserved to wear the shining armor. For a few moments I forgot how tainted I really was. How I had no right to even think the thoughts that had been racing through my mind.
She made me feel like a God. For a long time I had only been a machine, mindlessly moving from one woman to the next, seducing them almost as an afterthought.
For a moment, she made me more than I was.
That isn’t something you forget.
I remember our pretend date.
I was with something who wanted nothing from me.
Not my money.
Not what I could give her.
Not my experience . . . definitely not that.
She had delved too deeply into my soul, and I had to tell her the truth.
The disappointment I saw in her eyes when she heard those words was expected. I knew that at one moment or another I would disappoint her. In a twisted way I was glad that it was something that I had deliberately done. How much more painful would it have been for the both of us if I had tried and then failed?
I never try. Because trying is the first step to failure. I certainly didn’t want to fail with the one woman who had tugged at my heartstrings after so long.
I told myself that my heart had been frozen for so long that I felt nothing.
I was wrong.
I bought her presents, and forced them on her when she refused.
That was a new experience.
We had sneaked over like little kids to eavesdrop on Ah Si and Shan Cai.
For a moment I felt like a little kid again.
And my heart . . . the one I thought had permanently frozen so long ago . . . thawed a little bit.
That isn’t something you forget.
I remember meeting her at Ying De.
She was nervous, and I just knew that she was here to confess.
As we walked in the hallways, I thought about what I would say when she did confess. I suddenly knew that it would have to be something that would really shock her. Something that would leave no hope.
It would get me slapped, but that was nothing new.
She took a deep breath.
I readied myself, as I silently pleaded with her not to force me to hurt her.
It went perfectly.
But once again she tugged at my heart strings, asking me questions that forced me to question what I was doing.
I walked away.
For the final time. Or so I thought.
Her confession isn’t something that I could forget.
I remember that night we spent in each other’s arms.
It was the most innocent night I spent with a woman . . . the most pure.
I had known from the beginning that I could never defile her purity, but her revelations about Canada shocked me.
And . . .
I slept in her arms.
. . . It felt like I was sleeping in the arms of an angel.
I know she thought that night had been for her, but more than that it had been for me.
Who would’ve known that sleeping in her arms for that one night would affect me to such a degree? That one night had spoiled me for all other women.
I had awakened that morning to find her pouting in her sleep. Bending down, I placed my lips against her delicate ear.
The words had slipped out before I could stop them.
“Promise me that you’ll remember me,” I demanded. I tugged at her hair. “Promise me.”
She had smiled, but refused to give me the words.
My frustrated sigh had awakened her, and that had been the end.
For a night I had held an angel in my arms.
That isn’t something you forget.
I remember the day she left for the last time.
The day she left ME for the last time.
I knew as she walked away, that she would never return to me.
She was bitter.
I could see that, but I couldn’t give her what she needed . . . I was too afraid.
She had just shown me the words Xioa Gen wanted me to see . . . she had shown me what I NEEDED to see. Those words had broken my no longer frozen heart.
For a moment the past and the present had come crashing together.
I had seen Xiao Gen’s silence . . . her pain . . . her disappointment in Xiao You’s eyes. Xiao You was the one walking away . . . and I was the one left heartbroken . . . staring at her retreating back.
Xiao You was shocked and angered when I had nothing to offer beyond gratitude.
She knew that I felt something for her . . . she didn’t know what it was . . . but something was there. And every time I denied myself, I was denying her the truth. She was suffering, because I was afraid that I would hurt.
She retreated from my cold silence.
As she stood there, waiting for the taxi in silence . . . as she stood there, refusing to look at me . . . as I stared at her angry, defeated back . . . I saw my fears crystallizing into reality.
I remember thinking that I didn’t have to worry about disappointing and hurting her in the future . . . she was hurting now.
I remained silent.
. . . . . . . .
Not because I thought that I would hurt her.
. . . . . . . .
I kept the words inside.
. . . . . . . .
Because I didn’t want to get hurt.
. . . . . . . .
And she walked away.
It hurt. For a long time it really hurt.
And that isn’t something you forget.
I remember the pain when I received the wedding invitation.
Her wedding invitation.
Xiao You was getting married to Mr. Ken Zhu, and I was cordially invited to their wedding ceremony and the reception afterwards. And I was welcome to bring a guest.
I didn’t quite understand what it meant.
The fact that I had received an invitation.
Was she trying to show me that she had moved on?
Or the mere fact that I had received an invitation meant that she really hadn’t?
I eventually came to know which company Zhu worked for, and I bought the company.
I remember the first glimpse I had of her after so many months.
Yes, it had only been months since we had last parted.
I really hadn’t lasted that long. Of course, her invitation had spurred me into action.
She had looked so beautiful. And she had been with a man.
My heart clenched with jealousy, and before I knew it I was walking toward them. Unfortunately, my tunnel vision had prevented me from seeing the desk in my path, and I had fallen just as the elevator doors closed on them. It really wasn’t the best way to introduce myself to the staff of my new company.
I cooled down. Forced myself to stay calm.
I researched. And I found out that while I had been mourning her . . . while I had been learning to be a good man . . . she had been moving on.
That feeling of utter rejection stayed with me for a long time. Even after I had finally won her back.
That’s not something you forget.
Never mind the fact that I had rejected her first.
As I dug deeper, I found out some more truths . . .
Zhu didn’t love her.
Xiao You’s family was now rich, and her father was worried about the future of his company.
Zhu had someone else in his life.
Xiao You’s father had sold her to someone he thought could protect the future of the country. He had known what kind of man Zhu really was.
Zhu’s significant other was a man.
I knew I had to rescue her. As I imagined the pain that she would be forced to go through if I did nothing, I went crazy inside.
That must be the reason I did what I did.
I went to her engagement party.
I kidnapped her.
I seduced her into realizing the truth. That she only loved me.
But I couldn’t tell her the truth, and she insisted on pretending to be engaged to Zhu for that one night.
I let it happen.
Although the engagement lasted one night . . .it made me finally see. I had always thought that could let her go for her happiness . . . I now knew that I had to keep her for mine.
If I ever lost her . . if we ever had to say goodbye . . . I would be saying goodbye to any chance of happiness I could get in this lifetime.
But then I let loose with my anger.
I forced her father’s stock down, and then bought the company for a bargain price. I think it forced her father to see the truth. He realized what the greed of a secure future had almost caused him to do to his own daughter’s life.
And I exposed Zhu’s reality to the world. He was caught red handed with his boyfriend.
And then I took my Xiao You back to Taiwan, swearing that I would never let her parents near her again.
Her father’s words rang in my ears.
“Don’t hurt her. If you do, I’ll make you sorry. You will regret it every waking moment of you life.”
He was right.
I remember our wedding, and F3’s toast. The idiots brought tears to my eyes. They made me realize how much faith they had in us . . . how much faith they had in me. They were confident that I would never let my Xiao You down.
They made me see what everyone had realized a long time ago . . . that Xiao You and I were meant to be.
They were my brothers, and they had supported me throughout my courtship.
Ah Si had held Shan Cai off, until she got used to the idea of me and Xiao You . . . that is, until she stopped trying to kill me.
Mei Zhuo gave us tickets to Xiao Qiao’s concerts . . . to him her music was the most romantic think in the world. I got to catch up on my sleep.
And Lei . . . Lei was Lei. He had come up with the truly brilliant ideas . . . renting the amusement park for just the two of us (it was another thing that all the others had sneaked in to enjoy it as well, and then wouldn’t leave us alone) . . . a moonlight picnic with cakes from Italian Tomato (Mei Zhuo ate half the cakes and Ah Si took care of the rest) . . . the rooftop message for Xiao You (one that lasted more than five minutes).
The courtship had culminated into that day with Xiao You.
She looked so beautiful as she walked down the aisle to me.
That isn’t something you forget.
I remember our second anniversary, and when she told me she was pregnant, but most of all, I remember the moment I thought I had lost her.
It really did feel like the end of the world.
She saw me with my brother’s wife.
My sister-in-law had shown up, hysterical, with a child. My brother was dead . . . and his stories about my cold father and timid mother had scared her too much. She wasn’t willing to meet them. She didn’t want them hurting her son. But she needed help.
I tried to convince her . . . but she would only meet me.
Xiao You saw me with another woman. With a child that looked like me.
She decided to go back to Canada, despite the fact that her parents most likely blame her for their present state of life.
I remember chasing her to the airport. My heart was pounding in fear.
She had refused to listen, and I had turned to go in defeat.
But her voice had called me back.
It was hearing that sweet voice that made me really realize how panic-stricken I had really been.
I had sworn never to lose her.
I didn’t want to go through that terror and panic again.
I would never let her go.
Not if I had a choice.
I remember waking up in the hospital . . . all my memories were gone. My mind was a blank slate, and that brought more confusion . . . more questions . . . more pain that I could ever have believed.
I woke up . . . and I knew she was gone.
They had taken her . . . her parents. Without a name, without an address. They had left me alone . . . without her.
I had been so angry. But what could I do?
I began my search.
Two years . . . two very long years.
I searched for so long, accompanied only by memories of her sweet voice calling out to me.
I worked all kinds of jobs to earn money. I worked on construction sites, at fast food joints . . . as a janitor, a sanitation worker, etc. Only now can I comprehend how I low I sank, but it was worth it.
I didn’t need a lot. Money enough to get to the next town. Money for a place to stay while I searched for her. Something to change into while I washed my other set of clothes. And 3 . . . 2 meals a day.
That’s all I needed. And time . . . to find her and enough hope to believe that she wouldn’t move on. To hope that she didn’t think that I was dead.
I remember that gnawing feeling inside me . . . the half fearful certainty that I would finally find her . . . only to discover her in another man’s arms. Married . . . with child . . . forever beyond my reach.
I did find her. With a child. And, I thought, beyond my reach.
I turned to go.
And then I remembered.
All of it.
He was my child.
She was still mine.
I remember the almost painful rush of feelings . . . the fear of how she would react . . . the anger that she refused to recognize me . . . the shock at learning that she had also lost her memory . . . and then the joy.
The joy of her ready acceptance. Her mind might not have remembered . . . but her heart did.
I remember her, and all our very moments.
I can only thank God that I had a picture of her . . . that they found us in each others arms . . . I can only thank God that I didn’t fully forget her. That I had enough proof of her presence in my life to search for her . . . to wait for her.
And that she had my son to keep her from moving on.
And I thank God for it.
Ximen lay in bed with Xiao You beside him, gently snoring under the covers.
It had been so long. So long since they had lain together . . . under the covers . . . in their own bed.
It had been so long since he had done so without the fear that she would leave him. Her memory was back now, and he had nothing to worry about.
It had been so long since he had heard her gentle snores. He had even missed that.
Life was good.
It made him afraid.
He had never been a praying man, but the events of the last few years had taught him to pray. He had prayed even when he hadn’t remembered, and the return of his memory had only made the prayers most earnest.
He never wanted to be separated from Xiao You again. She was his life. And if he lost her . . . his life would be lost.
He turned to face her, and gathered her in his arms. She came willingly.
She was in his arms . . . where she belonged.
. . . . . . . . .
And for the moment . . . he was at peace.
All Those Left Behind
Two years and 5 months ago . . .
“We’re going on a honeymoon,” Ximen said into the comfortable silence.
“Ei, Ximen, that usually happens right after marriage. Idiot,” Dao Ming Si muttered.
“Yeah, Ximen. And anyways, honeymoons are for making babies, and you’ve already done that!” Mei Zhuo called out.
Everyone looked at Xiao Qiao, who blushed a bright red under the interested looks.
The two of them had just returned from their honeymoon, and she hadn’t expected to face company so soon after her eager initiation into the sensual delights of marriage.
“All I can say is that Mei Zhuo tried really hard . . . although I don’t think making babies was the primary thought on his mind,” she finally muttered sheepishly.
There was a shocked silence, and then everyone burst out into loud laughter. They couldn’t believe their ears. Xiao Qiao blushed even more at the reaction.
“Ei Ximen, don’t you think it’s a bit dangerous taking Xiao You on a honeymoon when she’s so pregnant. Something might happen,” Shan Cai said doubtfully.
“Shan Cai, don’t worry,” Xiao You piped up. “We’ve talked this over with my doctor, and he said it was perfectly alright.”
“How long will you all be gone,” Lei asked quietly.
“A year,” Ximen and Xiao You both said, steeling themselves for the reaction.
“What??!!” everyone cried out in surprise.
“Ximen you can’t do that. You know how delicate Xiao You is. You want to take her on this trek, and you expect her to have her baby in some strange country. Ximen, it’s her first child,” Shan Cai vehemently protested.
“Shan Cai, it’s okay. We’ve set it up so that we’ll have the best medical facilities when it’s time for me to give birth. And we’ve chosen the most beautiful place in the world to have our beautiful baby. And I’ll recuperate afterwards, and we’ll continue on,” Xiao You finally said.
“But . . . where are you going?” Dao Ming Si finally thought to ask.
Xiao You looked at Ximen, and then turned to the group.
“We’re going to Africa,” she finally said.
“Africa! Come on man, you know how volatile the situation is over there. You can’t just jump into something like that with a pregnant wife. Who knows what could happen there,” Mei Zhuo protested in alarm. Everyone could hear the true worry in his voice.
“Mei Zhuo, calm down,” Ximen said. “We’ll stay away from those places. We promise. But . . . this has been Xiao You’s dream. She wants to go. She’s wanted to do this for the longest time, and we think . . . before the birth of our first baby, we should do this . . . do what has needed to be done for a long while. And I can’t ask Xiao You to wait anymore,” Ximen explained.
“Ximen don’t be a pighead. It’s too dangerous. You can’t take Xiao You. You can’t. Not into Africa. I won’t allow it,” Shan Cai insisted.
“Shan Cai,” Xiao You said softly, “It’s not your decision to make. We have to do this right now. We’ve decided to go, and we want to be left in peace for the entire year. So, all of you, please, don’t try to contact us, ok?” she turned pleading eyes to everybody.
Everyone looked at the silently pleading couple. They didn’t want to give in. To stay out of touch with one of their own . . . for so long . . . it would be hard.
“Fine. We can do that. This is your honeymoon, and I won’t interrupt,” Lei promised.
“Take care of yourselves, okay? And if anything happens, please call,” Xiao Qiao said.
“Man, Africa? Why Africa? . . . fine, I won’t say anything. Just come back safely,” Mei Zhuo finally conceded.
“Don’t take too long. You know how the women worry. So we’ll be waiting for you at the airport exactly one year after your trip, and we want you to be there, okay?” Dao Ming Si.
“Fine, Ah Si. We’ll be there, we promise,” Ximen said.
Everyone turned to look at Shan Cai. She was stubbornly silent.
“Shan Cai?” Xiao You pressed for a response.
“You know I don’t want to do this. I don’t approve. I don’t . . . but I can wish you a safe and happy trip. Come back quickly. Come back safely. We’ll be here. Waiting. Don’t make us wait too long,” Shan Cai muttered.
Xiao You smiled in gratitude, and hugged the frowning Shan Cai.
“We promise that nothing will happen to us. We’ll be back here in a year. Safe and sound. We promise,” she murmured into Shan Cai’s ear.
“You better keep that promise,” Shan Cai said with a sigh.
“When are you guys leaving, anyways?” one of the others asked.
“In a month . . . ”
One year and 4 months ago
“Ah Si, wake up pighead!!” Shan Cai’s loud voice rang through their room.
“What you stupid woman!! It’s five in the morning. Why the hell would I get up right now?” he demanded grumpily from under the warm covers.
“It’s THE day. They’re coming back today. We have to get ready!” Shan Cai insisted.
“Shan Cai, baby, calm down,” Dao Ming Si said, getting up.
He looked at his delicate wife. She looked so fragile. Her cheeks were flushed with excitement, her eyes twinkled with happiness. His eyes continued down, and saw the bulge of her belly. She was 9 months pregnant and due any day, but that hadn’t slowed her down at all.
“But don’t you see?” she muttered, as she began to move around the room. “We have to be there when they come out. I don’t know . . . I haven’t wanted to tell you, but I’ve been feeling . . . something . . . as if something horrible happened. I don’t know, I’ve been worried for so long. But . . . but they’ll be back today, and all the worry will end. We can finally see our niece or nephew. . .” she trailed off.
“That really hurt you, didn’t it?” he asked, coming up behind her. “Shan Cai, they needed this time. You know how hectic the first two years of their marriage were. They got married, and on the way to the airport they got the news that his father had passed away. And not only that, but in his mistress’s bed. You know how horrible that was. The fallout from that ensured that they couldn’t call their life their own for a long time. They had to be seen in public all the time, Ximen had to work long hours, and Xiao You had to be with his mother to protect her from the vicious gossip.”
“But,” Shan Cai said, her fingers coming up to caress her husband’s hands as his arms came up to wrap around her. “But, they could’ve called. I waited all that week. The week when Xiao You was due. And they didn’t call. There was no news. Only silence. That made me so afraid, Ah si. . . so afraid. They’re not like that. They wouldn’t have done that,” she argued, leaning her weary body into his.
“I know they’re not like that,” Dao Ming Si agreed, wrapping his arms tightly around her body. He could feel her trembling throughout his body.
“But understand them Shan Cai. We’re their best friends in the world, but I think they just needed to escape. Taiwanese upper society isn’t the most forgiving and certainly NOT the nicest. We were there with them when they got the news that Ximen’s mother died that next year. In fact . . . it was on their wedding anniversary. It was only a year after his father’s death. You remember how they had only just begun to be happy, and then that happened.
Remember his mom. She had finally been freed after the divorce. Ximen told us all of that. And she was finally finding her lost love again, and then . . . she died . . . in his arms.
It was like history repeating itself. The media went wild. About the apple not falling far from the tree, and it was only a matter of “when” Ximen would betray Xiao You, not a matter of “if”. People gossiped like crazy . . . and Ximen and Xiao You were put under the public’s eye again. I know that you don’t know this . . . if it wasn’t for us, Ximen would’ve left. He told me one night. He would’ve given it all up . . . he would’ve taken Xiao You . . .and he would NEVER have come back.”
“They needed this time away. To forget about the past. To forgot about all the tragedy. And to just . . . enjoy their lives. To enjoy a new life. As sad as it may be . . . we are connected to all of that tragedy, and whenever he was around us, all he could think about was the emotional upheaval and the stressful situation. But they’re back now. They will be back today, and they will be here for the birth of our first child. So stop worrying, and just . . . be happy.”
“Dao Ming Si . . .” she began to cry.
“What is it? Why are you crying?” he demanded worriedly.
“I don’t know,” Shan Cai wailed. “When did you become so understanding? A few years ago all of this would’ve gone over your head, and you would be getting angry along side with me,” she cried.
“Come on, stop crying,” he insisted, rubbing her back. “You should be happy that your husband has become a man of . . .sense. And just appreciate all of my intelligence.”
“I can’t!!” she suddenly cried out.
“Why not?” he demanded, getting worried as she began to cry even more.
“You pighead. You may have gotten more intelligent, but you still have a long way to go. Look down!” she ordered.
Dao Ming Si looked down, his eyes widening at the growing puddle below his wife’s feet.
“You’re . . . you’re having the baby?” he gasped in shock.
“Dao Ming Si! Ah Si! Wake up! You can’t do this, pighead,” Shan Cai muttered, kicking her unconscious husband.
Muttering, she went to the phone. She had to get things settled, before going to the hospital.
“I’m not here right now. Please leave a message and I’ll get back to you.”
“Ei, Lei, get up. Now’s no time to be sleeping! I’m going into labor, and Ah Si fainted. Come here right now, I need you to hold Ah Si’s hand while I’m giving birth. Also—
“Shan Cai? Shan Cai, what did you say?” Lei demanded, picking up the phone.
“You’re awake? At this time? Lei is something wrong?” Shan Cai asked, shocked at this unexpected development.
“Forget about me,” Lei said impatiently. “What did you say? Repeat it.”
“Oh, well, Ah Si fainted when he saw that my water broke. And I need to get the hospital, and we let the staff off last night because we wanted to celebrate our anniversary in private. And now I have no one to take me to the hospital. So, come on over. Also, make sure that Mei Zhuo and Xiao Qiao get to the airport on time,” Shan Cai demanded.
“I’ll be there. Don’t worry. Just make sure that Ah Si is awake by the time I get there,” Lei calmly said.
Shan Cai hung up the phone. She looked down at her unconscious husband, sighing softly. Some things would never change. And he had always overreacted when he thought that something would hurt her. And labor would be no piece of cake.
She got ready, and sat down to wait, her thoughts turning to the missing couple. They hadn’t been in touch, but she understood that. She was just worried, and it had been stressful living with that worried feeling for an entire year.
But . . . they hadn’t heard any news, and didn’t they say that no news was good news?
“Aren’t they here yet?” Shan Cai huffed out. “Their plane should’ve landed by now.”
“Shan Cai, calm down. I’m sure that it’s just delayed,” Ah Si murmured soothingly.
“Don’t give me assurances, pighead! I want facts. Go and find out why they’re not here yet,” Shan Cai demanded.
Ah Si sighed, and turned to go. He knew that she would give him no peace until he found out.
“Any news?” he asked, walking out to the waiting room.
Xiao Qiao quickly shook her head.
“Lei and Mei Zhuo went to find out. The flight they should’ve come on landed an hour ago, and they weren’t on it. Mei Zhuo said they’re at the airport, just at the off chance that Ximen and Xiao You might be on the next flight, but . . . I don’t know,” Xiao Qiao admitted.
“Where could they be? Shan Cai is going crazy worrying about them, and that is not good for her. Xiao Qiao, could you go and sit with her?” Dao Ming Si asked, turning to look at her.
“Sure,” she quickly agreed. “Dao Ming Si . . . just . . . make sure and find out where they are . . . for Shan Cai.”
He stood silently in the hospital waiting room, wondering what to do next. They might have just missed their flight, but Shan Cai’s worry had caught on. He needed to find out where they were exactly for her peace of mind . . . and his.
His thoughts were interrupted by the buzzing of his cellphone.
“Dao Ming Shao Ye, I needed to speak with you,” a voice said.
“What is it Secretary Xu?” he quickly asked.
“Sir, I need to tell you exactly where Ximen Shao Ye is, so you can get them back. I’m afraid I lied. They should’ve been here a week ago, but they didn’t come,” Xu admitted.
“What?! They were supposed to be here a week ago, and you didn’t tell us this before?”
“Shao ye, I had to follow Ximen Shao Ye’s instructions. He said that he wanted to surprise you all. . . I didn’t want to ruin the surprise. But it has been a week. I think that I should tell you where they really are, so you can bring them back.”
“What do you mean, where they really are? You mean what country and what city, right?” Dao Ming Si asked.
“No. Yes. Well, yes and no. Shao Ye, I will tell you face to face. I think that you might get angry. But I need to make sure that Ximen Shao Ye is safe,” Xu admitted.
“I’m at the hospital. Come quickly,” Dao Ming Si ordered.
“I will be there as soon as this meeting is over, Dao Ming Shao ye,” he promised.
Dao Ming Si hung up the phone, and turned to stare out the window. He would go back inside in a moment, but he needed to calm down. He didn’t want Shan Cai to know that they had been due back a week ago. That would only increase her worries.
She would catch no hint of this new development from his face.
As he stepped into the room, he saw that Shan Cai was in the last stages of labor. He could see the glazed look in her eyes.
He quickly pushed Xiao Qiao aside, and grabbed her hand.
“Dao Ming Si,” Shan Cai gasped.
“You stupid woman, conserve your energy,” he growled in worry.
“Where are they?” she demanded, ignoring his orders.
He looked down in surprise, his eyes unguarded.
She saw the truth in his eyes, and her own widened in worry.
But it was too late.
Their baby could wait no longer.
“Xu should be coming soon. He said that Ximen had planned to come back last week, but not only have they not come back, but there was NO contact. Xu is getting worried as well,” Dao Ming Si admitted.
Their baby had been born that afternoon, and after marveling at the perfect little being that they had created, Shan Cai’s attention had quickly shifted back to the problem at hand.
Mei Zhuo and Lei had returned from the airport upon receiving Dao Ming Si’s call. Ximen and Xiao You weren’t only an hour late . . . they were a week late.
Xiao Qiao sat next to Mei Zhuo, seeking comfort from his reassuring warmth. While she may not have known the couple for as long as everyone in this room had known them, but they were still her friends. And she knew that this was serious.
There was complete silence as the party waited for Xu to arrive.
The silence was abruptly broken by the ringing of the telephone.
There was complete silence, while Dao Ming Si heard the voice on the other side.
. . . . . . . . . . .
“Well, what is it?” Shan Cai demanded impatiently.
“There was . . . an accident. Xu was involved in a head on collision with a drunken driver . . . there were fatalities,” Dao Ming Si painfully said. “He didn’t survive.”
. . . . . . . . .
“Do something!” Shan Cai demanded. She wanted to get up out of that bed to go search for her missing friends. But, while the mind was willing, the body was too weak.
“Mei Zhuo, go to Xu. He didn’t have any family. He had no one, not that we know of. The least we can do is ensure that he gets a proper burial,” Lei finally said.
“I’ll start the search. We’ll have to search the entire continent, since we don’t know exactly where they are,” he continued.
“Ah Si, you stay with Shan Cai, she needs you right now.”
The others trooped out of the room, leaving Dao Ming Si to move over to a worried Shan Cai.
“We’ll find them,” he promised. “We’re all powerful, remember? We’re F4 . . . once we get Ximen back. Nobody can hide from us. Don’t worry,” he muttered into her ear, hiding the worry in his eyes.
Something was tugging at the back of his mind. Something that he was forgetting. . . . something that Xu had said that had rung some kind of warning bell in his mind.
. . . . . . . . . . .
He couldn’t remember.
But they would be sure to find them in Africa.
How long could it really take?
Ximen sat in the spacious dining room, watching the eager staff fuss over their son. Everyone had immediately fallen in love with the little Shao Ye, and Ximen had had to fight all the servants to let him put his own son to bed last night.
Xiao You quietly walked up from behind, and stared at the scenario before her. Her husband sat at the table and their son was being waited upon by at least a dozen servants.
It made her . . . happy.
Yesterday had brought so many changes.
She had regained her memories.
All the confusion . . . the low self-esteem . . . all the bad things had just gone away.
She was with HER family. She was with the people she loved the most in the world. When she was pregnant with Kenny, she had had so many dreams. Of all the children they would have together. Of the memories they would make . . . together. Of how they would cherish each other . . . their family . . . their friends. And . . . it may have taken a little bit longer than usual . . . but it was all coming true.
She glanced down. Last night . . . last night they had made another baby. She was sure of it. Of course, she wouldn’t tell Ximen right now . . . he wouldn’t believe her, but she knew.
She moved up behind the man she loved, and leaned down to give him a quick kiss on the cheek.
He winced as her lips touched him.
Her eyes widened. What had been barely a shadow last night was a full-blown black-eye this morning.
“What happened??!!!” she asked in astonishment.
He was silent.
“Ximen?!” she demanded.
“Uh . . . Xiao You . . . it was nothing. Nothing. Just a little accident, and San Chai was involved,” he finally admitted, his cheeks flushing.
“What? . . . When? Ximen what happened? What is it that you aren’t telling me?” she asked in confusion.
Ximen sighed and then began.
“You said that San Chai saw you last night,” he pointed out. “Well, of course that sent her running over here. Although . . . at the time I didn’t know what had tipped her off. I thought your friend was simply psychic . . . she’s scary enough as is,” he said half-jokingly.
“Ximen! Tell me about the eye. The eye,” she demanded, pointing at the object in question.
“Well, I was waiting for you to show up . . . going crazy out of my mind,” he turned to her. “I had just found you . . . and I couldn’t bear the thought that I had lost you again,” he muttered . . . turning the power of his beautiful eyes on her, as his lips formed a pout.
“Oh, Ximen,” Xiao You sighed, her hand coming up to caress his face.
He leaned in for a kiss, attracted by her beautiful, glistening lips.
She allowed him to lean in, and then reached around to whack him on the back of his head.
“Xiao You!!” he barked at her in annoyance.
“The eye,” she demanded, poking at it.
“Ow!!!! Fine!!” he said, “Fine I’ll tell you.”
“Ximen?” Xiao You said, looking at him incredulously. He was definitely overreacting.
“As I was pacing yesterday, after putting little Ken to bed . . who, by the way, was asking for his mommy . . .”
“Ximen,” Xiao You warned, putting up her finger threateningly.
“Okay. You don’t have to threaten me. . . SanChaiknockedonthedoor,andwhenIopenedthedoor,shepunchedmeintheeye,” he quickly got out.
Xiao You waited.
There was nothing more.
“That’s it?” she asked.
“Yes,” Ximen answered, hanging his head.
“Oh, Ximen. There is nothing you could have done about that,” Xiao You said, coming up to place a comforting hand on his shoulder. “She took you by surprise. I’m sure if you had been warned . . . say by Ah Si, and Mei Zhou, and Lei . . . you could’ve escaped one pregnant woman, one who was in her third semester.”
Ximen looked at her suspiciously.
The REAL Story
Ximen paced in the study, his eyes constantly moving to the clock. She wasn’t back. It had been three hours and she wasn’t back. His hands shook as he dialed a number on the intercom.
“Yes, Shao Ye?” Butler Ping’s voice came over the intercom.
“Has there been any word?” he got out.
“None, Shao Ye,” Ping replied apologetically.
“Well, if anyone calls, just put them through. Let me handle this,” he ordered impatiently.
Butler Ping quietly agreed, and hung up the phone.
The phone began to ring.
Ximen raced over, his palms sweating. He didn’t know whether to expect good news or bad. He didn’t think his heart could handle anymore bad news.
“Wei,” he said into the phone.
“Run,” a voice whispered over the phone.
Ximen’s eyebrows crinkled in confusion. He didn’t know how to respond. And from the fact that the whisper sounded like an order, he had an idea who was on the phone.
“What? Who’s this?” he asked anyways, wanting to confirm his suspicions.
“I told you . . . run. I’m not kidding,” the male voice repeated impatiently.
“Ah Si? Is this some kind of joke?” Ximen demanded.
“Does it sound like I’m kidding?!! Bro, if you want to save your hide, stop yapping, and run!” he ordered.
“Dao Ming Si! You pighead. Are you calling that little pighead to warn him!!!” a voice blared in the background.
“No, hon. I’m calling one of the other little pigheads, reminding him to run to Ximen’s mansion and to make sure that he doesn’t run away again,” Ah si quickly explained.
“Ah Si, don’t worry. I can take care of myself. I’m sure I can handle one little San Chai,” Ximen said, laughing into the phone.
“Ximen . . . she’s pregnant . . . 8 1/2 months pregnant,” Ah Si replied.
Ximen’s eyes widened. While your average, every day San Chai was hard to handle, a pregnant San Chai in her last trimester . . . his mind boggled at the thought.
There was a screech of brakes, and the phone was turned off.
He quickly ran to the window and looked outside. His worst fears were confirmed. San Chai was getting out of the car parked at his door. Ah Si quickly rounded the car, and seemed to be reasoning with San Chai.
“Good, maybe Ah Si will be able to calm her down. I’m sure he’s learned to deal with her by now,” he murmured himself.
He winced as he saw San Chai punch Ah Si in the eye.
Ximen turned away from the window and looked around.
That was the answer.
As he raced to the backdoor, his cell rang.
“Hello,” he breathed into the phone.
“Ei, Ximen,” Mei Zhou said over the phone.
“Mei Zhou, no time to talk. I’m trying to get away from San Chai. She’s out for some serious blood,” Ximen hurriedly explained, getting ready to hang up the phone.
“Ei, wait. Don’t hang up!” Mei Zhou ordered over the phone.
“What is it?” Ximen asked in exasperation.
“I feel honor bound to tell you that San Chai has ordered me to guard your backdoor. I, personally, would let you go . . . simply because I’m sure that San Chai will be after me one day . . . and I’ll probably need your help to escape . . . but Xiao Qiao is here, and she won’t let you go. She’s pretty steamed at me for keeping that fact that you resurfaced last week a secret from her and San Chai. Man . . . .she punched me,” Mei Zhou whispered into the phone. “Oh shit, Xiao Qiao’s back,” Mei Zhou said, quickly hanging up the phone.
Ximen looked around frantically.
The best thing to do was hide. This was a big mansion. There was no way she could find him in here.
Ximen raced to his son’s room. San Chai would never disturb the sleep of an innocent child.
“Don’t wake up, baby. Don’t wake up and see your daddy in this position,” Ximen murmured as he slipped into the closet.
Ximen sat quietly in the closet, shaking his head. He couldn’t believe that he . . . Ximen Zhong Er Lang . . . was sitting here, hiding from a woman.
Okay, not just any woman. It was San Chai.
And he was hiding from San Chai’s fury.
Her fury was legend.
. . . . . . . .
But this was ridiculous.
He heard distant murmurs, and froze wondering if maybe he had chosen the wrong place to hide. Maybe, San Chai would want to see her godson first?
“Stupid, stupid Ximen,” he muttered to himself, his hand coming up to smack his forehead.
His phone began to ring.
“Shit! Wei,” he whispered into the phone.
“I thought I should tell you that San Chai is looking for you,” Lei’s calm voice came through the phone.
“I know!” Ximen retorted, “Thanks for the warning.”
“In fact, she’s in the house right now. But your butler saw the lay of the land, and has brilliantly distracted her by offering to show San Chai her beautiful godson,” Lei continued.
“Shit,” Ximen murmured, as he realized his predicament.
“I suggest that you get out of there,” Lei said, and hung up the phone.
Ximen slammed open the closet door, and leapt out, intent only on escape.
He ran smack dab into San Chai.
He ran smack dab into San Chai’s fist.
He landed flat on his back.
Lei’s face appeared above his head.
“What the hell, Lei!!!!” Ximen whispered, afraid to wake his son.
Lei shrugged his shoulders in apology.
He pointed at his eye.
“She punched me, and threatened to do further damage if I didn’t bring you out of hiding. For some reason she thought I would magically know where you were,” Lei explained. “It’s not my fault that you would be so . . . so intelligently challenged as to hide in the first place that San Chai would want to go.”
Ximen groaned and got up to look at San Chai, but she was no longer interested in him. She was caressing his son’s cheek, tears falling from her eyes.
Ximen realized there was nothing more to be afraid of.
This was just San Chai’s way of loving them.
Her fury was just one of her ways of expressing her love.
It was painful.
It was fearful.
But it was also comforting.
More than two years away from all of them . . . and nothing had changed.
Here’s the last chapter. Enjoy.
Love is real, real is love
Love is feeling, feeling love
Love is wanting to be loved.
“You know what I love about getting my memory back?” Xiao You whispered in the darkness of the room, her arms coming up to entwine themselves around her lover’s body.
“What?” he whispered huskily, nibbling on her ear.
She giggled softly.
“That I remember how I fell in love. That this face,” she reached up to cradle his face in her hands, “it’s become the handsomest face in the world because of the love it has for me. That I remember your crashing my engagement party and stealing me away . . . our wedding . . . our honeymoon. That I remember everything . . . everything that is precious about you. And most of all . . .”
“Most of all?” he murmured, burying his face in her hair.
“That I now remember how to touch you exactly the way you like,” she murmured, pulling him toward their bed.
Love is touch, touch is love
Love is reaching, reaching love
Love is asking to be loved
Ximen eagerly acquiesced. He pulled her body into his arms, and carried her to their bed.
Gently throwing her down, he leaned in to kiss her pouting lips.
And after that . . . there was only silence . . . interspersed with her moans.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
“Didn’t you tell the servants we weren’t to be disturbed?” she whispered huskily, pulled from the sensual haze that had fallen over her.
“I did,” he growled in frustration. “Ignore them. Maybe whoever it is will go away,” he ordered, returning to what he had been doing a moment before.
“Shao ye, I’m sorry to disturb you but you have some visitors,” Butler Ping’s voice came through the door.
There was a sudden loud banging on the door.
“Madam!” Butler Ping protested.
“Ximen!!! What are you doing in there at 11 in the morning?” Shan Cai bellowed through the door.
“Shan Cai,” Ximen groaned, turning to look at the door.
“Shan Cai,” Xiao You murmured happily. She smiled. Of course she was frustrated . . . of course, but she was also happy. It would nice to see her best friend with all her memories intact.
“Madam, don’t!” Butler Ping protested. “They need their peace. They’ve only just returned.”
“Look, Butler Ping. I highly doubt they’re just sleeping in there peacefully,” Shan Cai argued.
The door burst open.
It seemed that Butler Ping had lost the battle.
Shan Cai glared at the couple on the bed, and then began to walk toward them.
“Shan Cai, we’re naked,” Xiao You warned. “I doubt you want to see that.”
“Ximen!” Shan Cai shouted, glaring at him. “Now is not the time for hank panky,” she ordered. “I need explanations. We all do.”
“We’ll be right with you,” Xiao You promised.
“Good, we’re waiting downstairs,” Shan Cai turned, and, with a final warning glare at Ximen, left.
Ximen sighed and got up.
“Just because she’s not getting any, she has to come in and ruin my fun,” he muttered balefully, turning to put on some clothes.
“Ximen, we’ll have all the time to have fun later,” Xiao You promised. “If we don’t appease Shan Cai, I doubt you will ever have fun again,” she teased him. “You already have one black eye, you want to test how much more she can do?”
“No, let’s go, dear wife. They want explanations. We owe them that much for worrying them for so long,” he said.
Hand in hand they went downstairs, to face the only family they had in the world.
Love is you
You and me
Love is knowing
You can be.
Love is free, free is love
Love is living, living, living love
Love is needing to be loved.
Ximen and Xiao You walked into the room. One that was filled with their waiting friends. Friends who were so much more than just friends.
They owed them these explanations. Their friends’ love had kept them searching for a long time . . . they’d never given up . . . it wasn’t in them to give up on those they loved.
Kenny had already woken up from his nap, and was staring, fascinated, at a baby sleeping in his pram. Nearby, they saw a three year old playing quietly with Ximen’s old toys. Butler Ping had gotten everything down from the attic to give to little Shao Ye.
Xiao Qiao and Mei Zhuo sat quietly on a love seat on one side of the room. Mei Zhuo was sighing mournfully, and making puppy dog eyes at a coldly silent Xiao Qiao.
Lei sat quietly, staring off into space. The only thing incongruous about that sight was his black eye. It just didn’t belong on that beautiful face. Only Shan Cai would . . .
Shan Cai was blowing gently into Ah Si’s eyes, asking him softly if it hurt.
Ah Si only grumbled and scowled.
At their entrance, everyone turned to look at the couple.
Ximen’s eyes widened.
“What happened to you other eye, Ah Si?” Ximen asked in astonishment.
“Shan Cai,” Ah Si said, rolling his eyes. And then cursed, when the action hurt his bruised eyes.
“Why?” Xiao You asked in surprise.
“Ximen didn’t call last night after you returned, as he had promised,” Ah Si explained. “When I said you were probably too busy having fun, she punched me. I guess she misses having fun too,” he said quietly. “I know I do,” he then muttered into the silence.
“Whose kids?” Ximen suddenly asked, wanting to be introduced to these tiny strangers. He could already feel the threads connecting them . . . these were his brothers’ children . . . his almost nephews or nieces.
“Well, the baby in the pram is ours,” Ah Si said proudly. “He was due the day you two were due back. His name is Bao Long.”
“Oh, Shan Cai, I missed the birth of your first baby,” Xiao You cried out in regret. Xiao You ran over and hugged a silent Shan Cai in comfort. “I promise that I’ll be here for your second birth. I’ll be the best godmother in the world,” Xiao You promised.
Shan Cai nodded vigorously, pulling Xiao You even closer into the hug.
“The other one is Rui. He’s Lei’s son. You know that he was due when you were leaving,” Mei Zhuo piped in.
“What about you, Mei Zhuo. Aren’t you running a little behind?” Ximen teased him.
“Well . . . we do have some news,” Mei Zhuo said, looking at a silent Xiao Qiao. “We found out last week that we are pregnant. They baby is due in six months.”
The next few minutes were spent congratulating the happy couple and greeting the new additions to their family circle.
“Now,” Shan Cai said finally, “Tell me what happened. Where were you guys exactly? Why were you gone for so long? Why did you hide it from us? And,” she turned to Mei Zhuo, “Why did you hide it from us when Ximen called?”
There was silence, as Ximen and Xiao You gathered their thoughts to begin answering their friends.
“I’d like to go first,” Mei Zhuo volunteered. “Ximen did call me a few days ago to ask for some money. I didn’t have time to ask any questions, because Ximen didn’t have too much time.
I . . . was in shock. I was happy, but after wiring the money over to his location . . . I began to have doubts. I’ve wanted to hear my best friend’s voice for so long that I began to think that I had dreamed it up. That maybe . . . maybe the call hadn’t been real. Maybe it was a cruel joke. Maybe it was my imagination . . . or a dream that I wanted to come true. I would’ve loved to tell you all, but my uncertainties and my inability to get any information from the detectives I asked to trace the call lead me to doubt myself even more.
San Chai, you’re pregnant. Last time . . . you remember when they were due back. You were so agitated. I didn’t want to put you through that again. And then . . . we had just found out that Xiao Qiao was pregnant, and I didn’t want anything to risk that. I’m sorry if that feels so wrong, but I felt that what I did was right.
Ah Si . . . well . . . Ah Si is Ah Si. He couldn’t have kept that secret from Shan Cai. He wouldn’t have wanted to let it out, but it would’ve come out somehow. You’re relationship is so open . . . so honest . . . that putting this burden on you, forcing you to keep a secret didn’t feel right.”
“What about Lei?” Shan Cai demanded.
“Oh . . . he knew,” Mei Zhuo admitted, looking guiltily at Lei. “He was the one who gave me the advice to keep it to myself. There were no leads, and we didn’t want to put you in a maelstrom of new worry.”
There was silence.
“Xiao Qiao, come on, please don’t be mad anymore,” Mei Zhuo pleaded, taking his silent wife’s hand in his.
. . . . . . . . . . . .
“I thought you didn’t tell me, because you felt that you couldn’t trust me,” she murmured tearfully. “I’ll let it go this time, because you were thinking for my health. But . . . don’t treat me like I’m suffering from some sort of illness, Mei Zhuo. I’m only pregnant.”
“I can’t stop doing that,” Mei Zhuo. “I have to protect you. If something were to happen to you . . . don’t you see? In protecting you, I’m protecting myself. I’m being selfish.”
Xiao Qiao quietly hugged him, giving him the strength and warmth he so badly needed after the days of cold silence between them.
“Okay, fine, I forgive you, too,” Shan Cai said, wiping tears away. “Damn these annoying hormones.”
“Well, I’m not forgiving you, idiot,” Ah Si said. “How could you think I couldn’t keep a secret? Have I told you guys about the fact that I fainted when Shan Cai was about to have Bao Long? Only Shan Cai and Lei know,” he boasted.
. . . . . . . . . . .
Laughter broke out in the room, breaking the somber silence that had begun to oppress them all.
“Whatever,” Ah Si murmured, going red as he realized what he had done.
“I’m so glad,” Xiao You murmured, wiping tears of laughter from her eyes.
“I’m so glad that you’re all the same. I’ve missed this so much. I’ve missed it all so much. And I didn’t even know what it was that I was missing,” she admitted.
“What do you mean?” Shan Cai demanded, hearing that last sentence.
“Well . . .,” Xiao You looked at Ximen.
“Well, I do have a question first,” Ximen said.
Everyone turned to look at him.
“We . . . we didn’t go to Africa, as you might have guessed, but Secretary Xu knew that. I kept him in the loop on our whole plan. When we didn’t show up a year ago, he should’ve known exactly where to look. Where is he?” he finally asked.
“Uh . . . Ximen,” Ah Si began.
“Xu passed away around the time you guys were due back,” Lei said quietly. “When you didn’t show up at the arranged time, and for a week afterwards, he contacted Ah Si. There was something he wanted to tell us, but on the way to the hospital . . . there was an accident.”
Ximen was silent. That was one thing he hadn’t thought of . . . that the only person in the world who knew where they were . . . would no longer be in the world.
Xu had been a good secretary. He had become a loyal friend. And he was no longer here. And he had died while attempting to tell his friends about his whereabouts. That was one more thing on his conscience. He didn’t know how much more guilt he could handle.
“Ximen, it’s not your fault,” Xiao You whispered, coming to sit beside him. Her hand came out to hold his.
“He had no family,” Ximen finally said, his voice hoarse. “Did you guys. . . ?”
“We took care of everything,” Mei Zhuo said quickly. “We know how loyal he had been to you. We tried our best to express that at his funeral.”
Ximen nodded in acknowledgement, silently thanking his friends for their help.
“Well,” Ximen cleared his throat, “We weren’t in Africa. We were actually in Canada.”
“Why Canada?” Xiao Qiao asked.
“We went there to try to mend Xiao You’s relationship with her parents,” Ximen said.
“Ximen! How could you?! You know what they were willing to do to Xiao You for their company,” Shan Cai cried out in anger.
“Shan Cai, it was my wish,” Xiao You said. “I was about to have a child, and they’re the only grandparents this child will have. I wanted to fix our relationship . . . they’re my parents too,” Xiao You said. “They did that to me, and . . . I was ready to forgive them.”
Shan Cai quietly nodded in understanding, her hands coming up to touch her womb. This child would need its grandparents, and she understood Xiao You’s need to give that to her own child.
“Well, as we were making our way to the town they live in now, we met with an accident,” Ximen continued.
“An accident!” everyone asked in astonishment.
“Yes, an accident,” Ximen said.
He sighed quietly, looking at the astonished faces around him. This next part was not going to be easy.
“Xiao You was in a coma for a few months, and had Kenny while she was in the coma. I stayed by her side all that time. But I was pretty badly injured, and when I went into get an operation, her parents came and took her from me. I spent the next two years looking for her.”
“Looking for her?” Shan Cai asked in confusion. “Didn’t you know where her parents’ house was?”
“You didn’t . . . you had amnesia?” Ah Si asked suddenly.
“You pighead,” Shan Cai exclaimed, “how could he look for her if he had amnesia? You had amnesia and fell in love with someone else,” she reminded him with a smack.
“Ow, Shan Cai!” Ah Si cried out in frustration.
“Actually, Ah Si is right,” Ximen interrupted the squabble, “I did have amnesia. But I had Xiao You’s pictures in the locket she had given me for our first anniversary and some letters . . . enough to go on . . . that I couldn’t stop searching.”
Shan Cai suddenly looked at Ah Si with a gleam in her eyes.
“What is that look for?” Ah Si asked in fear.
“Well, what about Xiao You? Why wasn’t she looking for you,” Mei Zhuo asked, wanting to hear more.
“Well . . .,” Ximen’s voice trailed off.
“I had amnesia too,” Xiao You blurted out.
Xiao You looked surprised at the outburst. It was a bit more violent than she had expected.
“After the coma . . . I woke up without any memories. I had Kenny and no clue of where I had got him. I just knew that I . . . must have loved someone enough to have this baby. And . . . so . . . I waited. I took care of my son, heard my parents’ angry words . . . and waited for that man to return,” Xiao You said quietly.
“I finally came to the town she was in, and she was the first person I saw. She was so beautiful, and I fainted,” Ximen smilingly said.
“Were you that awed by her beauty?” Ah Si teased.
“Yeah. But more than that, I got my memory back. I told her that we were family, she accepted it as the truth, and I brought her home. By the way, don’t be that trusting of strangers dear wife,” Ximen said out of the blue.
Xiao You opened her mouth to argue.
“Along the way I contacted Mei Zhuo to get money,” Ximen quickly continued. “There wasn’t enough time to explain, because I was afraid that her parents might try to start some trouble. It was a small town and they had been living there for years,” Ximen finished.
There was only silence as the group tried to digest all of this.
“We didn’t remember enough to contact you. I didn’t remember enough to know where her parents’ house was. I didn’t even remember that I had a son. My in-laws took away the first two years of my son’s life. I’m not going to forgive that.” Ximen’s angry, yet quiet, voice reverberated through the room as all the emotions spilled out.
“Why didn’t we think to look there,” Shan Cai groaned, smacking her forehead for all their stupidity.
“I did,” Lei suddenly spoke up. “I called them, asking if they knew where you guys were. I knew that you hadn’t spoken with them for some time, but that it wouldn’t hurt to try. I didn’t think that they would actually lie to us. I’m sorry for not trying harder,” Lei said, turning to look at Ximen and Xiao You.
“We don’t blame you, Lei. Don’t worry. We won’t be ever so foolish ever again,” Xiao You said quietly. “At least, I think this time together helped my father to forget his anger. He might have started this whole plan to get revenge . . . or for whatever reason . . . but by the end, he did care. I just can’t risk my family again. I can’t trust my parents ever again, but I do understand them. It wasn’t your fault.”
“Yeah, Lei. Don’t worry about it. I was stupid for thinking of this brilliant plan,” Ximen said.
“Ei, Ximen. Don’t put yourself down. We understand the motivations of meeting your in-laws again, and for the fact that you guys had decided not to contact us for the first year,” Shan Cai piped in. “We understand. You both had lived in a fishbowl long enough, and you needed this time to regroup away from the limelight. We probably reminded you too much of all that had gone on, and the media was also chasing us..”
“Who gave you that brilliant insight?” Ximen asked, laughing. He turned to look at Lei in question.
“Ah Si,” Shan Cai said proudly.
There was only disbelief.
“Hey! My pighead has brightened a lot since our marriage. I’m a good influence,” Shan Cai protested.
There was only laughter to her response.
“He just wasn’t brilliant to keep something of mine, so he wouldn’t completely forget me and fall in love with Yesha,” Shan Cai said, starting to cry.
“Shan Cai that was years ago!” Ah Si protested.
“It’s been less than five years . . . and it was a painful time for me. Ahhhh!” Shan Cai suddenly screamed.
“What is it?!! What’s wrong? Shan Cai?” Ah Si asked in worry.
“I . . . my water broke,” she exclaimed in shock.
Ah Si looked down . . . the world began to spin around him . . . and he fainted.
“Ugh! When is that pighead going to get used to this?” Shan Cai muttered, kicking at him to get up.
“Xiao You, you and Ximen take me to the hospital,” she suddenly ordered.
“What about me,” a voice demanded from the floor. “I want to take you.”
“No. You’re going with Mei Zhuo and Xiao Qiao,” Shan Cai decided.
“Why?” he asked in confusion.
“I want you to know that there’s someone in your life if you ever lose your memory again,” she said.
“You want me to go buy a necklace while you’re having a baby?!” he growled. “I’m going with you. Stop this nonsense.”
“No . . . not a necklace,” she said quickly, holding her stomach as pain shot through her body. “Knowing you . . . you’d probably sell it without ever opening it and seeing my beautiful face. Get a . . . you’re getting a tattoo. With my name and my picture. That’ll give you enough of a clue about my existence.”
“What?! Are you crazy? That’s going to hurt. I am not doing that,” Ah Si shouted, jumping up from the ground.
He swayed dizzily, and Ximen and Mei Zhuo quickly grabbed his arms to hold him steady.
“I am going to have your baby!” Shan Cai shouted back. “You think that’s going to be a walk in the freaking park?”
“We all have to make sacrifices. I have to have your baby, because I love you. You’re getting the tattoo.”
Ah Si was mutinously silent.
“I’m not going to the hospital until you agree,” Shan Cai tearfully said. “This is important to me, Ah Si. I’m afraid,” she quietly admitted.
“Fine,” Ah Si sighed, leaning down to kiss her cheek.
“Take care of her,” he ordered, turning to Ximen.
“Yay!” Shan Cai shouted in glee. “Let’s go now, I need those meds or I won’t be able to stand this birth. Lei, stay with the kids.”
“Let’s go,” Ah Si said, after they had placed Shan Cai in the car. “I already have a picture.”
Mei Zhuo, Ah Si, and Xiao Qiao trooped into a car, on their way to get Ah Si’s tattoo.
Before the night would be over, Mei Zhuo would also get a tattoo to prove his love for Xiao Qiao . . .
Against her objections.
They would have another fight.
Lei quietly sat in the now silent living room.
His eyes watched Rui playing with Kenny, and his jaw clenched.
He looked at the paper that had been in his hands, crumpled, for the past hour.
He opened it once more to read.
I’m leaving . . . you know why. I’ve waited too long for the day . . . that you would turn to me, and call me your own. You never did. I don’t know why you agreed to marry me. It wasn’t love. You told me that. I don’t know why I kept hoping for something more.
Our marriage lasted for four years; that’s more than most, right? I won’t fight you for Rui. He loves you too much . . . and I know that you at least love him. I know that I am being selfish, leaving you like this, but I wouldn’t so selfish as to take away the only person you love in this world.
Find the one you can truly love. It’s too lonely a world to live in without love. I know . . . from personal experience.
His hand crushed the paper once more.
Shan Cai had a beautiful baby girl. When Ah Si arrived from the tattoo parlor, complete with a brand new tattoo, they were waiting for him.
Ximen and Xiao You quietly stepped out, leaving the couple to have their moments of joy in private.
“You know the one great thing about being back?” Ximen asked, turning to kiss Xiao You.
“What?” she asked sleepily.
Sounds of a quarrel had begun to break out in the background.
“You pighead. What kind of stupid name is that? She needs a beautiful name!”
“But Shan Cai . . .”
They moved away from the open door . . . to leave the happy couple to have their moments of loudness in private as well.
Ximen looked around him. He saw Mei Zhuo and Xiao Qiao sitting quietly in the waiting room Ah Si and Shan Cai were sitting quietly in the background. Lei had just walked in.
He looked down at Xiao You and smiled.
“That nothing’s changed.”
Xiao You nodded.
“We’re going to be happy, aren’t we? We’ll be together and we will be happy, won’t we?” Ximen suddenly asked.
“Forever,” Xiao You promised.
Love is knowing
You will be.