The next day.
“Good morning, Mr. Yang, Mrs. Yang,”
Both Xiao You’s parents turned and looked at Xi Men walking out from his room and heads to them at the dining table.
“Good morning, Xi Men. So early…?” Mrs. Yang asked, as she turned and looked at the clock.
It’s just 8am.
“Umm… I couldn’t really sleep… it’s been on and off. I guess I manage to sleep for 3 hours max before I woke up at 6.30am,” Xi Men said, scratching his head. “I have been tossing around in bed trying to sleep back a bit more but can’t fall asleep because I haven’t adjusted to the time zone here,”
“Are you sure it is not the bed?” Mr. Yang asked. “That it is not comfortable or you are not used to it?”
“No, the bed is comfortable,” Xi Men smiled. “It is really the time zone. I guess it’ll take another day or two to totally adjust to Toronto’s time zone,”
“In one week, you came to Toronto twice from Taipei, right?” Mrs. Yang asked.
“Yes, Mrs. Yang,” Xi Men said, “That is why my body is out of sync with the local time. It haven’t adjusted to the local time and then I have to fly again,”
Mr. Yang smiled, “You are saying it as though the body is detached from you,”
A small laugh escapes Xi Men’s mouth. He then looked at the empty seat in front of him. “I’m sorry, can I sit…?” he nicely asked for permission to join them at the dining table.
“Oh, sure, sure. You don’t have to ask. Please sit,” Mrs. Yang smiled.
“Thank you, Mrs. Yang,” Xi Men said, as he gently pulled the chair out and then he sits down. “Mr. Yang, going to work today?”
“Yes,” Mr. Yang replied, and then took up his cup of coffee for a sip.
Xi Men smiled faintly. He had no work to do, nowhere to go…
“What would you like to drink, Xi Men?” Mrs. Yang asked.
“Black cof…” he stopped. “It is okay, Mrs. Yang. Let me handle it myself,” he stood up.
“Don’t worry about it. I can get it for you,” Mrs. Yang said, asking him to sit down.
“Just tell me, what do you want to drink?” Mrs. Yang asked politely.
Xi Men felt bad. He can order his maid or even Secretary Xu to make coffee for him, but… this is Xiao You’s mother. He didn’t want to be rude. But… but she asked him…
“Umm… black coffee…” Xi Men said hesitantly and embarrassingly, and then swallowed the lump in his throat.
“Black coffee?” Mrs. Yang asked him back.
“Err… yeah,” Xi Men said, giving her a small bow as a mean of respect.
“You favor black coffee just like Xiao You,” Mrs. Yang said, turning around and heads to the cabinet to take the coffee powder.
Well, it actually started from him. She learned it from him.
“Did Xiao You tell you why she loves black coffee?” Xi Men asked.
“She said she liked the sweet aftertaste that came after the bitterness,” Mrs. Yang said as she took out a spoonful of coffee powder and puts into a cup.
“Oh,” Xi Men smiled slightly. That’s what he said to Xiao You.
Can’t believe she actually remembers it.
“I can only taste the bitterness from the moment it enters my mouth until it enters my throat. No sweet aftertaste at all,” Mr. Yang said.
Xi Men smiled wider at Mr. Yang’s explanation of black coffee.
“And you, Xi Men?” Mrs. Yang asked, pouring the hot water into the cup. “Why do you like black coffee?” she turned around and then heads to Xi Men with the cup of black coffee.
Xi Men extends his hands to take the cup of coffee from Mrs. Yang. “Authenticity. Pure and natural,”
“Sounds very philosophical,” Mr. Yang said.
Xi Men smiled as he looked at the black coffee.
“You are the person that taught Xiao You how to drink black coffee,”
Xi Men, with the slight smile on his face, raised his head up to look at Mrs. Yang and that slight smile vanished, but not unnoticed by Mrs. Yang.
Mrs. Yang smiled upon seeing Xi Men’s facial expression. “So you are indeed the person that taught her how to drink and appreciate black coffee,”
“Oh?” Mr. Yang asked. “Really?”
Xi Men smiled as he lowered his head, and then lifted it back up. “How did you know, Mrs. Yang?”
“The way you look at the black coffee is like it has a connection to you,” Mrs. Yang smiled.
“Oh,” he said.
“Xiao You came back one day and started savoring black coffee, and said a cup of black coffee is like a life; bitter in journey and the sweet enjoyment that comes after it. Xiao You; when she is young, is not a very philosophical person nor an artistic person. She won’t be favoring something as bitter as this all of a sudden and marvelously uses it to compare to life,” Mrs. Yang smiled. “Unless someone had said that or showed it to her,”
Xi Men smiled, as he then slowly reached for the cup of black coffee in front of him. “Yes, indeed… I am the one that taught her that. I didn’t expect she will remember,” he said, and his lips touched the rim of the cup.
He slowly sips the hot coffee and smells the aroma of the black coffee.
“She would remember, if it leaves a deep impression on her,” Mrs. Yang smiled.
Xi Men puts down the cup of coffee and smiled at Mrs. Yang.
“Alright… I need to go to work,” Mr. Yang suddenly said, right after he emptied his cup of coffee, and stood up.
Xi Men also stands up immediately as a mean of respect, “Be safe on road, Mr. Yang,”
“I will,” Mr. Yang said as he turned around.
He stopped, and then he turned around again and looked at Xi Men.
Xi Men, who was about to sit down, immediately stands up straight again.
Suddenly he felt like a butler or probably even a servant; and he knows how it feels right now when he went back home to a house full of maids that need to be attentive towards their master’s arrival.
“There’s bread on the table. Feel free to take and have it for breakfast,” Mr. Yang said.
“Sure, thank you, Mr. Yang,” Xi Men said, giving him a small bow of appreciation.
“And you can call me Uncle, and Xiao You’s mother; Aunty,” Mr. Yang smiled at Xi Men.
Xi Men looked at Mr. Yang, and then at Mrs. Yang. He is surprised!
Asking him to call them Uncle and Aunty would mean a lot to him, it is a form of closer relationship than calling them Mr. and Mrs.
Xi Men grew a big smile on his face. “Sure, thank you, Mister… I mean, Uncle, Aunty,”
But he wonders why Mr. Yang would all of a sudden, does that?
“You are welcome. Feel free at home,” Mr. Yang said again, and this time he turned around and walked to the door, and Mrs. Yang followed him to the door too.
Xi Men remained standing for a while until Xiao You’s father has indeed headed to the door, then only he sits down.
Mr. Yang opened the door, and Mrs. Yang smiled at him.
“So, why the sudden?” Mrs. Yang asked Mr. Yang who is wearing his shoes next to the door.
“The coffee,” Mr. Yang smiled.
“So, just being philosophical with a cup of coffee will make you like him more?”
“He didn’t try to tell us that it was him who taught her how to drink black coffee. Well, our daughter loves him, and he did influence our daughter a lot that makes her love that bitter coffee. And also, just by his idiotic smile at that cup of black coffee when you mentioned Xiao You, I can see he loves her too, more than words can described,”
Mrs. Yang smiled. “Great that he showed you,”
“And one more thing too,”
“Now I know where those extra genes of smartness in Emily come from,” he smiled.
Mrs. Yang laughed.
“I am going to work,” Mr. Yang said, leaning over and gave his wife a brief kiss and walked off.
Mrs. Yang then closed the door, and then heads back to the dining room, and seeing Xi Men is browsing on the smartphone in his hand.
Xi Men smiled as he looked at Mrs. Yang and he puts the smartphone down on the table, “Can I take… this?” he pointed at the bread.
“Of course, go ahead, go ahead,” Mrs. Yang said. “I thought Uncle already said that just now?”
“Umm… I just want to be sure… and it is best I ask for permission,” Xi Men smiled.
Mrs. Yang smiled as she sits down on the dining table. “Don’t worry about it,”
Xi Men extends his hand to take a slice of bread on the table. “Thank you,” he said.
Mrs. Yang smiled again as she also takes up a slice of bread.
“What time does Xiao You wakes up?” Xi Men asked, as he spreads the butter on the bread.
“On the days that she is not working, around 8 to 8.30, and if she is tired, it will be 9am,” Mrs. Yang said. “Of course she wakes up earlier on working days due to work,”
“Don’t be surprised. Maybe a lot of people have always assumed that when one becomes a mother, she will wake up early in the morning. That is not the case to my daughter,” Mrs. Yang said.
A small laugh escapes Xi Men’s mouth. “9am is not very late in the morning,” he takes a bite. “It is still acceptable,”
“It is not wise for her to wake up that late while you are early,”
“Umm… I don’t mind,” Xi Men said, looking at Mrs. Yang. “I don’t mind waiting,”
Mrs. Yang smiled again as she sips her coffee now.
“Aunty…” he called, and at the same time, a part of him is elated that he can call Xiao You’s mom ‘Aunty’.
“Yes, Xi Men?” Mrs. Yang asked as she puts down the cup of coffee.
“Is Xiao You really not philosophical and artistic?”
Mrs. Yang wanted to laugh out loud when she heard that. Thank goodness she is not sipping her coffee or swallowing something or else she might get choked.
“Well, Xiao You is not a really philosophical and artistic person when she was young. As she grows older, becoming a mother and studied higher level’s education, she became more matured and she, in some ways, changed,”
“Oh,” Xi Men said.
“That is why I said in my statement ‘when she was young’; because she is better now,” Mrs. Yang smiled again as she sips her coffee.
Xi Men smiled. “People definitely change with time…”
“And surroundings, as well as situations,” Mrs. Yang smiled. “I am sure you changed a lot the last 9 years too,”
“Yes, I did…” Xi Men said, lowering his head for a while.
“So, since it has been 9 years since you last saw her, did you notice any changes in her?”
Xi Men smiled. “A little bit here and there… but she is still the Xiao You I know, still the Xiao You I love,”
Mrs. Yang smiled at him.
Xi Men then lowered his head. “Umm… aunty, actually… I want to apologize…”
“About my trip over here last week…” Xi Men said, as he looked at Mrs. Yang. “I did come with a motive to find out about Xiao You and Emily… because I have already suspect Emily is my daughter at that time but… I am sorry I did it in such an inappropriate way,”
“I didn’t find what you did inappropriate,” Mrs. Yang said. “Like you have said, you are unsure. At that point of time, I believe what you did is the most appropriate way to do it,”
Xi Men just smiled. “I am sorry, and thank you, aunty,”
CLACK. (door opened)
“Good morning, mom…” Xiao You said as she emerged from her room and stopped talking and even moving when she saw Xi Men already sitting at the dining table.
Xi Men turned his head suavely and looked at Xiao You. “Hi Xiao You, good morning,” he smiled.
She looked at Xi Men; stunned that he is already awake, and that to-die-for sight of him turning around and smiling at her got her froze for at least a few seconds.
Brain lag again.
Something that she needs to get used seeing every single morning.
“Morning Xiao You,” her mother replied.
That calling immediately ‘unfreezes’ Xiao You. She smiled as she closes her room’s door behind her and she walked to them at the dining table.
“Good morning, Xi Men,” Xiao You said.
“Alright, Xiao You is awake. I’ll let Xiao You talk to you, I need to do some stuffs,” Mrs. Yang stands up after she emptied her cup of coffee.
“Alright… sure… thank you, aunty…” Xi Men said, immediately stands on his feet.
“Don’t worry about it. Just sit back down. You are not a butler to keep standing up and down just because we did,” Mrs. Yang practically scolds him and flings her hand at him asking him to sit down.
Xiao You laughed at him.
“Just a respect, aunty…” Xi Men sits back down.
“Aunty?” Xiao You murmured.
“You are the guest, so you don’t have to do that,” Mrs. Yang said as she walked away.
Xi Men immediately feels sad again.
“So early of you today,”
Xi Men turned his head to look at Xiao You sitting down in front of him. “I can’t really sleep,” he said. “It is 8.20pm in Taiwan…”
“It’ll take you a while to adjust,”
“You know, I have never traveled as insane as I had this round, 5 days with 4 flights to 2 countries with two different time zones,”
“Don’t blame me, not my fault,” Xiao You said, standing up and heads to the cabinet to get the coffee powder to make her cup of coffee.
“I know,” Xi Men said, munching his bread after taking a bite.
After filling the cup with hot water, Xiao You turned her head to look at where her mother is, and then she quickly walked to the table and sits down, back to the seat in front of Xi Men. With her upper body leaned to the table, “Xi Men,” she softly called to him.
“Hmm?” he lifted his head up and immediately noticed that she had actually leaned closer to him.
Sounds like going to share a top secret.
His focus went to her lips. So kissable. So near yet… he cannot kiss her… just yet.
“Why did you call my mom ‘Aunty’? I thought you were still calling her Mrs. Yang? Is it something had happened?” she asked softly.
“Oh,” he smiled again. “Your dad told me before he left for work just now… to call him ‘Uncle’ and your mom ‘Aunty’,”
“Really?” she asked.
“So what did you do that makes him say that?”
“I don’t know,” Xi Men said.
“Ah? You don’t know?”
“I just talked about black coffee, and they discovered I was the one teaching you how to drink that,” he said, “I don’t know which part though,”
“Hmmm,” Xiao You said, sitting straight now. “You must have said something that in a way, explains something about yourself,”
He smiled. “I don’t know, but it is a good thing that it’s a step closer to winning…” he stopped. He recalled her mother had just referred him as ‘guest’.
Xiao You smiled, not knowing he stopped because of the sudden sadness that grew in him. “Yes, it is a good thing,”
Xi Men just smiled faintly, and then reached for his black coffee.
Xiao You and Xi Men’s eyes traveled to the vibrating smartphone next to Xi Men.
Xi Men stared at the phone.
She looked at Xi Men staring at the phone.
His eyes are fixed at the vibrating smartphone’s screen. It seems like he doesn’t wanna pick the call up.
“Aren’t you going to pick it up?” Xiao You asked.
Xi Men’s gaze returned to her. “No,” he said shortly and continued sipping his coffee.
Xiao You frowned. She knows it is his privacy, but she is curious to know who the caller is “Umm… who is it…?”
“My fa…” Xi Men stopped and then his eyes strayed. In about a second later, he switched his glance back to the coffee, “Mr. Xi Men,”
Hearing what Xi Men said makes Xiao You’s eyes widened; for two reasons.
First… it is his father.
Second… Xi Men referred him as Mr. Xi Men.
“He just called to scold me and ask me to go back to Taiwan. There is nothing else that would make him call me,” Xi Men said.
“Oh…” she said.
And the phone stopped vibrating. The other party has ended the call.
Xi Men scoops the phone up and then cleared the missed call notification on the screen.
Xiao You bites her lower lip as she lifted the cup of coffee up, thinking what to say and then she remembered. “Oh,”
Xi Men looked at her, “Hmm?”
“I need to go and do some grocery shopping today,” Xiao You said as she sips her coffee.
“Oh? What time are you going?”
“Around 10am or 11am,” Xiao You said, putting down the cup of coffee. “Emily usually will go along. She loves seeing things in the mall even though she is not going to buy them,” she smiled as she extends her hand to grab a slice of bread.
“I see,” Xi Men said. “I hope you don’t mind if I join you…?”
“No problem. And that means I have someone to help me take the groceries bags!”
“What! A laborer?!”
She couldn’t help but laughed as she applied butter on the slice of bread in her hand.
He smiled. “Actually I don’t mind. I was just joking with that expression. I’ll be honored to do that,”
Xiao You smiled, and Xi Men lifted up his cup of black coffee for a sip.
Emily comes out from her room and then she instantly meets Xi Men sipping his coffee at the dining table and Xiao You is spreading butter on her bread.
“Good morning, mommy,” Emily called.
“Good morning Emily,” Xiao You smiled as she glanced to Emily, and then she returned her sight to her bread. She glances at the clock to see it is only 8.40am.
Xiao You doesn’t have to ask Emily why she woke up so early today. It must be because Emily can’t sleep well again; and perhaps, it is because Xi Men is here.
Xi Men looked at Emily too, and he smiled. “Hi Emily,”
“Hi,” Emily said, as she joined them at the table, but she sits next to Xiao You.
“Do you want fresh milk or apple juice?” Xiao You asked, conveniently passing the bread she had just applied the butter on to Emily.
“Do we have chocolate milk?” Emily asked as she takes the bread.
“No we don’t,” Xiao You said.
“Then apple juice…” Emily said, taking her first bite on the bread.
“Alright,” Xiao You said, wanting to stand up.
“I can get it myself, mommy. Is it in the fridge?”
“Yes,” Xiao You replied, and then she took a slice of bread from the table.
“Okay,” Emily said, putting down the bread and then she heads to the fridge and takes the apple juice container on her own. “Mommy, do you want any?”
“No need, thanks,” Xiao You said, applying butter on the bread.
Emily then looked at Xi Men who is poking on the screen on his smartphone. She wanted to ask him, but she is not so sure how to call him. And coincidently, Xi Men turned to look at her, instantly meeting her in the eyes.
“Do you want any apple juice or milk…?” Emily asked.
Xi Men is ecstatic that Emily asks him and even though he is fine with his coffee, he couldn’t help but agreed. “Sure. A glass of apple juice will be fine,” he smiled.
That answer surprises Xiao You as she immediately looked at him, and he is smiling at Emily. She (Xiao You) understood why he would agree to that glass of juice, when he already had the cup of black coffee in front of him.
“Okay,” Emily said, taking two glasses and pours the apple juice into the glasses.
She then handed it to Xi Men.
“Thank you Emily,” Xi Men smiled.
“You are welcome,” Emily said, walking back to her seat and resumed eating her bread.
“Coffee and apple juice? I hope they blend well together in your stomach without causing you tummy ache,” Xiao You couldn’t help but to tease Xi Men.
“If I am going to have diarrhea, I will go to toilet happily,” Xi Men smiled as he takes a sip of his apple juice.
Xiao You laughed, and then she looked at Emily. “By the way, Emily, I am going to do some groceries shopping today,” she said as she took a bite of the bread.
Emily’s eyes brightened up as she heard Xiao You said they are going out.
“He will follow too,” Xiao You pointed at Xi Men.
Emily looked at Xi Men, unsure what to react as she is happy she will be going out for window shopping but not so sure if she is okay with him around.
Xi Men smiled at Emily.
“Okay,” Emily casually replied.
Xiao You smiled.
“I come to this place to load my groceries all the time,” Xiao You smiled as she looked at the items in the shelves, and Xi Men pushes the trolley cart next to her.
“This place is near to your house so it is good,” Xi Men smiled.
“Yeah,” Xiao You smiled.
“Mommy, can I buy chocolate milk?” Emily asked.
“Sure,” Xiao You said, and Emily walked off knowing where to go to get her supply.
“Can I buy her ice-cream?” Xi Men asked.
“If she wants to eat, sure,” Xiao You said, as she reached for a bottle of mustard. “I know what you are doing,” she looked at the bottle of mustard in her hand for the expiry date.
Xi Men smiled. “I’ll try at everything I could… but I cannot be pushy at the same time,”
“Glad you knew that if you are pushy, you will drive her away,” Xiao You smiled, as she placed the bottle of mustard into the trolley cart.
Emily came back with a chocolate milk carton. She then placed it into the trolley cart pushed by Xi Men.
“Emily, do you want to eat ice-cream?” Xi Men asked. “I’ll buy for you if you want to,”
Emily looked at him and shook. “I don’t feel like eating ice-cream,”
Xiao You turned to look at Xi Men as Emily walked off. She could only smile disappointedly and Xi Men returned it faintly to Xiao You along with a sigh.