Xi Men stares at the menu as he wondered what to pick for his breakfast. He flipped the menu from front to the back, and then he flipped it back to the front and repeats the entire process.
“This place is famous for their pancakes. It is at the first page,” Emily suddenly said, facing him.
Xi Men lifted his head to look at Emily. “First page?” he puts the menu down on the table and flipped to the front page again. “This one?” he pointed at the layered pancakes in a huge picture that took the whole page.
Emily nodded. “Their pancakes are awesome. If you didn’t want to eat plain ones, they have other inventions for pancakes, like… you can add sunny side up eggs,” she said, pointing at another smaller picture at the bottom of the page. “Or if you want some fruits, they have it too…” she pointed at the next picture.
Xiao You looked at Emily explaining the menu to Xi Men. “Or if you don’t want to eat pancakes, they have American Breakfast too,”
“Oh! Yes, it is here…” Emily flipped Xi Men’s menu to the 5th page. “This one is great too! But it has 2 pancakes as well though,” she pointed at the American Breakfast picture.
Xiao You smiled as she returned her gaze to the menu. “Emily memorizes the entire menu. She will make a great helper in this place if she wants to,” she said, without looking at them.
Emily smiled upon listening to what Xiao You said. “We came here pretty often for its pancakes,”
“And American Breakfast,” Xiao You added.
Xi Men smiled. “Well, I will take your recommendation then. Hmm… in your opinion, pancakes or American Breakfast?” he asked Emily.
“Errr…” Emily said.
“If you are hungry, try American Breakfast. Since there are two pieces of pancakes in it, you can try it at the same time. But if you want to eat light, then just take the pancakes,” Xiao You said.
Emily happened to nod, agreeing to what Xiao You said.
“Alright. American Breakfast, then. What are you going to eat?” Xi Men asked Xiao You.
“Same with you, and what about you, Emily?” Xiao You asked, looking at Emily.
“Pancakes with sunny side up!” Emily cheerfully said.
“Great… and black coffee?” Xiao You pointed at Xi Men.
“Yeah, thanks,” Xi Men said.
“Orange juice, please,” Emily said.
“Okay. I’ll order that then,” Xiao You raised her hand to flag the waiter.
Emily smiled as she closed the menu in front of her.
Xi Men followed her act and soon he smiled. A part of him is in disbelief that Emily is treating him nicer now, and at least she talked to him first and she smiled at him.
After Xiao You placed her order and the waiter has collected all the menus on the table,
“Mommy, are you starting work on Monday?” Emily asked, looking at Xiao You.
“Yes, I am,” Xiao You smiled.
Emily turned to look at Xi Men. “Then what are you going to do on Monday when I go to school and mommy at work?”
“Ummm… I don’t know. I don’t have plans…” he said, looking at Emily, and then he looked at Xiao You. “You are starting work on Monday?”
“Yes. Kindergarten is a school too… and their schools days are the same with Emily’s school days,” Xiao You smiled as she poked Emily’s nose.
Emily naughtily moves her nose after Xiao You poked her.
“Oh,” Xi Men said. “So I guess on Monday… I have my own… time?”
“Unfortunately that is how it seems until you get a job or if you have something to do to occupy your time,” Xiao You smiled.
“Well, alright… maybe I’ll just rake some leaves at your backyard until both of you come home,” Xi Men said, and Xiao You laughed.
Emily only smiled at that. “Or you can go to mommy’s workplace and help her out,” Emily said.
“Help her out? For?”
“Better not. Xi Men is not used to taking care of kids,” Xiao You said. “I don’t have time to monitor and teach a big kid (Xi Men) on how to take care of small kids, especially it is first day of school, all teachers are expecting havocs,”
“I didn’t do it doesn’t mean I don’t know or I won’t,” Xi Men said.
“They are too young, Xi Men. If they are around Emily’s age, I think you would have no problems,”
“Like, how old?”
“Depends; 3, 4, 5 and 6,”
“Like Alex,” Xi Men said, frowning a bit. “Then you can hire me to rake leaves at your workplace,”
Xiao You laughed again.
“Mommy, he doesn’t really have to take care of kids. I remember you told me Sister Amber was hired to just pick up books and toys and maybe clean up after the kids…”
Xiao You frowned. “Emily, Xi Men is formerly a CEO. He is more used to picking up files or papers fallen onto the floor. Well… alright, he can pick up toys and books but you can’t ask him to clean up after the kids when they spilt food on the table or floor or…”
“Mommy, maybe you can just customize his job scope to pick up books and toys,” Emily said, and then she heads to Xiao You, whispering to her ears, “And reduce the money you are going to pay him!”
Xiao You laughed. “I am not the one responsible to do that,”
“What secrets are both of you saying, sharing or exchanging in front of me?” Xi Men frowned.
“It is not really a good idea for him to stay at home raking the leaves off our backyard,” Emily said. “We don’t have a big backyard and we don’t have that much leaves either…”
Xiao You laughed. “Well…” she looked at Xi Men. “My workplace does need helpers all the time and they are paid hourly rates. What Emily said was, we hired a helper a while ago, her name is Amber; to pick up toys and books after each session and she has to clean up the room, and as you know, kids; they throw things around and even have food leftovers dropped on the floor. Amber took up the job and work for a brief 3 months while waiting for her college classes to start. It is not easy to handle kids which is why I don’t think such job is appropriate to you, for you have been used to work in your CEO office handling businesses; and because of that, Emily asked me to customize the job scope for you,”
He smiled. “Truth to be told, I wouldn’t mind taking it up while waiting to get a real job, and it is even better if the job is really customizable as Emily asked for,” Xi Men said. “I really didn’t want to stay back at your house alone,”
“Not exactly alone… my mom is home too…” Xiao You rectified.
“Alright, mommy. If you really can’t customize it, just like what he had asked earlier, get him to rake the kindergarten’s leaves. They have a huge backyard,” Emily casually said and then laughed, which prompted Xiao You and Xi Men laughed.
Xi Men’s laughter soon faded to form a smile. A part of him is happy that the Emily in front of him now is exactly the Emily he knew back in Taiwan. She seems to be happier now and she is okay to joke around with them.
“I’ll see what I can do,” Xiao You said. “But I still don’t feel good about it…”
“You mean?” Xi Men asked.
“To hire you,”
“Ummm…” Xi Men said. “I am fine,”
“I am still skeptical,” Xiao You said.
And then all of them looked at the waiter approaching them and placed down their food.
“But… since you are not doing anything, and you are also going to just stay at my house… maybe you can come over to the kindergarten and see it for yourself first…?” Xiao You said.
“Sounds good to me,” Xi Men said.
“Yeah… good that you’ll just sit around at the kindergarten…” she looked down to her American Breakfast and bites her lower lip at the thought of having a former CEO hired to pick up books and toys in a kindergarten.
“Can I ask you one thing?” Xi Men asked as he took up his cutleries.
“Sure, what is it?” Xiao You asked, as she glanced over to Emily who is already cutting the pancakes in her (Emily) plate into pieces.
“During my kindergarten years… it is only all about studying and perhaps playing in the playground during break time. I don’t remember there is a room for us to play toys…” Xi Men said.
“Oh. Umm… some toys are used as learning tools, especially for the really small ones,” Xiao You said.
“Ah, I get it,” Xi Men said, as he worked his cutleries on his food. “So… I’ll follow you to work?”
“I guess yeah…” Xiao You said. “I usually walk Emily to school first before I go to work. But maybe I will bring you to my kindergarten first, before I continue to bring Emily to school…”
Upon hearing that, and before Xiao You finished her statement, Emily turned her head and asked Xi Men, “Will you walk me to school on Monday?”
Xi Men, who had just placed a piece of pancake into his mouth, stared at Emily with the fork remained in his mouth.
Xiao You also lifted her head and stared at Emily.
He ‘literally spits’ the fork out from his lips, “Me? Walk you to school?” Xi Men asked.
Emily nodded. “Yeah, will you?”
Xi Men exchanged glances with Xiao You before he looked at Emily who is awaiting his response. “Totally! Of course I will,” he smiled.
“Great, thanks,” Emily smiled as she continued enjoying her pancake.
Xi Men and Xiao You looked at each other exchanging a brief smile.
That really makes Xi Men an extremely happy man.
Xiao You took a black satin strapless long dress out from the rack and looks at it. She then leans the dress on her and looked at the mirror for her mirror image.
“Looks nice, you can try it out,” Xi Men said, looking at Xiao You.
Xiao You shook. “I hate the feeling that after you tried, you like it but you can’t buy it,”
“Can’t buy it? You mean if it doesn’t fit?”
“I mean if the price is too expensive,” she smiled. “I just came back from my long vacation so I need to use money wisely,”
“No worries. I will buy it for you,” Xi Men said.
“Xi Men,” she looked at him. “You are not working. I know you have savings, but you need to use your money wisely too,”
“A dress would not bankrupt me. Just try it out and if it is nice and you like it, I’ll buy for you,”
“Buy for me? You already bought me food and stuffs in Taiwan,”
“Those don’t count. That time, you were a tourist, a friend. Now, you are the love of my life. So I am buying things to my loved one,” Xi Men said.
Love of my life…?
Xiao You looked at him. And Emily looked at him too.
“Umm…” Xiao You blushed as she said, and then she looked down to Emily.
“Try it mommy. I think it is nice and it might fit you,” Emily said.
“Yes, try it,” Xi Men said.
Xiao You smirked. “I hate it that when I have made the decision not to try it out… two of you keep on asking me to try,”
Xi Men and Emily smiled.
“Alright, I’ll try it out,” Xiao You said. “You, stay put, don’t walk off,” she pointed at Emily.
“I know, mommy,” Emily said.
And Xiao You enters the fitting room.
Emily turned and looked at Xi Men who is standing next to her. Xi Men smiled at her.
“Can you buy me ice-cream?” Emily asked.
Xi Men squats down. “Sure, I’ll buy you one, but only after Xiao You is done with the dress because we can’t eat in these fashion outlets for fear we’ll stain the clothes,”
“Not immediately after this. Maybe later since I am still full from breakfast. Can I request for double scoops which are two flavors?” Emily asked. “With chocolate syrup?”
He smiled. “No problem. Just tell me when you want to eat it, then we will go and buy it,”
“Yay,” Emily said.
He remained smiling at the thought that it is just a small request, but enough to make her happy.
Now this is exactly the Emily he knew and had spent time together in Taiwan.
“Do you love mommy?” Emily suddenly asked with a serious face.
His smile immediately faded. Wow. Her facial expression changed so fast… as well as a new topic suddenly popped out of nowhere.
“I do, why do you ask?” he asked.
“Just asking. How much do you love mommy?”
He smiled. “I love her tremendously, and longer than you had lived,”
“You love mommy before I was born?”
“Yes,” he said. “I have always loved her,”
“Really?” she asked.
“Then why didn’t you come and look for her?”
“I did look for her. But I don’t know where she is. And she moved from the address she had given me 9 years ago. She moved before you were born,”
“Oh,” Emily said.
“But I don’t know she is pregnant with you; that is one thing I didn’t know,” Xi Men said, partially disappointed. “I wished she had told me about you… so that she and I can raise you together instead of her raising you alone,”
Emily smiled faintly. She then turned and faced the fitting room where Xiao You is in it.
There is one thing that Emily is concerned about. But what Xi Men had said had cleared her doubt.
She had always worried that Xi Men doesn’t like Xiao You but only comes to them now because he found out about her (Emily) – is his daughter. Ever since Xiao You told her (Emily) that Xi Men is her father and that she (Xiao You) had always love him, Emily is concerned that it is only one sided.
She had heard from Harry that they both loved each other. Even though she trusted Harry, she wanted to hear it for herself that her parents loved each other for 9 years.
Yes, Xiao You had mentioned before that she (Xiao You) loves him. Then what about him?
A part of her (Emily) asked herself that even though it has been 9 years, did Xiao You really want to be with Xi Men now? Or will she (Xiao You) be happy with just two of them (Xiao You & Emily)?
Another part of her asked that if Xiao You wants to be with Xi Men, and that Xi Men wants to be with them because she (Emily) is his daughter, but did he actually love Xiao You?
What is the point if he doesn’t love Xiao You?
The few hours Emily had spent with Harry are indeed fruitful. She gets her answers from a third party and that he had enlightened her a couple of things.
She suddenly feels that she understands a lot of things about her parents; some from Harry’s point of view and some that she felt and discovers by herself within days; since she had been sitting there watching as well as analyzing Xi Men in the house for days.
They are a family separated 9 years ago.
PAK. (Xiao You unlocked the fitting room’s door)
Thinking mode: exit.
Emily immediately lifted up her head, Xi Men stood up and Xiao You is slowly opening the door.
“How was it?” Xiao You asked, as she exits the fitting room in the black satin dress.
The black satin strapless long dress wrapped around Xiao You’s body perfectly; displaying all her curves at the right place.
“Wow. You look… great,” Xi Men gaped.
Emily smiled. “Mommy, this is very nice. Buy the dress! Buy the dress!”
“Really?” Xiao You asked, as she turned and look at the mirror.
“Since Emily said it is nice as well… I am buying you that dress,” Xi Men smiled.
She turned and glared at Xi Men before looking at Emily. “Seriously?”
“Mommy, you look really pretty,” Emily smiled.
“I like that you wear it and you look gorgeous,” Xi Men said.
Xiao You looked at Xi Men upon hearing him saying that. She smiled, and partially feels shy but yet good to hear his compliment.
“But I don’t have a need for it,” Xiao You said. “It is not like I have an event to attend…”
“You will. When you go out for dinner dates with me,” Xi Men said.
“Ah?” Xiao You asked, and suddenly she blushed at the thought of having ‘dinner date’ with him. “Umm… isn’t this a bit too… much? I mean… to wear for dinner…”
“Umm…” Xi Men replied.
A part of him wants to tell her that she needs to get used eating at lavish places because that is where he will always bring her to. But another part of him just remembered that he is no longer a CEO or owns a major company; so he wasn’t sure if he will be able to continue sustaining such lifestyles. Probably once in a while, but then, when will that be? The dress probably will stay too long in the wardrobe collecting dust just because it is waiting to get in action. He can see that she loves the dress and he really wants to buy for her. But somehow she rejects because she is not comfortable with the idea of spending so much to buy the dress.
Heck. Since she loves it and he wants to get it for her, just let the dress collects dust.
“Well, there will be an event where you will need it, in the future. I hope you don’t fancy last minute dress shopping…” he finds himself saying.
“You are right,” Xiao You smiled, lowered her head.
“I’m buying you the dress,” he repeated.
“But I still don’t think it is a good idea,” she said.
“I will be buying you plenty of gifts. This will be one of it,” he smiled. “So, please accept it,”
“But…” she still hesitates.
“Or maybe you can treat that…” he said, which earns both her and Emily’s focus to him, “…that since I don’t have anything now and that makes me quite unhappy… let me buy you a gift so that I can feel happy about it?”
“That’s… just… weird…” she frowned and each word uttered gets softer than the word earlier. “Umm… I didn’t know one can find joy in buying gifts to other people…?”
“That is because when you are happy, I will be happy,” he said. “Especially if you are happy because of what I give… or what I did… like the seasonings I delivered to your mother,”
Xiao You smiled lightly upon hearing it. She can sense the words were expressed meaningfully from his heart. She understood that Xi Men had a hard time accepting the fact that he lost his source of income and all the efforts he had put in into his company to its current status as well as what he did for the last few years to establish himself had all gone vanished overnight. And the fact that Emily has trouble accepting him added more stress and definitely sadness into Xi Men. If accepting a gift from him would make him happy, why not?
“Alright, I’ll take your gift,” Xiao You smiled.
Xi Men bites his lower lip as he looked at Emily, basically plastered herself at the cold, transparent plastic ‘wall’, which is actually the ice cream fridge; that separates her from the tubs of ice-cream beneath it, looking left and right; unsure which ice-cream flavor to pick.
Xiao You stood next to Xi Men, holding the two strings of the paper bag containing her newly bought black dress in her hands. Xi Men was holding it earlier, but because he is preparing to pay for the ice-cream for Emily, she had offered to hold it for a while from him.
“Thanks for the dress,” she looked down to the paper bag in her hand.
“No problem,” he inserted his right hand into the pants’ pocket.
“I still think the dress is too expensive,”
“As long as it looks nice on you,” Xi Men said.
“Thank you,” she smiled.
“Don’t mention it,” he smiled as he looked at her. “You’ve said it a lot of times, I ought to pay,”
“I mean, for the compliment,” she said.
“Oh,” his smile faded, before it gets back on onto his face. “You don’t have to thank me for the compliments. You are worthy of my compliments for me to say it,”
“I am not very used to it,”
“You will get used to it,” he smiled.
She just smiled at him, slightly blushed.
He smiled before he turned and looked at Emily.
Xiao You then looked at Emily, “So, Emily, pick your favorite flavors already?” she asked.
“I can’t decide, I don’t know which one to take,” Emily scratches her head.
“This is what happened when you let her have double scoops,” Xiao You said.
“Huh?” he turned to look at Xiao You.
“Because she wants all of it,” Xiao You laughed.
Xi Men laughed.
“I don’t buy her ice-cream often, because I didn’t want to overdo it. Overdoing it will lead her to develop a habit to ask for it every time. And each time, I will only allow her to take one scoop, and she will always pick the one she likes. Because it is only one scoop,” she smiled.
“Sounds like a harsh mother you are…” he wrinkled his forehead as he said it and each and every word is pronounced softer one after another to avoid being smacked by her.
“It is called ‘discipline’,” Xiao You said. “And you. I know you are trying to win her all your might, but still. A discipline is still a discipline. Don’t you dare to over pamper her,” she pointed at him.
He laughed. “Oh, hey, I forgot to ask you if you want to eat ice-cream too…?”
“Nah, I am fine,”
“Are you sure? Since we are in ice-cream outlet already…”
“Yes, I am sure. I prefer frozen yogurt actually,” she smiled.
“Oh? Do they have it here?”
“Yes, they do. Why do you ask?”
“To buy you the frozen yogurt,” he said.
“So you are buying the kid ice-cream, and me the frozen yogurt?” she asked.
“What is wrong with that?” he asked.
“Nothing. I am just a bit surprised. But I am not in the mood to eat any frozen yogurt now because I am still feeling full from the breakfast we had. Thanks for offering. But can I pre-book one cup of frozen yogurt from you?”
“Pre-book? Do you actually need to? It is just a cup of frozen yogurt. I can buy at any time,”
“Buy me one after she calls you dad,”
He looked at her and after a brain lag of 5 seconds, he laughed. “Like, it might take years,”
“At least you will know you owe me something,” she smiled.
“Seriously? You want to put me thru such torture to remember I owe you something that can only be fulfilled by someone else’s decision?”
“As a celebratory cup then,” she smiled. “I guess you won’t feel like you are tortured then. And even in many years down the road, if you are jobless and penniless, you still have to buy me that cup of frozen yogurt,”
“I can’t say no, right?” he said.
“Absolutely right,” she replied.
He smiled as he can’t believe what he had just put himself into.
“Hmmm…” Emily hummed.
Both Xi Men and Xiao You looked at Emily.
“Emily, you need to pick the two flavors already. You are taking too long,” Xiao You immediately said. “People need to do business,” she glances over to the smiling employee waiting to take the order.
“I guess I’ll take the mint with chocolate chips flavor and…” Emily looked left and right again. “Strawberry flavor?”
“No problem with me. Are you sure you want those two flavors?” Xi Men asked.
“Yes,” Emily nodded.
“Alright,” Xi Men headed forward and ordered, “One scoop of mint with chocolate chips, and one scoop of strawberry flavor. Oh, with chocolate syrup,” he took out his wallet.
Emily bites her lower lip as she looked at the girl worked on her ice-cream, and then after placing both scoops in a cup and adds chocolate syrup, she puts it down in front of the cash register.
Emily immediately took it up while Xi Men pays.
“Thank you, daddy,” Emily said and runs off with the ice-cream to join her mother.
“No problem E-…” Xi Men stopped.
He lifted up his head. His facial expression changed.
He turned and looked at Emily who is now standing next to Xiao You.
“Did you…” he was asking when he was interrupted.
“Sir, your change,”
Xi Men immediately turned and looked at the girl behind the cash register and upon seeing the change of coins and notes in her hand, he realized and remembers now that he is actually paying for Emily’s ice-cream. He extends his hand to take the change.
“Thank you, sir. Have a nice day. Please come again,” she smiled.
Xi Men smiled and nodded briefly, and after stuffing the money into his pants, he immediately head to them to clarify the situation.
“Emily, did you just call me…” he asked, and Xiao You, who has no idea what happened, looked at the panicked him before she turned to look at Emily who seems casual about the entire thing.
Emily looked at Xi Men as she scoops her ice-cream and puts it into her mouth. She smiled widely at him as she tilted her head.
Xi Men looked at her and gaped. He totally understood the body language. A small laugh escaped his mouth. “I… missed it,” he mumbled. “I totally missed it,”
“What happened?” Xiao You asked.
Xi Men looked at Xiao You. “I… I can’t believe it,”
“What are you talking about?” Xiao You stared at Xi Men. “About what?”
“I think…” Xi Men remained partially in disbelief, looking at Emily who is enjoying her ice-cream, and then looked at Xiao You, “…we are getting your frozen yogurt,”