“Isn’t Emily supposed to be 9 if it is 9 years ago?” Lei asked.
“You don’t calculate the 10 months Emily is inside Xiao You’s tummy,” Xi Men rolled his eyes.
“Ah, right. There’s the missing year in her age,” Lei said. “But hey, you are never good with Math,”
“That is Mei Zhuo!” Xi Men said.
“Oh, right…” Lei said scratching his head.
“Urgh…” Xi Men said, smacking his head.
“Eh, wait, wait, wait,” Lei said.
“Hmm?” Xi Men asked.
“How come Harry will tell you things? I mean, he didn’t know you in person. Did you somehow threaten him or something?”
“NO,” Xi Men firmly replied. “Why do you think I should do that?!”
“Why not? Xi Men from F4, right?”
Xi Men glared at Lei and then hurled his hand over and gives a smack Lei’s arm. Hard.
“OUCH!” Lei yelled. “Sorry!” he rubbed his painful arm.
“Serve you right!” Xi Men remained glaring at Lei.
“That’s a big slap,” Lei rubbed his arm. “So… how did you get Harry to tell?”
“Well, I told him I wanted to start a relationship with Xiao You… so I sort of able to persuade him to furnish me details about her life in Toronto. I said she hasn’t been telling me… and he also hopes I know more about her since I want to be with her…”
“Interesting,” Lei finds himself nodding. “Anyway,” he said. “You can continue from where we had let off just now,”
Xi Men took yet another deep breath and he looked down for a while. “Well, if not for Harry, I wouldn’t know the truth, because Xiao You didn’t tell anyone who the father is. Not Harry. Not even her parents,”
“Her parents didn’t ask? How can they stay sane knowing their daughter is pregnant, but not knowing who the guy is?”
“According to Harry, she kept it from them. Well, if you ask me… I truly believe her mother didn’t know. Because her mother wouldn’t have looked at me from top to toe and give me a heartwarming smile when I pay her a visit if she knew it is me,” Xi Men said. “She’ll probably go to the back of the house, grabbed a broom and smack the shit out of me for impregnating Xiao You,” he sighed. “And probably Harry will grab that cup of latte and splash it on my face…”
“Any signs of him faking it? He may know the truth but didn’t want to tell you?”
“No. He cares for Xiao You a lot,” Xi Men said coolly as he took up his cup of coffee for a sip.
Lei frowned as he stares at Xi Men. “In what sense?”
“A friend,” Xi Men said, as he puts down the cup of coffee on the saucer. A small laugh escapes Xi Men’s mouth. “When I first saw Harry… I thought he could be Emily’s father. I was so jealous…” he looked down as he remained smiling.
Lei’s eyes opened up by slight when he heard the last word uttered by Xi Men.
And Xi Men happened to continue, “I know Emily’s father is of Chinese heritage. I was highly speculating she is Harry’s kid because Harry is also of a Chinese heritage and he is damn good-looking,”
“If it is Harry, I don’t think Xiao You would say the ‘father is dead’, right?” Lei finally grabbed that coffee in front of him for a sip.
Xi Men is offended with what Lei had just said. “Do I look ‘dead’ to you?”
“Harry is her best friend and she sees him more often in a week than she sees you in 9 years!” Lei said. “And besides, if he is really the father, she would have marry him instead of both of them living separately,”
“The good thing is, Harry is not the father, and he is thankfully engaged to someone else whom he loves with every bit of his flesh for years even before he met Xiao You,” Xi Men said.
“Yes. He proudly shows me his ring,” Xi Men said.
Lei tilted his head. “Why do I have a feeling you actually questioned him if he is eyeing Xiao You? What kind of guy will flaunt his engagement ring to a stranger?”
Xi Men is caught off guard. “That is your feelings,” he said, without looking at Lei.
“Well you said you are jealous, so there is a possibility, right?”
“Jealous? Since when I said I am jealous?”
“You did. You said you were jealous when you thought Harry is Emily’s father,”
“No, I didn’t say…”
Lei pointed at Xi Men, giving Xi Men a serious face. “You did and I heard it damn clear,”
Seeing Lei’s serious face, he knew… he must have really said that out and he is unaware; because if Lei were to make fun of him, this serious face will never show up.
Xi Men sighed. Got caught.
Lei smirked. “You must have felt threatened by him. I am sure he is definitely better than you in a lot of areas since Xi Men F4 would feel threatened and jealous of another dude,”
“I hate you,” Xi Men glared at Lei.
“Exactly what I have expected,”
“I seriously hate you,”
“I have fun,” Lei smiled. “So, with him engaged doesn’t mean he is not the father. Just like you… getting engaged to Amanda doesn’t mean you love her, or… prior to marriage you are a virgin,”
Xi Men shot Lei another sharp glare. “Yes, I don’t love Amanda. And yes, I am not a virgin. And NO, I really do not want to prove he is the father,”
“He knew her exactly the same time you sleep with her, right?”
“Lei,” Xi Men said. “No guy is too stupid to know if he sleeps with her and she is pregnant, he would be too ignorant to know he is not the father,”
“Are you talking about yourself? That for 9 freaking years and you didn’t know about it?” Lei asked.
“I begin to feel I am talking to Ling Mei Zhuo instead of Hua Ze Lei,” Xi Men rolled his eyes, “If you had to compare like that, then you don’t know Xiao You had the kid too, right?”
“You said no guy is too stupid to know he is the father, you didn’t say friends or the friends of the guy,”
“Thing is she is not next to me! If I see Xiao You every single day and knowing she is pregnant, I would think and speculate the possibility that I am the father. Now I am talking about Harry seeing her periodically and not me; whom only see her ONCE in 9 years,” Xi Men said. “And the fact that, I see her once in 9 years, and I already figured out that Emily is my daughter,”
“Get your facts right. It is seeing her periodically in 6 weeks. Not one time,” Lei rolled his eyes. “And you only start speculating almost at the end of their trip,”
Xi Men stared at Lei. “I.HATE.YOU,”
“Be my guest,” Lei smiled.
“I don’t even know if you are my friend or what, and which side you are standing at,” Xi Men groaned.
“Of course I am standing at your side. Come on, if I am not your buddy, I wouldn’t make fun of you like this,” Lei smacked his hand down on Xi Men’s shoulder.
“You know I am already super bothered with all of this, and yet, you are making fun of me? Such an ‘awesome’ buddy I had,” Xi Men said.
“Thanks,” Lei said nicely with a sarcastic meaning.
Xi Men rolled his eyes. “Why on earth are you a part of F4…?”
“Maybe you should ask why are you a part of F4 instead?” Lei laughed.
“But why are we talking about Harry anyway? Is he the topic now?” Lei asked.
“Excuse me, you started it! You asked if he could be the father!”
“No, you said you thought he is,”
“I said I thought he is and then I knew he is not. He is definitely not Emily’s father. From the way he talked to me, he is a responsible guy, and he wanted Xiao You to find happiness. He and his fiancée even offered to be Emily’s godparents but Xiao You rejected. There is not even a tad bit of things he had said that time would lead to the speculation that he is the father. Not even a fraction of one percent,” Xi Men said, literally in one breath. “He keeps assuring me that he is not my rival,”
“Jealousy proven,” Lei said.
Xi Men could only glared at Lei before his glare softens up. “And it is very obvious in his speech that they are just best friends. It does feel that there is a wall or boundary between him and Xiao You to that sense, if you know what I mean,”
“Something like us to Xiao Qiao and San Chai?”
“Yes, exactly,” Xi Men said.
“Okay, I get it. Sounds good. So… you are best friend with Harry too?” Lei asked.
“Just friends. Not like best friend…”
“Making friends with competitor is step one,”
“He is NOT a competitor!”
Lei laughed as he looked at Xi Men’s fumed face.
“What’s so funny?!” Xi Men asked.
“Your face is all about protecting Xiao You. You’d think I won’t know what you are thinking about when I knew it very well. I have been teasing you most of the time, Xi Men,” Lei smirked.
Xi Men glared at Lei.
“Harry is definitely not your competitor from the things that you have said. I know. He is in fact your very good informer and you are, by right, supposed to appreciate him more for telling you so much stuff. If not, you wouldn’t even know you are the father,” Lei said.
Xi Men turned away. “This is more like Hua Ze Lei,” he murmured.
Xi Men sighed. “I have always wanted to be with Xiao You. Now… with Emily, I wanted to be with them even more,”
“Back then, you said you love Emily, which is something that surprised me, since you don’t ‘love’ kids, and you know what I mean by that,”
“I know, I really don’t favor kids that much…” Xi Men smiled. “I finally understood the connection I had with Emily now. I always thought it was because she is Xiao You’s daughter, that is why I feel so connected and close to her. But… apparently she is my daughter,”
“It is a kind of connection you cannot describe, right?” Lei smiled.
Xi Men smiled.
“According to what you have said… it seems that you have successfully derived all the information from Harry. Are you going to speak to Xiao You about this, and now, asking for her confirmation?”
Xi Men’s smile faded off instantly. “Yes, of course… and I actually went to her rented studio unit the moment I landed to look for her and talk to her about it but, she had apparently left. I don’t even know she left today… and I thought there are still few days left,”
“So I supposed you will go to Toronto to find her and talk about this? I mean, it is better than you do it over the phone or email, right?”
“Yes. We can’t do or settle things like this over a phone call or an email… she will hang up the call or refused to reply my mail…” Xi Men said, taking a deep breath. “I definitely will go and look for her. But… there is something I need to do… before I go and look for her,”
“You mean, convincing your father to cancel your wedding?” Lei asked.
“Yes. That is the most important thing to do now…” Xi Men took a deep breath. “Only 4.5 months left to the wedding. I need to stop it now before it drags any longer. And I need Xiao You back into my life. I can’t bear to see Emily living another day without her father…”
Lei smiled. “This is exactly the Xi Men I knew and I wanted to see,”
“About 2 months ago… in VS… you gave everything up, remember?”
Xi Men looked at Lei, and smirked. “Yeah, I remember,”
“And just within 6 weeks, you become matured suddenly,”
Xi Men lifted up his eyes to look at Lei. “I guess, Xiao You had make me the man that I should be,”
“I am glad you are striving for what you want and what you are supposed to do, but here is the thing,” Lei said, clasping his hands.
Xi Men listened attentively.
“Even though you are Emily’s father and you wanted to take the responsibility now, which is good for you, but it doesn’t mean Xiao You will want you back. And Emily has always treat you as one of Xiao You’s friends, whom Emily herself is close with – which leads to her calling you Uncle Xi Men, but that doesn’t mean she is ready to call you ‘dad’. She is not the same case as Alex. Alex is only 4 years old when he met me and a kid at such a young age do not know how to interpret or analyze the situation as what an older kid will do. Emily has always known she grew up in an environment without a father figure. The only men she knew are her grandfather and Harry in her life, and yes, possibly she adores Harry because she grew up seeing him often. Emily is 8 years old and she knew how to analyze things more and even better, and also more complicated than Alex. Alex will do as what he is asked to do when he is 4, but that is not exactly the same case with Emily because she is 8. So, you are not only wooing Xiao You, but you have to win your daughter’s heart at the same time,”
Xi Men remained stiff as he digested the things Lei has said.
And Lei took this opportunity to take a sip of his coffee before Xi Men opens his mouth to say something that may have a tendency to shock the coffee out of his nose.
“You are right. I have never thought about that,” Xi Men said, blinking numerous times, “I have never thought about Emily’s feelings. I have only been thinking about Xiao You…”
Lei smiled. “Now I finally understood why you asked me out for a coffee. You wanted to know how it feels to accept a kid in your life, skipping the pregnancy and the first few years of the kid’s growing life because among all of us, I am the only one having the similar situation but the exception is Alex is an adopted son of Jing, and… wait,” he frowned.
Xi Men looked at Lei.
“Have you considered telling this to your parents?” Lei asked.
“Which is why I asked you how did your parents take it,”
“Noooo…” Lei said in a bit surprised tone. “You can’t compare my parents with yours. And in this completely different situation, you are bound to get completely different response from them,”
“Dude, Jing is from the elite group like us, and thankfully, Alex is adopted. At any time if the situation is different, which, for example, Jing is married or Alex is her own son – and I mean birth son; my parents would react totally different. Like TOTALLY,” Lei said. “And another is if Jing is not Teng Tang, you know what I mean,”
“But Emily is my daughter,”
“And Xiao You didn’t come from the same background as us, which is why I said, you will get a completely different response from your parents. You can’t expect your parents to react the same like mine,”
“Oh,” Xi Men took a deep breath as he sits back. “I am in full load of burden now…”
“And full load of shit,”
Xi Men glared at Lei. “I know you are taking this opportunity to revenge because you choked on the coffee earlier,”
“Well, yes, pretty much I did seek for chances to make fun of you because you caused me to choke on coffee earlier…”
Xi Men rolled his eyes. “Thanks for not helping,”
“Alright, let me be extremely serious now,” Lei briefly cleared his throat.
Xi Men looked at him upon hearing that ‘extremely serious’ word.
“Just to be clear. Even though I make fun of you, I DID help you. A lot,” Lei said, pointing at Xi Men. “I’ve told you what to expect. And I am saying the truth. You are in a battle of your own life. You have an engagement to void, you have a woman who gave birth to your child to woo, you have a daughter to win, and you have to explain to your parents about your entire situation and hoping they can accept. And not only that, I think you have to explain to Xiao You’s parents too and try your best to win their hearts as well and you better hope her mother didn’t go to the back of her house to grab a broom and smack you,” Lei said.
Xi Men looked at Lei, and then he (Xi Men) pretty much went dumbfounded. “My gosh. So messy,” he puts his hands onto his head. “So many things…” he mumbled.
Lei sighed. “Your life is really…”
“Shit,” Xi Men interrupted and filled it in for Lei before Lei even said it. “I know,”
“That is definite, but what I want to say is your life is really ‘messed up’,” Lei said.
“Urgh…” Xi Men groaned.
“I hate to break it to you. Things do not fall on the right places and all of them came to you at one time. And yes, it won’t be easy for you. As your buddy, I really wish I can help, but judging at your situation, all of these are so personal to you that only you can handle them. You know which one is more important to do first. If you need to find someone to talk, I will be around,”
“I know. Thanks, Lei,” Xi Men said softly.
“No problem,” Lei smiled, gently patting Xi Men’s shoulder.
Xi Men clasped his hands together and pressed the clasped hands on his forehead while the elbows are on the table.
So. Stressed. Up.
And Lei can only squeezes Xi Men’s shoulder.
Sucks to be Xi Men right now.
“Daddy!” Alex ran to Lei walking in into the house.
“Hi Alex,” Lei smiled and lowered his body to hug Alex. “Where is mommy?”
“Mommy…” Alex turned his head to look.
Just right on time as Lei saw Jing emerging from her room.
“Mommy is there,” Alex smiled as he pointed.
“Alright, Alex. Care to give daddy and mommy some time alone? I have things to talk to mommy,” Lei said as he loosened the hug.
“Okay, daddy,” Alex said, turned around and walked.
“Eh, Alex, I thought…” Jing wondered as she looked at Alex walking away from Lei.
“Daddy said he wants to talk to you,” Alex smiled, replying Jing instead, knowing she wanna ask why he walks away from Lei since he loves sticking to Lei when Lei comes back home.
“Oh,” Jing lifted her head and looked at Lei. “Alright,” and she walked to Lei, while Alex left the living room.
“Hi honey,” Lei said, leaning over and gave her a brief kiss on her lips.
“Hi there,” Jing replied. “Alex said you want to talk to me…?”
Lei took a deep breath. He tilted his head to look and ensures Alex is not there, and the maids and butler are not close by. He then looked at Jing.
“What is going on?” Jing asked.
“I met with Xi Men just now,” Lei said.
“Xi Men? I thought he wasn’t around, since we can’t get him when we sent Xiao You to airport?”
“He only reached back to Taipei after Xiao You left. He called me and we went out for coffee,”
“Oh, sounds very urgent…”
“Xi Men apparently left for Toronto couple of days ago and finds out something unexpected,”
“Toronto? Unexpected?” Jing wondered.
Lei took a deep breath. “Emily is Xi Men’s kid,”
Jing’s eyes widened up.
9 hours later at the other side of the world; Toronto, 4pm.
Mrs. Yang smiled as she saw her granddaughter comes in from the entrance. “Hi Emily,”
“I miss you, grandma!” Emily said, as she headed to her grandmother and gives her a hug while Xiao You follows behind and directed the cab driver to drop the few luggages at the entrance of the house.
“I miss you too, Emily. How was Taiwan?” Mrs. Yang said and hugged Emily.
“FABULOUS! I really love Taiwan, grandma!”
“You love Taiwan more than Toronto?”
“Hmmm… difficult to choose,” Emily said, scratching her chin.
Mrs. Yang laughed.
Xiao You smiled as she closes the door behind her after she paid the cab driver for his service. “Hi mom,” she said as it is her turn to hug her mother now.
“Hi Xiao You,” Mrs. Yang smiled as she hugs the daughter back. “Tired?”
“Rested for a few hours in the flight so I am not very tired now. Emily snored the entire flight!” Xiao You laughed.
“No, I didn’t!” Emily denied.
“You were sleeping and snoring, of course you can’t hear yourself so you deny it,” Xiao You smiled as she patted Emily’s head.
Emily laughed. “Nice to be back home, but sad that I have only two weeks left before school starts again,” she sighed. “Mommy, I go back to my room first…” she lifted her backpack. “Want to take a nap…”
“Alright,” Xiao You smiled.
“Grandma, I’m going back to my room,” Emily said.
“Okay,” Mrs. Yang smiled.
Emily hummed as she walked to her room.
Xiao You took a deep breath. “Ahh… there goes the 6 weeks of vacation in a blink of an eye,”
“So how was Taiwan?” Mrs. Yang asked.
“Haven’t been back for so long; it is so different now in Taipei. So many new buildings too. For weather wise, it is quite cooling in Taipei and Alishan, but very hot in Hualien, Kenting and Kaohsiung,” Xiao You smiled.
“Wow, you went everywhere. What did you do at those places?”
“Almost gone everywhere in Taipei and Kaohsiung, then the forest and sunrise in Alishan, and then Taroko Gorge in Hualien and very beautiful sea… and then… beach in Kenting, sheep in Cingjing too,”
“Sounds very fun,”
“Yes it is,” Xiao You smiled. “Oh, I bought some biscuits back,” she turned to look around for her luggage and then she headed over one of them and opens it.
“Any pineapple biscuits?” Mrs. Yang asked.
“Definitely, it is your favorite!” Xiao You took out a box.
“Nice!” Mrs. Yang smiled as she holds the box when Xiao You passed it to her. “This is the best,”
Xiao You smiled. “Of course, and since we took a 14-hour flight from Toronto to Taipei which is so damn far… better buy the best, right?” she asked as she sits down on the couch.
“Only one box?” Mrs. Yang asked.
Xiao You laughed. “Of course not. A few. Just that the one in your hand is for you to eat now,”
Mrs. Yang laughed. “Ah… so nice. Is it nice to be back in Taiwan?”
“Actually yes, feels quite… comfortable. Like, going back home,”
“Do you want to go back?”
“For another vacation? Emily asked if we can go back next year,” Xiao You laughed.
“No, I mean, permanently,”
Xiao You’s laughter fades. “Permanently?”
Mrs. Yang nodded. “Well, just a casual question,”
“Both of you and dad have been here for almost a decade and seem to have gotten used to the life here. I have built my life and Emily is studying here. I am good here,” Xiao You smiled. “Why do you ask, mom?”
“Nah, I just thought about it. And since you said it feels like going back to Taiwan, so I just wondered,” Mrs. Yang smiled.
“Oh,” Xiao You said. “Oh yeah, since I haven’t been seeing my friends for almost a decade, I actually meet up with all of them at this trip. San Chai picked me up at the airport and we went for dinner with everyone. Can’t really believe it that all of them are married and with kids!”
Mrs. Yang laughed. “Like you have said, it’s been 9 years. If new buildings came up in Taipei, why wouldn’t there be changes with your friends’ life?”
Xiao You laughed. “Yeah, I know,”
“Ah, mentioning of friends, the other day, one of your friends came,”
“My friend? Who? Harry?” Xiao You asked. “Or someone from my workplace?”
“No, he said he is from Taiwan,” Mrs. Yang said as she scratched her head. “I forgot his name, hmmm…”
“Yes, hmm… what is his name already,” Mrs. Yang pressed her forehead as she is in deep thought.
Xiao You frowned. “But I met all my friends in Taiwan already. Are you sure he is from Taiwan?”
“Yes, the way he speaks is exactly a Taiwanese,” Mrs. Yang said.
“But mom, you know that I have never had a friend came visiting me from Taiwan for as long as I have lived here… and I have never given them my address…”
“I think his name has something Xi…” Mrs. Yang is so immerse into her thought, she didn’t hear what Xiao You said.
“Xi?” Xiao You frowned.
The only person she knew with the name ‘Xi’ from Taiwan is only Xi Men.
In fact, that is the name he uses when he went to travel in Hualien and Alishan to mask his identity.
Suddenly she recalled. Xi Men has not been around for the last few days before she returned to Toronto. Her frown eases and her face now bears all the question marks.
Didn’t he say he is going off for a business trip?
Business trip… in Toronto?
How come he didn’t tell her it is Toronto he is going to?
“You mean… Xi Men?” she looked at her mother.
“Ah, yes, Xi Men. Right, his name is Xi Men,” Mrs. Yang smiled.
Her eyes strayed. So it really is him.
“He even brought the fruits basket,” Mrs. Yang pointed to the dining table to which Xiao You’s eyes followed and stared at the fruits basket.
Fruit basket. Sounds like he had planned to come to her house for a visit…
Xiao You returned her gaze to her mother and wondered, “Did he mention why he came?”
“He said he is here on a business trip but since he has some time, he came to pay me a visit. I told him you are in Taipei, he said he knew but he just wanted to pay me a visit since he is here anyway. Such a nice guy. And very handsome too,” Mrs. Yang smiled. “I wonder why all your guy friends are so handsome,” her mother laughed.
Xiao You smiled reluctantly. “Just coincidence…” she said. “Mom, did he say… how did he get our address?”
“He said Emily gives it to him,”
She frowned slightly at the thought of it. He must have asked it from Emily instead of her (Emily) giving it to him automatically, because Emily will never give out their address as though the address is an advertisement flyer. When did he ask from Emily anyway? And… he could have asked from her (Xiao You) instead of Emily, right?
Xiao You’s heart sank a bit.
“Umm… so… what did he talk to you about?” Xiao You asked.
Mrs. Yang smirked a bit. “Nothing much. Some casual stuffs,”
“That is all?” Xiao You asked.
“Nothing,” Xiao You replied.
Perhaps he really came to Toronto for a business trip, and has some free time so he came to pay her mother a visit. But still… he could have told her he is going to Toronto, right?
Things, somehow, are still a little bit fishy.
“Ah, he also said he heard Emily mentioned Harry to him. So he wanted to meet Harry,”
Xiao You’s head lifted up faster than the speed of light and looked at her mother. “Harry?”
Why did Xi Men wanted to meet up with her best friend in Toronto?
Why does it sound like Xi Men is up to something?
Came to Toronto secretly. Got her address from Emily. Meet her mother. And wanted to meet Harry.
Her brain is running on overdrive mode now to think about this.
Something crept in into her mind.
Her eyes widened and her heart sank.
“Mom, did he meet up with Harry?”
“Yes, he did, in fact, I make the call to Harry and they set up an appointment to meet,”
Xiao You stunned. “SHIT,”