Xiao You turned to look at Emily, “Yes, Emily?”
“Uncle Xi Men is really not gonna come?” Emily asked.
Xiao You smiled faintly. “I don’t know. He hasn’t dropped me a call so I think he won’t. Why do you ask?”
“I haven’t seen him for days. And we are now going back to Toronto already…” Emily sulked.
“You know Uncle Xi Men called us and tell us he had to go off for a business trip. I don’t know where, I am not sure how many days he will be there and when he is coming back,” she patted Emily’s head. “You also know he is a very busy man,”
“I know,” Emily pouted. “Though Uncle Xi Men agreed to spend time with us before we go back to Toronto and he did… it feels like it is not enough,”
“I know you love Uncle Xi Men, but he has a more important thing to do,” Xiao You smiled.
“To be honest, mommy. His company won’t run away. But we are going away and we won’t know when we will see Uncle Xi Men again,” Emily said. “Mommy, can we come again next year during summer break?”
“You want to come and have vacation in Taiwan, or you actually want to see Uncle Xi Men?”
Emily bites her lower lips as she looked down.
“I can ask him to come over to Toronto to see you,” Xiao You said, remained patting her head.
“Do you think Uncle Xi Men will come?” Emily lifted up her head and looked at Xiao You.
“It is actually easier for him to come, than for us to go to Taiwan. You have classes. And Uncle Xi Men can only take a few days off from work to come,” Xiao You said, and then raised her head up. “But… I am not sure if he will come,” she sighed.
“Why?” Emily asked.
“Emily, Uncle Xi Men is engaged,” Xiao You said, hates to disappoint her daughter. “He will have his family soon, so I don’t think he will have a lot of time to come and pay you a visit,”
“Oh,” Emily said, disappointedly.
“But you have Uncle Harry, right?” Xiao You smiled.
“Oh! I forgot about him!” Emily’s eyes lifted up.
Xiao You laughed. “I know,”
“I wonder how Uncle Harry and Aunty Christina are doing without us, hmmm…” Emily scratched her chin.
“I am going to meet Uncle Harry around next week but I will try to arrange to see if we can meet up with them sooner,” Xiao You smiled. “I hope Uncle Harry remains your favorite uncle,”
“Uncle Harry has always been my favorite uncle,” Emily smiled. “And Uncle Xi Men too…” she lowered her head down.
“I don’t think Uncle Harry likes competition,” Xiao You teased.
“They don’t have to compete. I like them both,” Emily smiled. “Oh! Have we bought anything for Uncle Harry yet?”
“Those shirts and keychains and magnets in your bag… who are they for?”
“Oh… yeah…” Emily scratched her head.
Xiao You smiled. “We shall go and buy some biscuits for him. There is a duty free shop inside the departure hall,”
“Let’s go, mommy! Let’s go and buy Uncle Harry and Aunty Christina some Taiwan delicacies!” Emily stood up.
“But once we enter the departure hall, we cannot come out anymore, you know?” Xiao You said.
Emily looked at Xiao You, and then she turned to look around the airport. They have been sitting near the departure hall’s entrance.
“Hmm?” Xiao You asked.
“I know you are sitting here because you know I am waiting for Uncle Xi Men…” Emily said. “And you know Uncle Xi Men is not coming… but yet you want me to sit here to wait and hope that he comes… but that will also disappoint me in the end because he is not coming…”
“Hmmm… how about I give Uncle Xi Men a call… and if he picked up the call, you can talk to him before we leave?” Xiao You asked.
“You don’t want to talk to him, mommy?”
“You are more attached to him than I am,” Xiao You smiled. “And I want you to be happy,”
“But I want you to be happy too, mommy,” Emily said.
“What makes you think I am not happy, sweetie?”
“You don’t want to leave your friends,” Emily said. “All the uncles and aunties want to send us to the departure hall but you asked them to leave when we still have 2 hours prior to our flight,”
“They are all working today, honey. They can’t stay too long over here. And it takes about an hour from here to reach Taipei city, back to where they worked. We can’t ask them to ignore their work because of our flight,” Xiao You said.
“I know you hate farewells, mommy,” Emily said.
“You do, too, right?” Xiao You smiled as she looked at her phone. “I will try to give Uncle Xi Men a call, alright?”
Emily nodded, while Xiao You scrolls down in her contacts to locate Xi Men’s number and she makes the call.
‘The number you have dialed is not reachable. Please try later.’
Xiao You puts down the phone.
“What is it, mommy?”
“Uncle Xi Men’s phone is off,” Xiao You said, as she looked at Emily.
Emily is truly disappointed. “Oh,”
“I can send him a SMS… and then ask him to call us back when we reach Toronto…”
“It is okay, mommy,” Emily smiled at her mother. “Maybe Uncle Xi Men is still busy working at overseas so he cannot pick up our call but it is okay. We have more important things to do,”
“Which is?” Xiao You asked.
“Buying biscuits to Uncle Harry, and Aunty Christina!” Emily said.
Xiao You laughed.
“Let’s go, let’s go! We only have an hour before our flight departs!”
Xiao You smiled.
‘But what about the stone…?’ she thought.
Two hours later.
Xi Men had just arrived at the arrival hall of Taiwan International Airport from his 14 hours long flight from Toronto.
“AHHHH… LAND!” Xi Men said, soon as he took a deep breath, “Oh… urgh,” he placed his hand on his head.
Now it is his turn to suffer from jetlag.
He blinked numerous times. “Feels like sleeping, but I can’t rest. Can’t rest,” Xi Men repeated after himself. “I have things to do, and it is only 2pm. I can’t sleep now just because Toronto is night by now,”
Xi Men switched on his phone after he had it switched off during his entire 14 hours flight.
5 missed calls.
“Hmmm… 5 missed calls,” he said as he scrolls thru the list.
2 missed calls from Mei Zhuo.
2 missed calls from Lei.
1 missed call from Xiao You.
“Xiao You?” Xi Men said.
Without hesitation, he dialed her number even though she had only made one missed call instead of Mei Zhuo or Lei who had made 2 missed calls each which was supposed to be the one to attend to… in terms of whichever is more urgent.
‘The number you have dialed is not reachable. Please try later.’
Xi Men hung up the call. “Hmmm,”
Totally forgetting about Mei Zhuo and Lei, he stuffed the phone back into his pants, lifted his head up and walked out from the hall.
Xi Men stood in front of the studio unit, waiting for Xiao You to open the door.
He took a deep breath, and bites his lower lip.
Why is Xiao You taking so long to open the door?
Or maybe she is out?
He took out the phone and scrolls to Xiao You’s number, wanting to call her.
“Excuse me, who are you looking for?”
Xi Men lifted up his head and looked to his left.
“Eh, it is you,” Miss Huang, the landlord of the studio unit said.
“Miss… Huang, right?” Xi Men asked, trying to remember her name.
“Yes,” she said. “Umm… why are you here?”
“I am looking for…”
“Miss Yang? She already checked out today,”
“Checked out?” Xi Men stunned.
“Yes, she is going back to Canada today,” Miss Huang said. “I came to clean up the unit,”
He is stunned. Xiao You is going back today? He must have totally lost track of the days…
“You… didn’t know she left?”
“No, I don’t. I have been overseas for a few days…” Xi Men said, remained stunned. “Umm… do you know what time is her flight?”
“I am sorry, I don’t know. But she checked out in the morning,” Miss Huang said.
“Oh,” he said sadly.
If she checked out in the morning, her flight could have been in the afternoon…
“Umm… thank you,” Xi Men politely said to Miss Huang, before he turned and walked away to the lift.
He stood in front of the lift, waiting for it to arrive.
“It is okay. If she is not here… I can do my stuff first. There are lots of things that I need to do now… and then I will go and get her… and Emily,”
Xi Men sat at the coffee house and looked out to the Taipei scenery while stirring his coffee which is no longer hot.
Xi Men immediately lifted up his head upon hearing the calling. “Hey,” he dropped the stirrer and he sits up straight.
Lei looked at him. “You don’t have to react like that, do you?” he pulled the chair next to Xi Men and sits down. “I am your friend, not a client,”
“Sorry, just something that I do most of the time,” Xi Men replied.
The waiter placed the menu down in front of Lei.
“Coffee,” Lei smiled at the waiter, without bothering to see the menu.
“Sure, sir,” the waiter said, and then he left.
Lei turned and looked at Xi Men, “Called you but your phone is off. And when you get back to me, you asked me out for a coffee,”
Xi Men stared at Lei intently before it eases wondering if Lei ever called him like he (Lei) had just said. Like a flick of finger, he just recalled. “Oh yeah, you miss called me twice,” he scratched his head. “Sorry, I forgot…”
“What are you doing?”
“What do you mean?”
“We can’t reach you,”
“Just did, around… 10-11am,”
“I was on a flight back to Taipei…”
“Ah?” Lei asked. “On a flight back to Taipei? You mean you just came back to Taipei just now? No wonder we can’t reach you,”
Xi Men closed his eyes for a while, shakes his head a bit and then opens his eyes up. “Yeah… sorry I didn’t tell you guys I was away,”
“Oh, we know. Xiao You told us just now when we were on our way to airport that you told her you are out of country for few days but she has no idea where you are going and when you will be back,” Lei said. “…oh, did you know they are going back to Toronto today?”
“I know now,” Xi Men said, looking at Lei.
“Umm, yeah. They are going back to Toronto today… we sent them both just now,”
“Okay,” Xi Men nonchalantly replied. “Then why are you looking for me?”
“Both Mei Zhuo and I are just trying our luck to get you, who knows, you might have returned to Taipei just hours before Xiao You left. If we managed to get to you, we want to tell you to come and bid her and Emily goodbyes since they are leaving. That is all. Nothing important, actually,”
“I see. What time is her flight today?
“Geez, I landed at 2pm,” Xi Men said.
“2pm? No wonder you look a bit exhausted. You should have gone back home for a rest before asking me to come out for a coffee at the last minute. So, where have you been?” Lei asked.
“Lei, I have something to ask you,”
Lei frowned at the quick diversion of topic. “Okay…”
“How does it feel for you when you first met Jing with Alex back in Paris years ago?”
“Of course I am happy to see Jing again. I thought I’ve told you this years ago?”
“No, no, I mean… with Alex. Particularly with Alex, you know… that feel?”
Lei tilted his head slightly and then he smiled, “I was surprised. I didn’t know what to react. I thought she is married. My heart sank. And when I found out that Alex is adopted and that she isn’t married, I am flattered,”
“How do you treat Alex before and after you found out he is adopted?”
“Hmmm…” Lei folded his hands on his chest. “I did feel a bit skeptical about him because I thought Jing is married and Alex is the son of hers with her husband. You don’t really want to cross that border. But upon finding out Jing is not married and also finding out Alex is adopted, I no longer feel skeptical about him. In fact, I slowly feel connected to Alex and I love that kid,”
Xi Men smiled lightly. “And… how do you tell your parents about Alex?”
“I was a bit concerned in the beginning. But then it is not really as bad because Alex is adopted. So… my parents are quite okay with the idea. Forgive me from saying this, but if Alex is really a kid by Jing and someone else, my parents will not like it for sure. You know our parents really take this into consideration one thousand percent (1000%). To know Jing adopts Alex because she wanted to give a home to a kid and to think she won’t get married…” Lei smirked. “And she wanted a kid to accompany her,” he said, looking at Xi Men. “It is a relief. And my parents adore Alex,”
“Good for you… I come to realization that we don’t share the same sentiment…” Xi Men mumbled.
“Nothing,” Xi Men said. “And… how did Alex take it? Like… how long it takes him to call you ‘dad’?”
Lei went into a deep thought; “Not very long actually,” he smiled. “In fact, Alex is a smart kid. He saw me holding hands with Jing, so he came to me and asked if he can call me ‘daddy’ since he is calling Jing ‘mommy’,”
Xi Men smiled at that response.
“That is like a huge thing for me. It is like an acceptance from him,” Lei said. “Or maybe he is still young to understand about all these complicated adult relationships, and to him, it is only a ‘mommy and daddy’ are together kind of thing… you know? When you watch shows or kids like him go for kindergarten, he always sees kids have a mom and a dad together. So when he looks at himself having only a mommy… he wanted a daddy too,”
“You are right,” Xi Men said.
The waiter came and placed Lei’s coffee down in front of him.
“Are you asking me out for a coffee… just to ask me this?” Lei asked.
“Pretty much,” Xi Men said.
“And I already answered them before my coffee is even served,” Lei said, staring at his coffee.
Xi Men smiled as he took up his cup of coffee for a sip.
“Why do you ask these suddenly?” Lei asked.
“Seeking opinions and expectations,”
“For?” Lei asked.
“Xiao You? What for?”
Xi Men took a deep breath. “I have decided to pursue a relationship with her,”
Lei looked at Xi Men, and then a small laugh escaped his mouth. “What?” he asked in disbelief.
“Yes, I am going to woo her,” Xi Men said.
“Xi Men,” Lei called, along with a very unbelievable smile on his face. “We have this talk for so many times. I can’t believe we are at this topic again,”
“Lei, I am serious this time. I am going to get Xiao You,”
“Come on,” Lei said. “I know you gained your happiness from her but that’s it. 6 weeks had passed and life goes on, getting back to where you were. Have you forgotten I have told you before; don’t cross that boundary?”
“And you even told me, a couple of days ago during that dinner, you said you had a talk with her in Alishan, and found out that no matter how much you want to be with her, you will NOT get to be with her because she loves her husband so much and because of Emily?”
“So why are you still putting yourself into such expectations knowing it is not going to happen?”
“I will try my best, Lei. I can’t give up now,”
“Goodness, you are engaged. Wake up from the dream and give up,”
“I am going to cancel the engagement to Amanda. I am not going to marry Amanda,”
Lei looked at Xi Men. “Oh? Says the person that said ‘I am agreeing to the wedding to shut my dad up’?”
“Look, I know I did the wrong thing there. Now, I only want Xiao You. And she is the only person I want to marry,”
Lei frowned upon hearing what Xi Men said. “Did you just say… marry?”
“Yes,” Xi Men said.
Lei stunned. “What?”
“You even thought about marriage with her? When you didn’t even have a relationship with her?”
“It is a long term planning…” Xi Men said.
Lei looked at Xi Men, still in disbelief. “Like, all of a sudden, you have a long term planning with a woman you hadn’t even start a relationship with, and already had told you she will not accept you in the first place,”
“I am going to change her mind, trust me. She will accept me. I am pretty confident she will,” Xi Men said. “I still love her, Lei,”
Lei stared at Xi Men. “Oh, a confession. You have never said you love her,”
“You said you have special feelings for her,”
“Lei, to be honest, whose side are you standing at?” Xi Men asked in frustration.
“Do you even need to ask that? Of course your side,”
“I am sorry but I don’t see or sense even slight of support from you,”
“Well, sorry that I have been sarcastic to you and seems to retaliate with every single thing you just said,” Lei mockingly said. “Can’t help it that you’ve been doing all the wrong things since beginning,”
Xi Men is surprised with what he heard. “What?”
“Mei Zhuo, Ah Si and I support you, no matter what you do,” and then Lei exhaled his deep breath. “It’s just that, we do not agree with you when you said you have decided to get engaged to Amanda. And then… being a fiancé now, you went out with another female for the sake of your happiness… I am pretty darn sure you knew you are not supposed to do them, but you do it anyway. So… we as your friends, despite knowing you did the wrong thing, we just… keep quiet and let you do it anyway. You can’t help it that we are frustrated with you,”
“Oh…” Xi Men responded. “Umm…”
“Let’s just forget that part and talk about the problems now,” Lei said. “I am sorry that you failed to see or believe from your hired private investigators’ search result to locate Xiao You and things might be totally different today if you had knew it is her back then. But things are very different today, dude. You got yourself engaged to Amanda Lee, and your wedding is in 4.5 months,”
“I will not let the wedding happen. And besides, you know I don’t like Amanda. The life after marriage is going to be torturous for both of us,”
“Mei Zhuo and I have told you this before but you still chose that path, have you forgotten?”
“I know. I did that back then because I have no choice. But now I met Xiao You again. I want her back. I am going to pursue that path with Xiao You and not Amanda,”
“Why are you saying it as though it is very easy to cancel the wedding?”
“No matter how tough it is, I have to cancel it,” Xi Men said. “I need to cancel the wedding… or else I can’t be with Xiao You… it is not fair for her…”
“Tell me only after you have successfully cancelled the engagement to Amanda with your father. And don’t be too confident. Love and relationship is between 2 parties. Not something you said you want to do, and you’ll get it. You don’t even know if Xiao You will accept you,”
“Then? Are you telling me if she doesn’t accept me, I have to continue with the wedding?”
“I didn’t say that,”
“You are hinting it as though I shouldn’t cancel the wedding,”
“To be honest, you haven’t been fair to Amanda. It is actually a wise thing that you should do to her; by cancelling the wedding. Or rather, I should say, it shouldn’t even happened in the first place. But what you did at the first place is insisting the wedding with her because you gave up living and finding love,” Lei said. “And saying how Amanda likes you and sort…”
Xi Men quiets.
“Mei Zhuo and I can’t even talk you out from the wedding. Do you remember that?”
“Yes,” Xi Men obediently replied.
“We were against you marrying Amanda but you still go on with it,”
“I know. And I am sorry I make you and everybody else frustrated,”
“I don’t mind about that right now,”
“I can sense from your tone,” Xi Men said.
“I am just being realistic as well as telling you what your situation is, right now,” Lei didn’t deny it.
He then exhaled his deep breath.
After all, Xi Men is his buddy. His best friend for life.
“Anyway, right now, to know that you didn’t want to pursue a wedding with Amanda and instead want to pursue your happiness is a great thing; which, the happiness, is what all of us wanted you to have,” Lei said. “But cancelling your wedding is not going to be easy because of your father. You have to deal with your father,”
Xi Men took a deep breath and then exhaled it. “I know, I am preparing myself for it,”
“Even though you are my buddy and I will support you no matter what you decide to do, but I need you to prepare for the worst too,” Lei said.
“You already had a casual discussion with Xiao You. You already know she is not going to accept you. And you already know she puts Emily’s consideration in this. I know how well you mingle and how much you love that kid, but still, at the end of the day, it is not easy for a mother to decide taking in a stepfather for her daughter,” Lei said. “And furthermore, it is for life,”
Xi Men pressed his lips together and then takes a really deep breath. “Lei,”
“What?” Lei extends his hand to reach for his cup of coffee.
“There is something you didn’t know,” Xi Men said.
“There is indeed a LOT of things I didn’t know, right?” Lei said.
“I mean, this particular one,”
“What is it?” Lei asked, his lips touched the brim of the cup and he then sips the coffee.
Xi Men took another deep breath again, before he looked straight at Lei. “Emily is my daughter,”